Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and its second largest city and filled to the brim with life and colour. To travel here without spending a lot of money the first thing you might want to look into is inexpensive accommodation. Nestled in the narrow snaking alleys of Hanoi’s Old Quarter you will be able to find several budget guesthouses and hotels. Mainly a locals’ neighbourhood, the Old Quarter is an incredible spot to laze around while visiting Hanoi.

Vietnamese locals hustle and bustle about their noisy, frenzied daily lives around you. Just down the road sits Hanoi’s Hoen Kien Lake. The area is full of street stalls, small restaurants and street food shops, arts and crafts’ shops, and hectic traffic. You will never have a dreary moment, even on a small budget, since the area offers loads of free things to do within a short distance.

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More like a large pond than an actual lake, Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular park for locals to walk, jog, exercise or practise Tai Chi, have a chat with friends and sit gazing at the gorgeous white Ngoc San Pagoda floating in the centre of the lake. You might want to take a walk under shady trees, admire the views of the lake, watch the locals, and relax. There is an outdoor cafe, a small temple, and many benches dotted around the lake.

While you are at the lake, start with exploring the temple right there which is the Ngoc San Pagoda, marked by a golden entry gate and a lengthy red wooden bridge on Lake Hoen Kien’s north east shores. The golden gate, a lot of potted plants and picturesque halls signify Hanoi’s small temples. Lake waters make an exquisite backdrop. Many other temples, with free or token entry, are sprinkled around Hanoi. Each has slightly diverse detailing, so if you are into temples, it is worth the visit.

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Hanoi’s Old Quarter is packed with shops selling beautiful paintings and ink drawings, carved stone and wooden bits and pieces, chop sticks, silk items, vividly coloured lanterns, and other handicrafts. Northern Vietnamese are outstanding artists and you will be hard pressed to find these exquisite art and handicrafts in southern Vietnam, so take time to see them in Hanoi.

Astonishingly, visitors to Hanoi are allowed to visit the preserved corpse of General Ho Chi Minh absolutely for free. Visitation hours are short, it is just a few hours several hours per week. And the Mausoleum observes the strict rules on dress code, bags and photography. This is a must visit and definitely should be on top of your to-do list.

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