Exploring Hanoi

After a wonderful first day exploring Hanoi, we were excited to have great weather to start our second day of adventures. This day was spent exploring many of the monuments and alleyways of Hanoi. Our first stop of the day was the Temple of Literature, which was built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius. The Temple of Literature is considered Vietnam’s oldest university dating back to the year 1070. The grounds were absolutely beautiful with breathtaking courtyards, architecture and lush gardens. Hanoi-26 Hanoi-27  Hanoi-32


The temple is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese đồng banknote.



Graduation ceremony taking place at the Temple of Literature

Hanoi-37 Hanoi-39


The crane on the back of the tortoise is the symbol of longevity. The tortoise is believed to live ten thousand years, and the crane one thousand years; thus, the presence of this symbol means, May you be remembered for one thousand years, and May your cult endure for ten thousand years.

Hanoi-37 Hanoi-39

Our next stop of the day was the Hỏa Lò Prison, a prison used by French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners. It later became known to Americans as the “Hanoi Hilton”, when North Vietnam began using it for American POWs during the Vietnam War. While at the prison museum, we were able to see John McCain’s flight suit, helmet and parachute from when he was captured in October of 1967. He was released in March of 1973 after spending 5.5 years in the prison.

The third stop of the day was to check out some local artists that specialize in lacquer paintings. Making the paintings can take several months depending on the technique used. The photo below shows an example of the process from start to finish in 10 different steps for four different designs.


It was really neat watching the artists at work. The art of egg shell inlay was my favorite!

Hanoi-64  Hanoi-66

After learning about Vietnamese art and buying a few pieces to take home for ourselves, we were ready for lunch. TinTin took us to a delicious restaurant that was as equally charming as the food was tasty. If ever in Vietnam, I strongly suggest trying out Ngon Villa Restaurant. So yummy!

Hanoi-73 Hanoi-74 image1 (1)

Once our belly’s were full of Vietnamese cuisine (and mojitos), we continued exploring Hanoi. This was one of my favorite photo spots; train tracks surrounded by cute shops and restaurants.

Hanoi-79 Hanoi-84

Up next on the itinerary was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place for the country’s most notable historic figure. We were going to make this our first stop because they show the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh during certain morning hours, however, the line was insane so we decided to come back later in the afternoon and just visit the Mausoleum grounds and Ho Chi Minh Presidential Palace Historical Site.


We made our way back towards the Old Quarter, making stops at the Ngoc Son Temple and a famous coffee shop to give us an extra boost of energy to get through the remainder of the day.

For our caffeine fix we stopped at Cafe Giang. Known for their egg coffee, the famous cafe has been around since 1946. Egg coffee is a Hanoi specialty and can be served cold or hot. We opted for the hot version which came in a coffee cup resting in a small dish filled with hot water to help maintain temperature. The bottom of the coffee cup is filled with strong, dark coffee and the top layer is a pudding type texture usually made with egg yolk, sugar and condensed milk. You eat the top layer with a spoon and then drink the coffee when the top layer is finished. It was very delicious and a great afternoon pick-me-up.


Hanoi-130 Hanoi-131

We did a bit more exploring of the Old Quarter before catching a water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.












The water puppet show was absolutely hilarious. We were a bit hesitant about going at first but are so happy we did. It definitely was a great time.

By now, we were completely exhausted and ready to call it a day. We stopped off for a drink at a local bar and a bite to eat at Pizza4P’s (SO GOOD) before heading back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. We definitely needed our rest as our next day was about to be full of more adventures, including a bike tour of Hanoi and an overnight train journey to Sapa. Click Here to read about our 3rd day of adventures!

For now, I will leave you with this mouth-watering photo of our amazing dinner.  -E