Tet is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New Year marking the arrival of spring based on the Lunar calendar. It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. I was lucky to be in Hanoi during Tet in 2009 and the markets and shops and streets were simply heaving with people buying goods.
On the night of January 25th, I walked down to the Hoan Kiem Lake where masses of people were gathering for celebrations and fireworks. I walked around and observed people setting off paper lanterns into the night sky (a few of them getting stuck in trees!). I've included some video of them on my Hanoi page. The lake is lit up at night with coloured lights and lasers plus little tiny flecks of fire in the sky made from hundreds of paper lanterns. The fireworks kicked off at midnight and lasted for about 15-20 minutes and then I headed back to my hotel past people leaving food and drink offering on the streets outside their homes.
Have a local beer on the streets
You can have a cool beer along the streets of old quarters for only 2000VND. From the horses' horse, it is thumbs up. This stall is along Hang Buom. In fact most local eateries have the beer. They said it iis the best as it is the secret of the Red River.
Along Hang Manh you can find many shops selling crafts and products made of bamboo. Ask for the prices from different shop to check out the prices. Most shopkeepers know how to speak simple English especially the numeric price :) Then when you see something you really like, slashed the price by more than half and bargained. At best with determination, you can get it at 50% of the listed price. If not, you should at least get it at 75%. Bamboo shades. But try and buy it on the first day as you can wear it around for the fun of it. If you find it too cumbersome to bring back, you can always pass it to another tourist. I paid 10 000 VND for this. The asking price was USD 2.
Tiger Airways to Hanoi
Budget air Tiger Airways now flies three times a week from Singapore to Hanoi. A return ticket can be as low as S$100 (inclusive of tax and surcharges) if you book during promotion periods. However, as with all budget airlines, you do have to put up with narrower seats, which can make the three hour flight quite uncomfortable. Also, be prepared to queue as seating is on a first come first serve basis.
The Tiger flight typically arrives in Hanoi at 6pm and you will probably arrive in the city centre by 7-7:30pm.
Coffee & Juice
Papa Joes is a great little coffee shop and juice bar in the middle of the Old District. It’s conveniently located near Hoan Kiem Lake. They have a little bar on the street level or a seating area on the first floor. All the juices are fresh squeezed and made to order and prices are decent. The staff is friendly and the drinks are presented well. They also have snacks and sandwiches available, but are a bit on the expensive side comparitively. A great stop on a hot day! My personal favorite was the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and Marc was partial to the mango juice.