Things to Do During New Years in Hanoi

It was somewhere around the middle of December that I realized New Years Eve was 2 weeks away.  Yes, obviously it was only 2 weeks away, it being the middle of December, but for some reason my brain hadn’t registered the date.  I was going to be hosting my first Christmas Dinner and I think my mind was completely occupied with that and finishing the year end books for my small company.
…And I was also relishing not being on the road for a full month, so I suppose I was loathe to look at, and book, more flights.

My boyfriend was quite adamant that we spend New Years outside of Japan.  “Tokyo is dead during New Years.”  Whoa was he right.  Even the few days leading up to the 31st the normally bustling city turned in to a bit of a ghost town.  I stumbled downstairs to get coffee from my normal chain coffee spot (Dotour…mmm Dotour I love you) on the 30th only to find that even it was closed.  Ok, Tokyo, I get it…we should get out of town for New Years, as it seems everyone else has as well.

Hopping on to the ANA award ticket reservation site, we started searching for my flights.  At this point we were a week away from the 31st.  Thailand?  No, fully booked.  Singapore?  Fully booked.  Manila?  Fully booked.
Hanoi?  Huh…Hanoi.  Yeah sure, why not!  Pho after a night of NYE drinking sounds like a great idea.

Since I’m an American citizen, I needed to get pre-approved for a Visa on Arrival for Vietnam.  This being my second trip to the country, I used the same company I had on my first journey to make the arrangements – Go Vietnam Visa.  (They managed on my first trip to get my approval letter to me within 10 minutes, as I has stupidly not realized I needed a visa until I was on my way to the airport.)
I opted this time to splurge for the Airport VIP service where they meet you at immigration and speed you through the whole process.  The lines for immigration in Hanoi weren’t bad that day, but that simply could have been because it was December 31st.  They arranged a car to the hotel for us, as well, that was 400,000VND (which is roughly $19).

We reached out to some friends we had in Vietnam and they all recommended we stay at the Sofitel Legend Metropole.  Right in the heart of the city, it offered a great hub for sight seeing and the hotel itself was gorgeous.  It’s broken up in to two wings – the Opera Wing and the Metropole Wing.  We stayed in the Opera wing, which is the newer part of the building.  The Metropole side is super old school cool – gorgeously preserved French colonial architecture.

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Pool, Le Club and the Bamboo Bar. Belatedly realizing I didn’t get any good photos of the gorgeous green-house like building that housed Le Club, or the outside of the hotel.
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Nice heated pool.
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Looking down in to the courtyard from on top of Le Club. They have a cute gazebo up here for weddings.

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The courtyard sparkles at night.

After checking in and getting settled, we walked around the neighborhood surrounding the hotel.  This part of the city is the old town, but it is where you will find all the new brands – Valentino, Burberry, etc, as well as Vietnamese brands such as Thuy Design House (I purchased an amazing skirt from them when I was in Ho Chi Minh City).

Heading back to the hotel, we got ready for the night and headed downstairs to the bar at the Angelina restaurant in our hotel for a pre-dinner cocktail.

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Tons of glitz and glimmer all ready for New Years Eve.

We decided to not have Vietnamese food for dinner, so we headed over to Jackson’s Steakhouse and had a tasty, meaty meal (aaaand a few glasses of wine).

We spilled out on to the street after dinner only to find it had been completely transformed in to a sea of people.

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The beginning of the chaos.

Motorbikes whizzed in and out of vendors selling all sorts of weird balloons.  Copyright infringement was running amok amongst the helium overlords.  Being a few drinks in to the night, we decided it would be a perfect idea to buy as many balloons as possible.  We stopped and haggled for a bit with one woman and $15 lighter and 20 balloons heavier, I wobbled down the street with my haul.

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Copyright infringement Mickey, Hello Kitty, Doraemon, pink Bugs Bunny, and a congratulatory “It’s a Boy!” bear.

I quickly realized that I had no need for 20 balloons aside from getting a cool picture, so I passed them out to kids as we made our way back towards our hotel.

Right next to the Sofitel is the actual Opera house, and for New Years Eve they had a stage set up with DJs and live acts.  There are no open container laws on Hanoi, so people we wandering the streets with their beers.  Midnight struck and we danced with the moving crowd.  It was the perfect amount of people – there were plenty of space, but enough cumulative energy to keep you going.

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January 1st was all about being lazy and eating everything in sight.

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Started out with breakfast pho at our hotel. It was everything I was hoping it would be.
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Followed breakfast up with a leisurely stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake. The name means Lake of the Returned Sword. Legend says a giant turtle god lived in the lake at one point, and there are actual giant turtles that live in there today. We didn’t catch a glimpse of one, unfortunately.
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Quick lunch banh mi.
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Beautiful flowered gardens around the lake.
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At the North end of the lake is Jade Island where the Temple of the Jade Mountain sits.

We didn’t get too adventurous with our food for dinner, as we had to catch an early flight the next morning.  We ate at Spices Garden, which was the Vietnamese restaurant located in our hotel.

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Nha trang lobster and Sapa roasted pork.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend Vietnam for New Years.  It’s a nice change from the normal club or fancy bar scenes you get in most cities.  I loved walking around and dodging motorbikes with the crowd.  And hey, post-NYE hangover pho is hard to beat.

Happy New Year!

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