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Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
Every place has a landmark, a specific spot where people refer to for navigation or for recreation. Whenever I get the chance to travel, I personally enjoy exploring the undiscovered areas around a popular place. It never failed to give me a deeper understanding and personal experience of the place.
When I was still researching about Hanoi, most of the things that I saw were a list of specific places to see; one of them being the Hoan Kiem Lake. As we began our trip by exploring the vicinity of the Lake, I was able to see a myriad of colors, cultures, and texture. Here are a few of my favorite discoveries from our fateful walk around the lake!
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Hoan Kiem Lake is a 15 to 20-minute walk from our homestay and It gave us a good sweeping look of Hanoi during the day and how it beautifully kneads an interaction between landscape, people, and architecture. One of my favorite buildings would be the Hanoi Post Customer Service Center. Being one of the many beautifully preserved Art Deco buildings in Hanoi, I loved this building a lot since it reminded me so much of the beautiful mid-rise Miami Art Deco Buildings which often featured seamless and curved corners as well as a great balance of shapes along the facade. It stood out the most to me as it didn't particularly scream bright colors, it just humbly stood there with elegance and timeless charm.
Moving further along the path along the Hoan Kiem Lake, one would not miss out on seeing the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, it's basically a rotunda along the lake that divides the place into different segments - The Old Quarter, French Quarter, and the Hoan Kiem District. This particular building that somehow reminded me of a rice terrace is probably one of the most popular landmarks in this area as it houses few commercial establishments that are sought after by tourists to get a good sweeping view of the Hoan Kiem Lake from an elevated level. My husband and I chose not to go to this building and instead went to a similarly famous cafe that is just a few steps away from this huge one! 
Very thankful that we found The Note Coffee right away as it served as our place of refuge from the extreme Hanoian summer heat! While my husband got himself his first of many orders Banh Mi, I opted to enjoy a large cup of an iced peach aide to cool down. We sat on a table that was at that time, the most peaceful spot in the 4 floor-cafe. No regrets in choosing this particular spot as we were generously rewarded with a beautiful view of the lush and surprisingly less crowded scenery surrounding the Hoan Kiem lake.
Aside from its Instagram-worthy aesthetic, this cafe actually does more than just color your feed; it is a workplace of hardworking and friendly baristas who were mostly University students at the same time. 
As we sat there and observe the baristas running from one floor to another while experiencing the excruciating heat, we got to exchange a few chit-chats with Son, our friendly server for the day. We learned that most of the baristas like himself work here during their free time to hone their skills in communicating in English by interacting with different people from around the world. I love how he even asked us to teach him a few Filipino words, it just gave our trip to that place more value as we got to know somebody outside our comfort zone. 

After we got our bodies its much-needed cooldown, we began to walk around the vicinity again, this time looking for the iconic St. Joseph Cathedral. For those of you who are probably wondering by now how we managed to navigate around Hanoi, Google Maps became our walking buddy in the entire duration of the trip.
As we were nearing St. Joseph, two buildings caught my eye - the Apricot Hotel and the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre who are standing right across each other. The one that caught my eye with Apricot Hotel would be its beautiful and seemingly familiar entrance - a marriage between the Grand Budapest Hotel and the Hanoi Opera House.
Do not be fooled by the all-white paint enveloping the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. If one would look closely, you would be able to appreciate the intricate carvings found on the facade of the building. If you would have the extra funds (and time) to see the water puppet show, this would definitely add to your Hanoi travel experience. You may book your show here
One of the iconic landmarks around the Hoan Kiem district would be the St. Joseph's Cathedral. Built in 1886, this Gothic Revival structure stands in the center on Nha Chung street along with traditional shophouses filled with cafes, restaurants, and trinket stores. It is a highly-populated area and getting a photograph of this beauty was definitely a challenge - at least for the kind of look that I was trying to get. When we got there, the church was actually closed and we failed to see the interiors.
Aged as it looks, I felt a certain sense of reverence while I stood in front of the distressed facade of this church. It truly stands there as a testament of survival and rich history and it just speaks to you in so many ways if only you take time to look at each and every element. My favorite element of this building would be the lancet windows, a typical presence in a Gothic building.
Nevertheless, I was able to witness a prenup shoot in front of the cathedral. I truly admire this bride to be as she braved the Hanoi heat in that beautiful minimalist wedding dress.
What's great about this area is the number of cafes you could choose from if in case you decide to take a rest and get a good view of the cathedral. I truly loved the charming details of Indochine design found on the majority of the buildings in this area.
After viewing the Cathedral, we started our random adventure and just walked around the deeper areas of the streets. We were indeed gifted with a more peaceful Hanoian afternoon that day.
 This place is probably one of the most vibrant places I have ever seen. To me, it was like walking in different scenes of a movie - every layer of the alley and the streets become a picturesque memory. For a time, I really did not mind walking in the extreme heat as I was being fed with so many textures, colors, and scents.
I also found a lot of interesting small boutiques around the area. One of them would be this ceramic store selling various pottery items. Seeing this store made me truly excited for our Bat Trang Ceramic Village Adventure.
Another thing that I enjoyed observing while walking around would be the shop windows of fashion brands. I really like how each one not only adapts to their identity as a brand but also the identity of their area and the kind of people that they want to dress up. It is such an interesting retail behavior to observe and learn about.
We honestly lost our sense of time while going around and observing this side of Hoan Kiem. It served as our shade from the heat and provided us with so much visual delight. The people that we ran into would once in a while meet our eyes and give us a friendly nod and smile. Hanoi is indeed one of my favorite cities, it's raw, it's hardworking, it's humble and real as it gets. I truly cannot wait to go back soon and explore the other parts of this beautiful city!

I hope that by sharing my experience, you will also get to appreciate and consider visiting this lovely place. I still have a few more things to share with you!

Have you been to Hanoi? What are some of the undiscovered areas you saw or visited?

Happy Heyday!



Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square
7 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 110213, Vietnam

Hanoi Post - Customer Sevice Centre
75 Dinh Tien Hoang Street,, Hoan Kiem District, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

The Note Coffee
 64 Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Apricot Hotel Hanoi
136 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
+84 24 3828 9595

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
+84 24 3824 9494

St. Joseph Cathedral
40 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Heydays in Hanoi


  1. I definitely want to visit and this has been on my list. I love the food, culture, and everything. This looks like a fantastic trip and thanks for sharing!


    1. Hey Christine!

      Hanoi is definitely a beautiful place filled with layers of stories behind every colorful textures and flavorful food. I am sure you will LOVE it! Let me know if you need some tips and I'd be glad to help you out!

      I hope you are doing well. Stay safe!



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