VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Ha Noi

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities - Walking Tour - Courses - Ha Noi For Childern - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping - Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around - Around Ha Noi - Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum - Perfume Pagoda - Handicraft Villages - Thay Tay Phuong Pagoadas - Ba Vi National Park - Co Loa Citadel - Tam Dao Hill Station.

INFORMATION

Bookshops
If you're running low on reading material. Hanoi is a good place to stock up- Many of the budget hotels and traveler’s cafes in the Old Quarter have small book exchanges. Bookworm ( 15a Ngo Van So; 10am-7pm Tue-Sun) Definite rile place for bookworms, this place has the best selection of English-language books in Hanoi. New and secondhand books, plus plenty of fiction and some good travel stock. Foreign language Bookshop (Tell:825 7376;64 Pho Trang Tien) It sells just what it says it sells.. .a healthy selection of foreign-language titles, particularly in French. Love Planet (Tell: 828 4864; 25 Pho Hang Bac) An exchange as well as a shop, this Old Quarter place has tots of secondhand books. Thang Long Bookshop (Tell: 825 7043; 53-55 Pho Trang Tien) One of the biggest bookshops in town with English and French titles, plus some international newspapers and magazines
Cultural Centres
For periodicals and newspapers from hone, head to the following places:
American Club (19-21 Pho Hai Ba Trung)
British Council (40 pho cat linh)Right next to the Hanoi, Honson Holet
Cenire Culturel Francaise de Hanoi (Tell:936 2164; 24 Pho Trang Tien) In the L’Épace building, a moderntst venue near theOpera house.
Emergency
Hanoi is organised enough that the emergency services should be able to transfer you to an English -speaker.
Ambulance (Tell:115)
Fire (Tell: 114)
Police (Tell:113)
Internet Access

It's hard to go more than a few hundred metres anywhere in the city without stumbling across an internet café,in particular those at backpacker café and travel agents along Pho Hang Bac and Pho Hang Be in the Old Quarter. Many places do not display prices,so check before you notch up a couple of hours online: Overchargin isn’t unheard of in some places. Rates start as low as 3000d.Most budget and midrange hotels offer free internet access as standard:the fancier places in the room,the cheaper places in the lobly. Wi-fi has come to Hanoi with a vengeance and lots of hotels,café and bars offer free acceess for laptop uses. Some places require a password, some don’t. In the claustrophobic Old Quarter, it’s not uncommon to have a choice of several networks.Try and sign into a secure network to ensure no-one is dabbing with your data.
Internet Resources
There are several good websites to help get the most out of Hanoi.
New Hanoian this is the place to get the rub on what Hanoi expats gel up to in the city. Places to see, dining out, special events, even jobs – it’s all here.
Shivaaa! Shiva is an internet search site for Hanoi, an online gateway to lots of small restaurants. bars and shops in the city. The site includes detailed maps and customer reviews.
Sticky Rice The website for foodies in Hanoi, this has the lowdown on dozens of places to dine and drink in she city.
Libraries
National library and Archives (Tell: 825 3357; 31 Pho Trang Thi) This grand old building has some English and French material available, but it's mostly Vietnamese.
Medical Services
Dental Clink (Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, 1 Pho Kirn Ma) The tooth hurts? Deal with it here, part of the Hanoi Family Medical Practice.
French Embassy Clinic (Tell: 825 2719; 49 Pho Ba Trieu) A 24-hour clinic for French nationals.
Hanoi family Medical Practice (24hr emergency service 090-340 1919; Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, 1 Pho Kirn Ma) Includes a team of well-respected international physicians. Prices are high, so check your medical insurance is in order.
SOS International Clink (Tell:934 05.55; fax 934 0556; 31 Pho Hai 8a Trung; 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm Sat, emergency 24hr) International chain of clinics with annual policies for expats living In Vietnam. English, French and Japanese are spoken.
Viet Duc Hospital (Benh Vien Viel Duc;Tell: 825 3531; 40 Pho Trang Thi; 24hr) Old Quarter unit for emergency surgery; the doctors here speak English, French and German.
