Vietnam is a country with a population of over a 92.7 Million people spreading over some 3,31,000 Sq. Kilometers.
When one examines closely and compares, the two ends of the country are quite different from each other. This difference extends not only to its vast countrysides but is also apparent between its two biggest cities Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) and Hanoi, which are also spread out towards the two ends of the country.
For tourists, the cities’difference and distance from each other often becomes significant. Ho Chi Minh situated 1,137 Kilometres from Hanoi, gains favour with its westernized lifestyles and proximity to the Mekong Delta, while the latter does it with its historical significance and proximity to the world famous Ha Long Bay.
The two have such different elements that tourists visiting both cities, could get an almost wholistic view of what is Vietnam!
But for the sake of the tourist with a time crunch, let us see how the two big cities would fare against each other- across critierias of costs, food, the people, nightlife, weather and so on.
Hanoi, situated in the northern region of Vietnam often has shorter days and longer but colder nights than its sub-tropical counterpart down south, Ho Chi Minh.
· Nights there are spent with alcohol however minus the glitz, glamour and wildness of pubs, bars and clubs. Thus, it is a tad bit more traditional.
If you would have googled Hanoi search results describing its fresh but cheap Bia Hoi beer stalls and the short and tiny stools lining up the Old Quarter area of the capital would have popped up. Thus, when it come to night life Hanoian nights are spent like that or along the Hoan Kiem Lake and such places.
Ho Chi Minh
Down south, Ho Chi Minh is known for its wildlife. As quite a few travellers conclude, Ho Chi Minh might just be the New York to Hanoi’s Washington.
· The city has multiple clubs, bars and pubs for tourists to let their hair down at; more so, these places stay open till quite late in the night, adding to the fun.
Relative to most other parts of the world, Vietnam is as a whole really cheap.
If one really goes into specifics Hanoi is slightly more expensive than Ho Chi Minh.
· A good meal there could be had at anywhere between 28,000-55,000 VND , if you are looking for a cheap meals that is good in terms of both quality and quantity.
· There are a lot of street food stalls as well as a few high-end fine dining restaurants in Hanoi. So you can make your choice accordingly.
· While Hanoi mostly caters to wealthy families seeking to spend time in the city, some tourists can also find a few good and cheap backpacker hostels in the Old Quarter area of the city. However, these may be booked up during the peak tourist season.
· For shopping tourists can head to local markets, where they can haggle and bargain.
Ho Chi Minh
· While there are similar costs of living here, Ho Chi Minh is able to provide touritsts with more types of options for each price bracket.
Be it food or accomodation, Ho Chi Minh provides well in terms of quality and comfort.
· A good and cheap meal over here costs anything between 28,000.00 - 50,000.00 VND
· Markets in Ho Chi Minh are modern, malls and supermarkets. Leading franchises and designers have their boutiques here.
Things to do
Below is a list of things you could do in or around the city of Hanoi:
Eat street food
Pho, Bun Cha, Bia Hoi beer, Egg Coffee are famous food items from Hanoi. A number of good food stalls line the streets of Hanoi, especiallythe popular Old Quarter area where you can have a mea for cheap.
The shops inside the lanes of Old Quarter, and the marketplaces in Dong Xuan, Hang Da, Hanoi’s night market have good quality fruits, vegetables, clothes, handicrafts, postcards andeven some interesting old propaganda posters!
These shops might entertain some light and humourous bargaining tactics as well. So you could try your hand, at perhaps leave with a good memento.
Watch a water puppet show
Hanoi is known for its Water Puppet shows. Hence you could catch one show at the Thang Long theatre which stays open 365 days an year nd has shows at a varying schedule.
The puppets seem like they float on water and are great display thus, a way to learn about Vietnamese culture.
Visit historical monuments
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum- their reverred old dictator’s body is kept, embalmed over here The entry to the mausoleum is free. Meanwhile, the city also has the Temple of literature, the imperial citadel of thang long, the Hona Hoi prison-a prison used during the soviet era which has been converted into a musuem, and others.
The buildings in the Old Quarter area of the city, are from the time the country was under the french colonial rule. Appreciaters of architecture can also take a stroll through its streets.
Take a trip to Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Trang An, etc.
Situated in Northern Vietnam , Hanoi provides great connectivity to the scenic landscapes of Sapa, Ha Long bay, Trang An, Muong Hoa, Mt. Fansipan and so on.
With travel agents galore, one can take a bus ride or have a car or motorbike rented for yourself.
Quite a few tourists also take a days trip to these surrounding places.
Ho Chi Minh
Eat and celebrate in Pham Ngu Lao
Pham Ngu Lao is the most happening place of the city. With eateries, street performers, artists, hotels, and bars- this is a big tourist attraction. Especially along the Bui Vien street which sees activity until late night, at 3 AM.
The Bui Vien street however, also happens to be Vietnam’s crime capital. Please be careful journeying through there.
Visit the museums
The museum of Ho Chi Minh City, the museum of War Remnants, FITO museum, museum of Vietnamese History, etc are a few names in the vast number of museums that dot the city.
The museum of war remnants is particularly famous for being elaborate archive of the memoirs of the Vietnam War, or as vietnam calls it- the ‘American War’.
The city also has the Independence palace. This wasn’t a museum originally, but after the end of the vietnam was has been converted to one. It used to be the home for the president of South Vietnam.
Take a trip to the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi tunnels, and Cao Dai temple
The Mekong Delta, which is a confluence of the 9 tributaries of the river Mekong is only 170 km away from Ho Chi Minh. From Ho Chi Minh cabs and buses provide 3 hour long road journeys to get to the delta.
The Cu Chi Tunnels were a network of secret tunnels dug up nearly 45 kilometres from the Ho Chi Minh city to help the Vietnamese army defend/attack during the Vietnam War. It has many different kinds of rooms as well as a cooking facility thus making it clear that the tunnels might have been intended for long term usage. It usually is an hour’s drive from the city.
Cao Dai temple is located around 83 Kilometres from the city and is around a two hours drive on a day with little traffic. It is a temple built for the followers of a religion called ‘Caodaism’which was begun and is widely followed in vietnam. The temple has an interesting structure and it is best if you visit it during the time of its prayers. That nakes for a really good sight and atmosphere.
The culture of the two cities is also slightly different. Read on to know how-
- People are more reserved and formal in Hanoi, however they are equally helpful. The daily life of the people begins later than those of the people living in Ho Chi Minh.
- The city runs on motorbikes, literally- there are millions of them here, and the traffic caused by them is chaotic.
- Ripping off of tourists occurs if one is not that careful.
Ho Chi Minh
- Southerners in Vietnam are known to be extremely outgoing and friendly. Hence a similar situation follows in Ho Chi Minh.
- Traffic here is also mostly motorbikes, however it is slightly better than the situation spread in Hanoi.
- Pickpocketing, ripping off, etc. is more commonplace in the city of Ho Chi Minh than in Hanoi. Hence, tourists are advised to be more careful.
Now you must easily be able to distinguish between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh