Hanoi is a busy city and can be a bit overwhelming when you first land, especially if it’s the first place you’ve been to in Southeast Asia. Most backpackers that visit Hanoi opt to stay in the Old Quarter, which is located in the city center. It has a large concentration of guesthouses, hostels, and hotels that vary widely in price. If you fly into Hanoi it might be a good idea to arrange accommodation ahead of time along with a ride from the airport. Taxi drivers at the airport can be ruthless and since a lot of international flights arrive late in the evening your odds of finding a hotel that is open are pretty slim. The Old Quarter is also where most of the sights in Hanoi are located and have the most options for bars and restaurants. It’s easy enough to walk in Hanoi, once you learn how the traffic flows through the city.
The Vietnam Military History Museum is an interesting place to learn about how the Vietnamese perceived the years of war in their country. With all of the old military equipment rusting away outside, such as jets, planes, and tanks, it’s an easy place to spot. The museum has information about early Vietnamese battles that have taken place over the centuries but seems to focus mostly on the “American War”. Whether you’re from America, France, China, or Russia the Vietnam Military History Museum is bound to take anything you’ve learned in school about the Vietnam War and spin it on it’s head. Located at the museum is also a massive, hexagonal flag pole and across the street is a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Lenin Park. The park is also a favorite spot for young skateboarders to hangout.
To experience some of the arts in Hanoi, try the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Water puppet theaters are an old tradition in Vietnam and this theater is one of the best. The theaters were originally made in rice paddies and told Vietnamese folk stories.