When booking positioning flights for the Qatar Airways sub-$700 business class fare out of Hanoi, it worked out in a way that I would be arriving in Vietnam the night before the Qatar Airways flight – and, only departing in late afternoon of the following day.
As such, instead of looking for a hotel near the airport, I decided to pick a hotel in the city center – near Hoam Kiem Lake to be precise – and do some sightseeing in the morning before getting back to the airport to catch my flight to Doha via Bangkok.
Getting from Hanoi Airport to My Hotel and Back
Before departing Japan, I looked at a variety of options for getting from Noi Bai airport to the city center. But, given that I was arriving fairly late (and arrived even later than that due to a delay), I decided to prebook a car to pick me up. And, to take me from my hotel to the airport the following day.
The company I chose was Cat Ba Express which I found on Hanoi’s Wikitravel page. And, I can only recommend them. The price was $30 roundtrip (one-way would have been $17), and the whole process was very smooth.
Communicating with the company – first via email and later through WhatsApp – was a breeze at any time of the day.
And, while the driver didn’t speak English, he was very friendly. He even attempted to use Google Translate for some simple conversations such as jokingly remarking “I was waiting here for you forever,” in response to my delayed flight.
Staying at Hanoi Emerald Waters Hotel & Spa
My accommodation for the night was Hanoi Emerald Waters Hotel & Spa – an independent four-star hotel located just a short walk from Hoam Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi.
The staff was very friendly and attentive as well – greeting me at the door of the car and helping me settle in one of the reception seats where I was offered a welcome drink while the staff checked me in.
The room was equally nice – and fairly spacey – with two beds, a desk, as well as a daybed. The bathroom had all the necessary amenities, although water pressure left a bit to be desired.
Finally, breakfast was included in the room rate, and besides featuring a buffet with a variety of local as well as international items, there was also a small menu of a la carte items including Vietnamese pho noodles.
A Morning Stroll Around Hoam Kiem Lake
After packing my bags and before having a quick breakfast, I left the hotel to take an early morning walk around Hoam Kiem Lake which is in the historic center of the city, and was just a couple of minutes walk away from my hotel.
While I was intending to get some sunrise photos, the weather did not cooperate. Still, I enjoyed seeing many people gathered around the lake exercising and just enjoying the morning.
As I walked further down the path around the lake, I stumbled upon Lý Thái Tổ Flower Garden – which although more of a square – seemed like a favorite place of the locals to hang out in the morning.
In fact, there were tens of people in a couple of groups doing tai chi and dancing to a variety of music. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, and stayed there for about an hour just watching the locals dance and have fun.
One thing I have to note though, is that I am not sure which was more enjoyable – seeing the locals practice tai chi and dance, or watch a group of tourists try to imitate them!
When I was done at the “garden,” I tried to capture some photos of Hanoi’s (Vietnam’s) notorious traffic before finishing a loop around the lake and heading back to my hotel to grab a quick breakfast, pick up my bags, and head to the airport.
More about that – including information about plane spotting in Hanoi – in the next instalment, though.
As far as my visit to the city is concerned, I really enjoyed it – and, certainly hope to be back again sometime soon for a longer period of time!