Brown Family to Vietnam in April 2013
The kids loved Singapore for all its excitement - light shows, indoor waterfalls (Gardens by the Bay), water adventure park (at Sentosa), world's largest ferris wheel, cool animals at the zoo and more...
Hanoi was obviously quite different with all its happy chaos and dilapidation. We stayed at a fantastic hotel in the Old Quarter, the Hanoi Elegance Diamond. It doesn't look like much from the outside but the people were very friendly, loved the children and were very helpful (even in the middle of the night when our daughter threw up all over the bed, thankfully in a once off rather than an ongoing illness!). We didn't realise when we booked it but it had a fantastic restaurant on the 12th floor with great views, excellent food and a good drinks menu that we would have liked to investigate more if we'd been by ourselves.
We found plenty to do with the kids and they were captivated by the chaotic roads, the hawkers selling bright things and the various entertaining things that we did. The water puppets were a hit, Lenin park with all its rides was fun (though I'd note we were there on a public holiday so it may have been busier than usual and that we decided against a couple of dodgy looking rides!). The short cyclo ride we had was terrifying and exhilarating. We had a top notch half-day tour from Wide Eyed Tours.
We had a lovely lady guide who took us to the markets, where we bought a few things. Then we taxied to her home-based clothing factory where we got tea and snacks and did some tie dying with the kids and the fun workers. They also gave us a try on a scooter because it was on the outskirts of town (overlooking the agricultural area near the river) and the roads were quiet. A real highlight for our 4 and a half year old! Then she dropped us at a fantastic buffet restaurant with a huge variety of Vietnamese and international food. We were the only westerners. When finished we thought we were about to be pressured to visit her shop, but she saw the kids were tired and so just took us back to the hotel. As it happened we left a bag at her place, so one of her workers dropped it back to us later that night. Really great service and they tailor the trip for you. All for around $100 from memory.
It was challenging having the kids there at times, because we had to really actively look for places they could run around. It's so busy that they were often on a short leash (figuratively) out in the streets and then confined in a hotel room where they had to try to be quiet - not ideal conditions for a highly active 4 1/2 year old! But we did find the space for them to run and as long as we kept them fuelled and had regular drinks/ice cream stops things went smoothly. We didn't have too much trouble with the food, using a guidebook to find good restaurants and using our hotel restaurant too.
It was great to spend that much time just with the kids with no chores to do, though at times that was also exhausting! We managed our hygiene quite well with regular antiseptic wipes and/or hand sanitiser, and eating at good places made us pretty comfortable. Apart from Erina's random vomit we kept our health quite well, which was a great relief. I've been quite an adventurous street eater in the past, but there's no way I'd have eaten at many of the roadside places in Hanoi! It was amazing how quickly you got used to crossing those insane roads, but we were always conscious of the risk they kids were at while crossing.
I wouldn't recommend Hanoi as a destination for everyone with kids, but for the adventurous and the patient it wasn't too much trouble and was quite rewarding. It was certainly better than waiting another X years until they were old enough to be left with the grandparents for that long! Our hotel was a great oasis and cheap by NZ standards, with great food upstairs if we didn't feel like going far afield. There was plenty to see and do for the 4 or so days we were there and Halong Bay was a great add on, despite the big drive.
Great trip, glad we did it!
Singapore Airlines was of course great. The food was always good and the inflight entertainment was excellent on most of the flights - the plane to Hanoi had an older system but still plenty to watch for the short hop across.
So all in all an excellent trip.
Cheers the Brown Family