A MUST: if you are in a shop that sells Luxe Guides, pick up one for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCM City). They are updated every six months and list all the great restaurants, shops and bars in the city.
You are staying at the Sofitel Metropole, which is in a great hotel and in fabulous location. Ask for a room in the old wing and one facing the courtyard—they are more quiet than the ones facing the busy streets.
No need to change much money—US dollars are taken in most places.
Show no fear crossing the streets. Just step out in front of the speeding motorbikes and cars and they will flow around you. Whatever you do, don’t stop once you start into the street!
Visit “Uncle Ho” at his mausoleum. The Vietnamese take this very seriously, so dress respectively and keep your hands to your sides. Bags and purses are not permitted.
Visit the Hanoi Hilton—no need to say more.
Visit Vietnam’s best contemporary art gallery, Art Vietnam, at 30 Hang Than Street. The owner, Suzanne Lecht, is from Kansas. She is a wonderful person! Tell her that Tim & Brad in KC say hello. (We had drinks with her in January).
Rent the pedi-cyclos, outside of the Sofitel, for an afternoon of shopping & touring. Negotiate your price- most will work for $2.00/ hour with a generous tip! (My tip is usually the same amount as the rental).
Shop on Nha Tho Street near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Only a few blocks long, all the best shops in Hanoi are here (Song, Mosaique, Tina Sparkle, Things of Substance). The Sofitel has a great map of the best shops in town.
Shop at 54 Traditions—great shop dedicated to the crafts of the 54 hill tribes of Vietnam. A little off the beaten path, but well worth it.
Shop at Craft Link at 43 Van Mieu for fair trade traditional Vietnamese crafts.
If handbags are your thing, shop at Ipa-Nima. The owner, Christina Yu, was the editor of Elle Asia before opening this store. She sells to Barney’s, Bergdorf’s and Neiman Marcus. But the bags at half of US prices. They had just moved when we were there, so I don’t know the address. The hotel should be able to help.
Go to Hoa Sua, a fabulous place for lunch with a nice outdoor terrace. This restaurant is where all the servers are learning the hospitality industry