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What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Chicken BBQ street on Ly Van Phuc -- go to the larger stall at the end of the road. Pho Bat Dan has the best Pho in Hanoi and is located on Bat Dan street in the Old Quarter. Xoi Yen (look it up on Google) has the best Vietnamese sticky rice. Find a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and have famous Vietnamese egg coffee. Try local Vietnamese desserts, which are wonderfully sweet and tasty. Buy a scooter and explore the city -- after a rain drive down the government quarter's beautiful tree-lined boulevards and admire the French-inspired architecture. - Dec 12, 2017
Most spend their time in Hanoi in or around the Old Quarter shopping and eating. If there's a 3-day weekend, flights out of Hanoi are cheap and most take advantage. - May 4, 2016
The mountainous provinces (not Sa Pa) are the real undiscovered gems of Vietnam. Google Ha Giang and you will see what I mean. Beaches are ok. Con Dao and Phu Quoc islands are supposed to be nice though I never made it to either. - Aug 12, 2014
People watching: this is a busy town. Have a drink at one of the hundred Bia Hoi restaurants; discover the remains of the French architecture. Travel around the country to discover Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Hoi An, Saigon, and the ethnic minorities. Visit the temples, museums, go to see a water-puppets show. Travel across South-East Asia. Join the Hanoi Hash House Harrier and run/ walk in the countryside every weekend, enjoying a much needed bowl of almost fresh air. Dine out every day for less than US$5/head. Take a Vietnamese cuisine class. Taste snake dishes. Go wild shopping in the different artisans’ villages (silks, cloths, pottery, arts, music instruments). Join the Women’s Club or one of the many NGO’s and get involved. Cultural life is somewhat limited to a few museums, a scarce opera program and some cinemas of questionable qualities (but they show international blockbusters in English version with Vietnamese subtitles). Nightlife is said to be good but very young. - Dec 13, 2011
Temple of Literature, Ethnology Museum, Old Quarter, exploring the street food, "Hanoi Hilton" and military museum, history museum. The famous Halong Bay (with the iconic limestone pillars of islands) is about 3 hours away by car. - Aug 23, 2011
Visit with friends, play tennis, check out the French architecture, and visit museums. - May 23, 2010
Vietnam is a great country to travel in - mountains, beaches, cultural spots. - Dec 19, 2009
Plenty of fun day-trips, plenty of sighseeing activities in the city. Cat Ba and Ha Long are 3 hours away. Sapa is on overnight train trip away. - Feb 11, 2009
Vietnam is still a back-packers paradise and hotels and travel inside Vietnam can still be done cheaply. Get out and experience the country and history. There are good museums on the unique aspects of Vietnam, the history, the War, ethnic groups, etc. There is the water puppet theater. There are great sites in the countryside and some of the best beaches in Southeast which are not yet cover with mega resorts or hordes of tourists. For those wanting a taste of modernity, Bangkok is less than 1 hour and 20 minute flight away and roundtrip tickets are less than US$300.Ho Chi Minh City is also modern, though not as nice as Bangkok and a great place to visit. Women find that there are decent hair saloons that give wonderful head massages, manicures, pedicures, and other beautification rituals at low prices. - Sep 27, 2008
Here in the North, not many. As previously stated, Hanoi offers little for entertaining children. There are few clubs as we would define them in the U.S. Karaoke is very popular with the Vietnamese. If you go out with the local staff, you can be guaranteed the night will end at a karaoke club. There are many 4 and 5 star beach resorts in Vietnam but they all are in the Central and Southern parts of the country. - May 17, 2008