Vietnam-Korea Friendship Clinic (Tell: 843 7231; 12 Chu Van An; 9am-noon & 2-5pm Mon-Fri) Anyone crazy enough to travel without insurance should head here. This nonprofit clinic is the cheapest in town
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE
Institute of Acupuncture (Tell: 88-9 ĐT:8533881;49 Pho Thai Thinh) Holistic medicine'' Well, very small holes anyway.
National Hospital of Traditional Medicine (Tell: 826 3616; 29 Pho Nguyen Binh Khiem) Vietnamese solutions to some Vietnamese problems.
Money
AN2 Bank (Tell: 825 8190; 14 Pho Le Thai To,8.30am-4prn Mon-fri) On the western edge of Hoan Kiem Lake, this international bank has cash advances in dong and dollar with a 24-hour ATM. Industrial & Commercial Bank (Tell: 82S 4276; 37 Pho Hang Bo) in a convenient location in the Old Quarter, it cashes travellers cheques at the standard 0.5% commission for dong, 1.25% for US dollars and 3% for credit-card cash advances.
Vietcombank Pho Hang Bai (Tell: 826 8031, 2 Pho Hang Bai); Pho Tran Quang Khai (Tell: 826 8045; 198 Pho Tran Quang Khai) The towering HQ is located a few blocks east of Hoan Kiem Lake and it has an ATM and offers most currency services. Several smaller branches arc scattered around town, including a handy one on Pho Hang Bai, near Hoan Kiem Lake.
Post
There are small post-office kiosks ail over the city that do the basics. Go to the main domes tic and international post offices in the event that you need to do anything complicated. Domestic post office (Buu Dien Trung Vong;Tell:825 7036; 75 Pho Dinh Tien Hoang; 7am-9.30pm! Occupies a full city block overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. Send letters, pick up domestic packages and purchase philatelic items.
International postal office (Tell: 825 2030; cnr Pho Oinh Tien Hoang & Pho Dinh Le; 7am-8.30pm) With its own entrance to the right of the domestic office.
Some courier companies in Hanoi:
DHl (Tell: 733 2086; 49 Pho Nguyen Thai Hoc) Federal Express (Tell: 824 9054; 63 Pho Yen Phu)
MAKE THAT COMPUUNT COUNT..
We get a lot of letters complaining about hotels, guesthouses, travel companies and more. We're not complaining. It's great to give us feedback about all these things, as it helps to work out which businesses care about their customers and which don't. However, as well as telling us, make sure you tell the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism its Hanoi office is reasonably helpful and needs to know about the problems before it can do anything about them. Make a complaint here and in time ft might well pressure the cowboys into cleaning up their act
HANOI IN...
A Day
Begin with breakfast in an Old Quarter cafe before jumping on a cyclo to Ho Chi Minh's Mau-soleum, where you might be lucky enough to catch a changing of The guard. Check out the surreal museum and the balancing act that is the One Pillar Pagoda before moving on to the Temple of Literature. This is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and just opposite is KOTO on Van Mieu, an essential lunch stop as all proceeds from this great restaurant go towards helping street children. In the afternoon, it is time to take 3 serious look at the Old Quarter browsing its buildings, shops or bars to soak up the unique atmosphere. If you haven't already keen tempted, stop for a bia hoi (draught beer) around sunset and watch Hanoi shift from work to play Catch a performance of the wonderful water puppets before enjoying a local meal and some beers on nearby Pho Bao Khanh.
Two Days
After the fun of day one, it is time to immerse yourself in some museums. Head into the suburbs to the excellent Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to discover the ethnic mosaic that makes up Vietnam today. Have a local lunch in Nha Hang Lan Chin, tucked away next to the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution and hop across the road to the History Museum. The building is stunning and the contents a fine introduction to 2000 years of highs and tows. Head back to the Old Quarter for a look at Memorial House and then kick back in a cafe and contemplate the next part of your Journey.
Telephone
For domestic telephone calls, the post offices throughout town are as good as anywhere. Guesthouses and internet cafes are also a con- venient option for local calls within Hanoi. For international telephone calls, the cheapest option are guesthouses or internet cafes as they offer cheaper internet services. Even the post office is getting in on this game, so essentially calls are good value everywhere now,
Tourist Information
The new Tourist Information ( 46 Đ Le Loi) is a pretty slick op-eration with free information and plenty of handouts on hotels, restaurants and activities. However, it's privately-run and it also sells tours and the like. Even though this is the capital of the country, forget anything really useful like a helpful government-run tourism office that dishes out free information. There is a tourist information office at Not Bai International Airport these days, but beyond a few handouts it doesn't have much to offer. The best source of tourism information in Hanoi, as in the rest of Vietnam, is asking around at different guesthouses, travel agencies and bars, and tallking to your fellow travellers. See Internet Resources earlier for some recommended websites covering Hanoi
Travel Agencies
There are lots of travel agencies in Hanoi, both government-run and privately owned, that can book tours, provide cars and guides, issue air tickets and arrange visa extensions. Several budget agencies also double as restaurant-cafes, which offer cheap eats., rooms for rent and internet access. However, there are so many clones these days that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate the good from the bad. In the old days, it was only Sinh Cafe that was copied, but these days most of the main operators have experienced the problem. Some places are blatant, some more subtle, but you should be able to gain some clues from the set-up of the office and the knowledge of the staff. The harder the sell, the more likely they are fly-by-night operators trying to make a quick buck. Check the address and website carefully to make sure you are buying the authentic product. The majority of Hanoi's hotels also peddle tours, but it is not advisable to book trips through hotels; although the prices arc roughly the same, booking directly with the tour operators will give a much better idea of what you'll get for your money. There has been a torrent of complaints about various budget tour operators in Hanoi. The biggest issue seems to be the gap between what they promise and what they actually deliver. Competition is fierce and price-cutting among various tour operators has driven the cost of tours so low that in some cases it has become difficult to deliver. You can buy a two-day/one-nighl, all inclusive excursion to Halong Bay for less than US$20, but do you really wan! to travel on a 45-seat bus and be herded en masse onto a boat to tour the bay and grottoes? Plus, you can't expect gourmet meals at this price. In the long run, the dollars saved will probably not be remembered as much as the experience itself. Each to their own, but if you buy the cheapest trip available it probably won't live up to expectations, We suggest that you take time to seek out tour operators who stick to small groups and use their own vehicles and guides. New places open all the time, and existing places change. so the suggestions here are not exhaustive. Shop around and consider the following companies:
A to Z Queen Cafe : One of the original budget companies offering tours to Haiong Bay and the far north.Cheap trips at budget standards,
ET Pumpkin: Strange name, but there's nothing wrong with the service at this company, It offers toursthroughout the north, and operates its own private carriage on the night train to Sapa.
Ethnic Travel: One of the newer companies in the north, offering an innovative selection of adventures that also involve some public transport to meet the real Vietnamese. Pius Bai Tu long Bay,
Explorer Tours: This company has steadily moved upmarket and offers a good selection of tailored trips around the north.
Free Wheelin Tours : Best known for its adventurous motorbike tours (p491), this
company also offers 4WD tours, focal homestays and boat trips to Bai Tu Long Bay,
Handspan Adventure Travel: A deservedly mpopular company offering Halong Bay tours with some kayaking, cruises into Bai Tu long Bay and Jeep tours in the northeast. This outfit also operates an office in Sapa for hiking and hiking. The walk-in office is in the Tamarind Cafe.
Ocean Tours: This operator has been earning a good name for itself by specialising in Halong Bay. Also operates the backpacker retreat Pecan Beach Resort at Cat Ba.
ODC Travel: Formerly Old Darling Cafe, this is one of the most established names in the business. It forsook the cafe business to concentrate on travel and it seems to have paid off, with very positive reviews for all its budget tours of the north. Sinh Cafe:The original open tour bus operator, it remains one of the better options for travellers taking the long road south.
Vega Travel: Formerly known as Fansipan Tours, the company decided to change its name after as many as 10 copycats sprung up. let's hope it sticks with Vega, as it has a good range of budget trips throughout the north. For an extensive list of nationwide operators that also offer tours of Hanoi ami northern Vietnam. For more on specialist companies offering motorbike tours of the north.For an extensive list of nationwide operators that also offer tours of Hanoi ami northern Vietnam. For more on specialist companies offering motorbike tours of the north.