May 17, 2018 visiting Hanoi Vietnam
South East Asia is a mecca for backpackers, gap years, and people on sabbaticals. Almost every western tourist we saw fell into one of these 3 categories. It is low cost with a lot of things to see and do. I am going to say that it is also a fun place for kids. We had our 6, 4, and 1 year old spend one week with us in Hanoi, Vietnam. There are a lot of English speakers, a good variety of food (Asian and Western), most places take credit cards (which is a huge plus when you travel with large groups) and they have an app called Grab which is basically SE Asia’s equivalent of Uber. It is a fun and easy city to shop and explore as long as you watch for scooters when walking around!
We spent one week there but I feel two days in the city and a few days in Halong Bay would work if you’re short on time. Keep in mind there are always night markets and weekend markets going on in this part of the world that are fun to see. Here are some top things to do in and around Hanoi that adults and children enjoyed. You can also watch our Vlog here.
This is Norther Vietnams’ number one tourist spot. Designated as a world heritage site for good reason with thousands of limestone towers scattered throughout the water! There are hundreds of boat companies that will pick you up in Hanoi and take you on a tour of the islands. They all offer the same itineraries in regards to kayaking, squid fishing, and a cave expedition. It just depends on how big or small of a boat you want to be on. Most tourists short on time do the 2 day one night adventure which is what we did as well. Our kids loved that they got to sleep on a boat for a night and the kayaking and squid fishing were big wins!
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
The tradition of water puppet theater dates back to the 11 century at a time when rice paddies fields where flooded so locals would stand in the waist deep water and entertain the town with puppets performing over the water. This was a very unique cultural experience that the kids and myself enjoyed. The show has a live band played with local Vietnamese instruments. The songs and what little talking there is is all done in Vietnamese. However, due to the puppets animation you can easily understand the stories with out knowing the language. The show has several mini stories that are told within an hour time frame and with tickets around $3 a person it’s an all around win! Just make sure to ask to pick your seats when buying tickets at the window! Don’t buy tickets online because they only offer tours with the tickets and it is much more expensive. Outside the theatre is a ticket window where you can get tickets for a same day show or for the following day.
Hoan Kiem Lake
This lake is located right next to the puppet theatre so make sure and visit before or after the show. It is a beautiful scenic spot with a temple floating out on an island in the middle of the lake. We sat and ate snacks and enjoyed the public life that bustled all around this area before going to the puppet show.
Don Xuan Market
This is one of the largest indoor markets in the old quarter of the city. There are hundreds of stalls selling all kids of beautiful crafts, souvenirs, and household items. The locals are very friendly and easy to bargain with. They constantly gave our kids snacks as we shopped through the market. We purchased several intricately made pop up cards, beautiful wooden spoons, and a few unique local toys. There is also a wet market on one side of the building that shows you all the different items people eat here. Turtles, frogs, and live eels are all part of experiencing life at the market. For the kids it was almost like visiting a pet store.