Two or three days? Four or five? If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Hanoi, err on the generous side as there are plenty of ways to fill your time. Here’s our pick of some less common ways to spend that extra day.
When you think of Hanoi, you may know that the winters are cold, but did you know you can ice-skate here? An ice-skating rink opened up in 2013 in the new Royal City shopping centre. Sessions are organised into one-hour slots throughout the day — try to avoid the weekend when it’s more expensive and busier. Seats are available for people who aren’t confident skaters — you’ll need someone willing to push you round though. Weekend rates are 220,000 VND for adults and 150,000 VND for children under 130cm, plus skate hire at 50,000 VND. One disadvantage is that it’s a bit of a trek from Old Quarter: head out on Ton Duc Thang past the Temple of Literature and keep going for around five kilometres.
Bloom Microventures is a non-profit social business that provides microfinance to entrepreneurs with the aim of lifting them out of poverty. The loans are financed through tours to an ethnic minority community in Hoa Binh province, 70 kilometres outside Hanoi. During the tour you will spend time with the locals and meet the entrepreneurs looking for finance. A proportion of the fee paid for the tour goes towards the microfinancing and after the tour you can follow the progress and repayments of the entrepreneurs you met. It costs US$75 per adult to join the group tour on a Saturday or you can arrange a private tour any other time at a higher fee.
If you want something more active, try a bicycle tour. A number of companies run tours around Hanoi and the surrounding countryside. Contact The Hanoi Bicycle Collective. Or try Zoom Zoom, which started out as a group of people keen to explore outside of Hanoi by motorbike. They now offer a range of tours including one-day bicycle trips around Hanoi, including out to Bat Trang ceramic village and Co Loa Citadel.
Another — less cultural — activity is paint-balling. Yes, Hanoi has a paintballing centre — Galaxy Hunter — and it’s a lot better than you might expect. Located in Long Bien, on the other side of the Red River, it’s easily reachable by bike or taxi and is reasonably priced: 200,000 VND gets you kitted out with overalls, a mask, gun and 100 balls and then it’s 1,000 VND per ball for top ups. The battlefield is equipped with a range of obstacles, with enough to keep you amused for a couple of hours, and while the safety briefing may be non-existent, they do show you how to use the gun and are careful about collecting guns back in the safe area. Nasty bruises are obligatory though.
Our final suggestion is to join Vietnam in Focus for a photography tour. Do the nighttime/early hours Long Bien tour as we did — and sleep for the rest of the day — or join a day or evening tour. Prices have increased since our tour — it now costs US$80 per person — but it’s worth it for the keen amateur photographer.The Hanoi Bicycle Collective