1. The truth you should know: Airlines earn much money from understanding our shopping habits. Most of us buy airfares before trips just few days or few weeks. But you should know that:
According to research of economists Macoto Wanatabe: 8 weeks before departure is the best time to book airfares.
And according to report of airlines, 6 weeks is the best time to book.
So the tip for you: don’t buy tickets too close to departure time. Cheap tickets are usually sold at 4 months before flight departure (5 months with international flights). Also don’t book too soon because it’s difficult to arrange your works. Let’s book at the right time. When? 6 to 10 weeks is the best period!
2. Traveling on holidays. This is an exeption, let’s book as soon as possible.
3. Airfare always increases very fast before departure time 1 week. Specially, if you buy tickets on right day of departure, you may have to pay more 40% compared to regular fare.
Vietnam is a charming country you should visit at least once in a lifetime. The nature, the local people, the food. Endless possibilities, endless surprises and endless joy! However, if you especially come from Western culture and generally cold country, be prepared to get knocked out by not only the amazing but alien food, the new culture but also the heat. In order to get the best out of this unique experience in Vietnam, here are a top 10 useful tips for you, solo-ers!
1. Take up good diet and workout for at least half a month before the trip for best endurance. Good health, good trip. Prepare yourself for the long walk in the sun finding the best food down town!
Needless to say, packing is very important. What gear to bring and how much is enough for the entire trip?! It’s a mind-bending question sometimes. Reflecting on many years of phượt-ing (“Phượt” – a recent surge of travelling/backpacking on private motorbikes in Vietnam), I’m gonna share with you a lift of essential and vital items to carry for a 3-5 days trip. Some of them might appear to be unnecessay but trust me, don’t skip them on yourlong motorbike trips in Vietnam.
Hanoi Old Quarter (Phố cổ Hà Nội), the oldest area of Hanoi, has been existing for hundreds of years, undergoing many vicissitudes of history. Old Quarter includes 36 streets which Hanoian proudly call “Hà Nội 36 phố phường” or 36 Streets.
I still remember the first time I wandered in the Old Quarter, I got lost and had to take a taxi out. 36 Streets, they’re too similar, like a big maze, and so difficult to distinguish if you visit just a few times. For now, I still enjoy strolling around the Old Quarter in my free times. In this article, I’m going to share with you my experiences, tips and top things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter for a day trip.
The majority of Old Quarter are in Hoan Kiem district, west and north of Hoan Kiem lake, home to 36 Streets and a huge number of people. The names of the streets in the quarter are very unique, most of them have “Hang” (Hàng – store) at the beginning, because long ago (hundreds of years ago), each street focus on selling a distinctive item, and people named the street according to the item that’s sold.
Highlights in the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter area is very large and has many sites to visit, but if you have only one day here, consider checkin out these places.
1. Dong Xuan market (chợ Đồng Xuân) is one of oldest and most famous markets in Hanoi. The market is very bustling with a lot of goods, most of them are wholesale, price is more expensive if retailing. Come here to learn more about the frantic trading scene, so typical of Hanoi.
2. O Quan Chuong (Ô Quan Chưởng) is a short street (75m, 250ft) with ancient gate remaining after war from over a century ago.
3. Dong Xuan alley(ngõ Đồng Xuân) is where you can enjoy most of street foods of Hanoi as Pho (phở), Bun cha (bún chả), Bun dau (bún đậu),… or snacks like chè, tofu (tào phớ),… These dishes are priced from $1,3, snacks are from $0.8.
4. Bach Ma temple (đền Bạch Mã – white horse temple), was built from Ly dynasty (about over 1000 years ago), is one of 4 sacred sites of the old Thang Long capital.
5. Ancient house at 87 Ma May street was built from early 20th century. The house preserves many cultural and architectural values of ancient Hanoi.
6. Lemon-tea, a super-popular drink in Hanoi that permeates Old Quarter (and Hanoi). Youngsters often gathers for lemon-tea in the evening. Go to Hoan Kiem lakeshore, Cathedral (near the lake) or Cho Gao street (phố Chợ Gạo) to enjoy the bustling atmosphere of Hanoi.
