Backpacking Southeast Asia Eleventh Stop: Hanoi, Vietnam

Last Updated on February 3, 2021 by Tina

After spending ten amazing days in Myanmar, I flew to Hanoi, Vietnam to continue my journey. I have been to Hanoi the year prior, but my plan was to go to Laos after, and the original plan was to get there by land from Danang, Vietnam. So instead of going back to Bangkok, I flew out of Myanmar to Hanoi.

However, when I was already in Hanoi, I suddenly felt lazy and didn’t want to go to Danang anymore. So I looked for other options on how to get to Laos. One was taking a bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. But the journey takes 26 hours. I didn’t think I could survive being on the bus that long, so I decided to take the easiest but the most expensive way and that was to take a flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang.

But before I talk about getting to Laos from Hanoi, let me share first what I did in Hanoi for four days. I arrived in Hanoi at almost 11:00 PM. From the airport, I took the bus to Hanoi Old Quarter because it was way cheaper than taking a cab. Grab car costs around 280,000 VND while the bus costs 35,000 VND. The bus ride from the airport to the Old Quarter is about an hour. After checking-in at Backy Poshtel, I went out to look for a place to eat because I haven’t had dinner yet. Luckily, there was still a nice Pho Place that was open even though it was past midnight already. After eating, I went back to the hostel and called it a day.

Day 1

I was feeling lazy on my first day in Hanoi. I think traveling from one city to another every two or three days got me really tired. Suddenly I just wanted to stay in bed. It also didn’t help that it was raining so hard that day because there’s a storm. It’s a good thing that there is a free breakfast at the hostel so I didn’t have to go out. I only went out for lunch and when it stopped raining in the afternoon, I went out for a massage.

The massage was good. However, I think it is worth sharing that after my massage when I gave tip to the massage therapist (I gave her VND 50,000 because from what I have read the standard tip is 20% of the cost, and the massage costs VND 250,000) she was asking me to give more. She wants VND 100,000 tip and won’t let me leave unless I give her. I had no choice but to give her.

After that, I had Vietnamese coffee in a cafe near the hostel, and in the evening I walked to Hoan Kiem Lake to see how it is at night.

Hoan Kiem Lake at night

Day 2

On my second day, I wasn’t feeling too lazy anymore. After having breakfast, I did some laundry at the hostel then went out for lunch. After that, I walked to the post office to send postcards. Next, I walked to the French Quarter and also visited St. Joseph Cathedral. It is a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church located in the French Quarter and serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi.

st joseph cathedral
St. Joseph Cathedral

Lastly, I walked for maybe thirty minutes looking for the restaurant Xôi Vân. It is a small restaurant where I ate on my first visit to Hanoi. I really liked their sticky rice with mushroom floss. However, when I went back to that place (I have a very sharp memory, I still remember where it was located), it’s already closed. I checked the internet and found another Xôi Vân but it takes thirty minutes on foot to get there. And so I walked and found the place. I was very happy after eating but I didn’t want to walk anymore so I decided to book a Grab bike to take me to the hostel.

Day 3

On my third day, I did the Bai Dinh and Trang An Day Tour that I booked through Klook. The price of the tour is beyond my daily budget but I still did it because I had a goal of visiting all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam. There are eight sites and I was able to visit four on my first trip to Vietnam. The Trang An Landscape Complex is a scenic area near Ninh Bình, Vietnam, and is one of the heritage sites in Vietnam.

For the tour, we first visited Bai Dinh Pagoda, known as one of the biggest pagodas in the world. After visiting the 700-hectare Buddhist temple, we stopped by a restaurant where we had a buffet lunch.

Inside Bai Dinh Pagoda

After lunch, we proceeded to Trang An Landscape Complex and did the boat cave tour. We rode on a rowboat and visited Trang An’s tourist attractions, the Sang Cave, Toi Cave, Ba Giot Cave, and Kong Skulls island.

One of the sets of the movie Kong: Skull Island
Another set of the movie Kong: Skull Island

At night, I checked out the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. It runs through the Old Quarter District. It is a very busy night market, with lots of local food vendors and roadside stalls selling all sorts of souvenir items. I found a Highlands Coffee Shop while exploring the area. I liked their iced coffee in HCM so I decided to get in supposedly to buy coffee but when I got in I saw that they have cheesecake. So instead of buying coffee, I ordered cheesecake. I went back to the hostel after that because I’ve checked out pretty much everything at the night market already.

