HANOI INSIDE OUT

A Hop on - Hop off bus tour takes you to all the sights worth seeing in Vietnam’s capital.

By Thuy Duong on May 11,2019 03:31 PM

HANOI INSIDE OUT

Photo: Thuy Duong

It was the most perfect early-summer Saturday morning you could wish for. The weather was not too hot, at around 250C, with a delicious freshness in the air. The morning sunshine was spectacular and the early start well worth it. Hanoi treated me well on my day out visiting its many attractions on the Hop on - Hop off bus tour.

Rather than getting underway at the first pick-up point outside Highlands Coffee, next to the Hanoi Opera House, we boarded the Hop on - Hop off bus at its sixth stop, outside Tran Quoc Pagoda on Thanh Nien Street after having breakfast nearby. It turned out to be a good choice, as sitting upstairs on the double-decker open-top bus and taking in wonderful views of West Lake and Truc Bach Lake made an unforgettable impression.

The surface of West Lake was shrouded by a thin layer of mist, and the water seemed to stretch out forever. Overnight rain had left wet leaves scattered about that reflected the early morning light. The leaves still on the trees, meanwhile, splashed cool drops on our faces and necks when disturbed by the breeze.

Some on board snatched at low-hanging leaves or snapped of small flowers sticking out from branches on roadside trees. The air was extraordinarily fresh. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the soft, sweet aroma of the early morning. It was one of those moments in life you wish you could capture and keep forever.

First hitting the streets of the capital in May last year, the Hop on - Hop off bus is a flexible and convenient way of visiting Hanoi’s famous destinations in a relatively organized manner, enabling us to save on taxis as we explored the capital in our own way upstairs on a double-decker open-top bus. You can get on and off as you please, stay as long as you like, then jump back on the next bus to arrive.

The buses ply the circuit from 9am to 5pm, with four-hour, 24-hour, and 48-hour tickets available (starting from the time fist activated), allowing you to take unlimited trips around the capital.

For the weekday's 24 hour tour, Hop on - Hop off buses run every 30 minutes, make 13 stops, and pass by 20 famous attractions. They travel from the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square – Hoan Kiem Lake, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, The Flag Tower of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Quan Thanh Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Cua Bac Church, The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, The Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison Relic, Museum of Vietnamese Women, Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi Post Office, and then back to the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square. The buses' meeting points are different, depending on the weekday or weekend tours. For the weekday tour, the meeting point will be in Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, meanwhile, for the weekend tour, the meeting point is in front of Hanoi Opera House.

Tickets are available for VND300,000 ($14) for four-hour tours, VND450,000 ($19) for 24 hours, and VND650,000 ($29) for 48 hours, at https://hopon-hopoff.vn/, and you can start your tour at any point along the route.

You can also use a free headset, with tour information in eight languages - Vietnamese, Chinese, English, Russian, German, French, Korean, and Spanish. Just prior to each destination is a short introduction on its history or the best way to see everything, so visitors can decide whether to hop off or keep going.

The Hop on - Hop off buses follow two different routes - one on weekdays and one on weekends, as some streets become pedestrian malls on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you decide to buy a 24-hour ticket, it’s best to buy it the previous afternoon and set out at 9am or so the next morning.

One last important thing: tall travelers need to be careful when sitting upstairs, as Hanoi’s tree-lined streets often have branches hanging down quite low!

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