7. Ta Hien street, also the beer corner where locals and tourists love to go for a beer on the street; where the ancient and modern meet.
8. Ô mai Hồng Lam, a kind of jam, famous specialty of Hanoi made from many kinds of fruits. Among many similar shops on that very street, you are advised to shop at Hồng Lam, 11 Hang Duong street (phố Hàng Đường). Ô Mai Sấu ( relatively translate to Crocodile fruit) is highly recommended (I love it most and have been a fan of this brand for years), could be a very good choice for souvenir and gift.
9. Snails and shells on Dinh Liet street is sold from 4.30pm. The place-to-go for this kind of food!
10. Bun cha – You must not forget to try this dish. To me, Hanoi Pho is second to this one. It is addictive, especially on Hang Buom or Hang Than (at $1.5). Don’t even try expensive fancy restaurant (not even as good), stop for ones whose enticing smoky haze from the grilling is visible and touches your nose from far away. It is mesmerizing.
Hotels in (or near) Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter is the heart of Hanoi’s culture, commerce and tourism, hence packed with a variety of accomodation choices, from motels to 5-star hotels. Go for Hang Be (Hàng Bè), Ma May (Mã Mây), Thuoc Bac (Thuốc Bắc), Hang Ma (Hàng Mã), Hang Bac (Hang Bạc). These streets have many hotels for good prices.
Itinerary exploring Old Quarter for 1 day
7.30am. Leave (walk, by taxi or cyclo) for Dong Xuan alley on Hang Chieu street (phố Hàng Chiếu). to have breakfast with Pho, bun cha, bun rieu, etc.
8.30am. Visit Dong Xuan market right besides, stroll around the market.
9am. Keep walking to O Quan Chuong, take photos with the only remaining ancient gate of Hanoi.
9.30am. Head for Bach Ma temple. Remember to avoid short, sexy or too exposed clothes.
10.15am. Get to the ancient house at 87 Ma May street ($0,5/entrance ticket). If it’s already 12 p.m when you’re done with the house, you can go to Hang Buom street nearby to eat Bun Cha for lunch, or visit Nola cafe, very close to the house (in a alley), to have a rest. This cafe has a very impressive decor.
11am. Visit Kim Ngan temple at 42 Hang Bac street (phố Hàng Bạc – Silver Store street), where worship the ancestor of jeweler.
12am. Have lunch at Bun dau restaurant on Phat Loc alley (ngõ Phất Lộc). Note, the Bun dau is authentically dipped in mam tom (mắm tôm – shrimp sauce), a super-smelly sauce even to locals. If you can’t eat shrimp sauce, you can totally eat with fish sauce, which I do all the time. Still tasty as much. Don’t forget to order Cha Com (chả cốm – a very tasty dish eaten Bun Dau).
You can also eat Bun Cha in other restaurants (on Phat Loc alley, near Hang Mam street).
1pm. After lunch, you can rest in Shot cafe at 60 Phat Loc. The cafe has airy space and beautiful decor.
2pm. Keep going to Hoan Kiem lake and Ngoc Son temple (đền Ngọc Sơn).
3pm. If you want to watch Water Puppet, you can buy ticket at Thang Long water puppet nearby Ngoc Son temple.
4pm. Wander to buy souvenirs, eat snail in Dinh Liet street or drink beer in Ta Hien.
7pm. Eat Cha Ca (widely translated to Fish cake) at Thang Long fish cake – 21 Duong Thanh street (phố Đường Thành).
8pm. Stroll on streets. Hanoi at night is even more beautiful when social life starts moving and importantly the cool breeze evokes a lovely delight. If you travel on weekend, you can visit Night Market (Chợ Đêm) on Hang Ngang (Hàng Ngang) and Hang Dao street (phố Hàng Đào), or drink a cup of coffee or lemon-tea on the lakeshore, Cathedral or Cho Gao street (phố Chợ Gạo).
Tip: If get lost in Old Quarter (which I am almost so certain you will), use Google Map or get a taxi. Of course you can ask locals but it will end up really hard to follow for you don’t clearly understand the language.