Hanoi Night Market
Love this Coffee Cheesecake from Highlands Coffee

Day 4

On my fourth day in Hanoi, I met up with Monika again. She’s my roommate at the hostel in Inle Lake who I met up for lunch when I was in Yangon. I was very glad that she was also in Hanoi at that time because I had someone to go with to the train street. It is a street located in the Old Quarter where a train passes through narrow residential blocks daily. There are small restaurants and cafes on both sides of the street, and the place is very Instagrammable. We had lunch in one of the restaurants there.

Train Street

From the train street, we went to Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located. it is the final resting place of the most popular leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. The mausoleum was modeled on Lenin’s mausoleum in Russia. We also visited the One Pillar Pagoda which is located in the same complex as the mausoleum. It is a little temple based on a single stone pillar rising in the center of a lotus pond.

hcm mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
one pillar pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda

After checking out One Pillar Pagoda, Monika and parted ways again. I went back to the hostel to get my backpack, then took the bus to the airport. My flight to Luang Prabang, Laos was at 7:00 PM.

Expenses

As mentioned in my earlier posts about this backpacking trip, my challenge was to try to live on a US$ 20 per day budget. For this trip, I brought US dollars. The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). I exchanged US$100 to VND at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), where I started my trip. The conversion rate was 2,320,000 VND for US$ 100. I only spent VND 1,324,234 (US$ 57.06) in HCMC and the remaining Dong I kept for future trips to Vietnam.

To be consistent with my previous posts, I’ll be using the conversion rate of Php 52 for US$ 1 for this post. Using the above rates, US$ 20 is equivalent to VND 464,000.

Day 1

I included my expenses on my first night in Hanoi here:

Dinner (first night)- US$ 1.94 (VND 45,000)

Bus fare from the airport to Hanoi Old Quarter- US$ 1.51 (VND 35,000)

Bottled water- US$ 0.43 (VND 10,000)

Water refill- US$ 0.43 (VND 10,000)

Lunch- US$ 3.88 (VND 90,000)

Massage- US$ 10.78 (VND 250,000)

Tip- US$ 4.31 (VND 100,000)

Coffee- US$ 1.72 (VND 40,000)

Dinner- US$ 1.72 (VND 40,000)

Bottled Water- US$ 0.47 (VND 11,000)

1 Person in 10-Bed Dormitory at Backy Poshtel (2 nights)- US$ 8.76 (PHP 456.32)

Day 1 total expenses: US$ 35.95 (VND 203,259)

Day 2

1 Person in 10-Bed Dormitory at Backy Poshtel– US$ 4.24 (PHP 220.40)

Lunch (Coke + Bunh Cha)- US$ 3.02 (VND 70,000)

Dinner at Xoi Van- US$ 2.20 (VND 51,000)

Postcards- US$ 1.16 (VND 27,000)

Stamps- US$ 5.17 (VND 120,000)

Card- US$ 0.86 (VND 20,000)

Bookmark- US$ 0.86 (VND 20,000)

Grab bike to the hostel- US$ 1.25 (VND 29,000)

Banh Mi- US$ 0.95 (VND 22,000)

Coke- US$ 0.65 (VND 15,000)

Laundry- US$ 2.59 (VND 60,000)

Day 2 total expenses: US$ 22.95 (VND 532,440)

Day 3

1 Person in 10-Bed Dormitory at Backy Poshtel– US$ 4.24 (PHP 220.40)

Bai Dinh and Trang An Day Tour by Bus from Hanoi through Klook- US$ 29.54 (PHP 1536.1)

Water refill- US$ 0.43 (VND 10,000)

Morning snacks- US$ 0.86 (VND 20,000)

Coke- US$ 0.65 (VND 15,000)

Afternoon snack- US$ 0.65 (VND 15,000)

Dinner (Coke + Spring roll)- US$ 2.80 (VND 65,000)

Bottled Water- US$ 0.47 (VND 11,000)

Cheesecake- US$ 1.25 (VND 29,000)

Hotdog- US$ 0.86 (VND 20,000)

Day 3 total expenses: US$ 41.75 (VND 968,600)

Day 4

Lunch- US$ 2.16 (VND 50,000)

Grab bike to Hostel- US$ 1.08 (VND 25,000)

Coffee + Cheesecake- US$ 3.45 (VND 80,000)

Banh Mi- US$ 1.25 (VND 29,000)

Bus fare from Hanoi Old Quarter to the airport- US$ 1.51 (VND 35,000)

Day 4 total expenses: US$ 9.45 (VND 219,240)

I almost passed the challenge on my second day, and I passed my fourth day. It’s actually very easy to live on a US$20 budget in Vietnam if I didn’t go on that tour and I didn’t have the massage. The food and accommodations there are very cheap.

If you have any questions regarding this trip, feel free to leave a comment. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. You can also check out my backpacking highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.

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