As a guy having many experiences in Phuot (a rising way of travel on motorbike in Vietnam), I wish to share with our happy stories of passion.
Phuot (phượt) to me is simply travelling on motorbiketo a distant land. Many people consider travelling on other private vehicles is also a form of phuot (not me though, to me phuot translates to only motorbike), but motorbike is most popular and the best way to visit strange places whose roads are largely undeveloped.
So, why self-service travelling while tours are so cheap and easily accessed now!? You don’t have to worry about accomodation, about your going from place to place, or about what to eat!?. Easy answer because you can go to and stop for wherever you want and spend almost as much as you feel like without being rushed (quite aggressively) from place to place. With phuot trip, you can follow your own itinerary with no limited time, explore new places that haven’t even been on travel maps.
Every year, during grain season, thousands of flocks of tourists and photographers go to mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for the most scenic rice terraces in the world. Mu Cang Chai(Mù Căng Chải),Yen Bai province, is one of most attractive destinations of all. Personally, I think Mu Cang Chai’s rice fields are even more beautiful than Sapa‘s.
You will not only enjoy the majestic and beautiful terraces but also learn the unique and rustic life of H’mong ethnic group. A hard but warm-hearted life – a rare thing in the modern world. Mu Cang Chai’s highlights include: majestic rice terraces, sticky rice in Tu Le (xôi Tú Lệ), Tu Le hot stream and unique life of ethnic H’Mong. Read on to see what you should do to get the best trip!
The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is from Mid-September to Mid-October during the season when rice fields are turning yellow and ready for harvest. This can be different each year (depending on weather), so be sure to check out first. BUT from May to Sep is also no less impressive when the rice fields are green.
You can travel to Mu Cang Chai for 2.5 days with motorbike, or 3 days by bus (overnight on bus).
With Vietnamese people, traditional meal (or family meal) are always very important. It’s not only about the food or the dining but also importantly family time. Therefore, family meal in Vietnam are highly appreciated, usually very cozy that many Western tourists want to experience when visitting Vietnam.
However, the differences in dining cultures are very big. So you need to know what you should do and what you should not do in our family meals.
The dishes in Vietnam’s meals are divided into 4 types: rice – most important, main dish(es) – often rich in protein, side dish(es) – vegetables and soups, and fruits – eaten in end of the meals. We use small bowls for individual eating rice, big bowls for shared soups and plates for others. And lastly, CHOPSTICK!
Ninh Binh is one of 3 most visited destinations in Northern Vietnam, the other two are Sapa and Halong bay. Ninh Binh tourism is famous for the charming and majestic nature in Trang An, Tam Coc, Phat Diem church, Bai Dinh pagoda, Hoa Lu ancient capital and Cuc Phuong national park.
Sound like a lot to squeeze in just a few days? Don’t worry because I will help you with a complete itinerary with reasonable time schedule from my experiences in Ninh Binh.
Ben Tre is a province in Mekong Delta, also known as Land of Coconut. Located at the end of Mekong river, it possesses a dense network of canals and immense coconut gardens. Additionally, Ben Tre also has many other fruits gardens scattered all around, mostly concentrated in Cho Lach (Chợ Lách) and Chau Thanh (Châu Thành) district.
The Land of Coconut is a good chance to get really local by engaging in local eco-tourism activities, staying at local houses and enjoying the life on water. You can either spend 1 to 2 days or combine Tien Giang for 3 days
Bac Ninh (Bắc Ninh) is a small land in Northern Vietnam, but very rich in culture and tradition. Bac Ninh is also known as “The land of Quan Ho”, a folk music exclusively to the local.
Bac Ninh tourism is more famous for cultural and historical sites: Do temple (đền Đô – where worship the Ly kings, a big dynasty in Vietnam’s history), Dau pagoda (chùa Dâu), But Thap pagoda (chùa Bút Tháp), Dong Ho painting village, Dai Bai casting copper village and so on
The sites of Bac Ninh are scattered and there are too many sites. To visit all of attractions, you need at least 3 days. So you should divide attractions into regions then pick the suitable one, depending on your time and preference.