Hanoi (Day 1: Essence Palace Hotel, Hoa Lo Prison, Sofitel Metropole, Hoan Kiem Lake)

A little over an hour after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport, we reached Essence Palace Hotel. I have been in contact with their staff even before our trip as we availed of their special 3D/2N Spa Package. We also arranged a 2-day custom city tour with them.

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Even before I mention any specifics, I would like to personally thank Essence Palace Hotel and their staff for providing great service during our stay! Special mention to Mike who facilitated most of our requests.

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After allowing us an early check-in, we went to Gia Ngu which is the restaurant in the hotel. This was part of our must-eat list so we made the most of our scheduled and tried it right away. Since we availed of their special package, we were given a 10% lunch discount.

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Food did not disappoint!

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After a satisfying lunch, it was time for the first leg of our own city tour. Our first stop was the Long Bien Bridge. Unfortunately, cars and larger vehicles cannot use this bridge so we just took photos from the other bridge across.

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Our next stop was Hoa Lo Prison. I was quite excited to visit this place as it was one of the must-visit places according to other blogs. As interesting as it was, it left the opposite impression to us. I felt very uncomfortable after visiting the prison. I felt this same vibe when I visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh a few years back.

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We also passed by the Opera House.

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Behold, the Sofitel Legend Metropole. This is probably the most luxurious hotel in Hanoi. This beautifully restored hotel is rich in history and is in a class of it’s own . I would have stayed here for one night if I had the chance.

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As recommend to us by a friend, we had to try Sofitel’s version of the Charlie Chaplin cocktail. I am not a big fan of cocktail drinks, more so strong tasting ones. Good thing the drink was accompanied by a lemon sorbet which we used as a cold sweetener to our drink. I am not sure what the story is behind this cocktail but it sure kept us quiet for a few good minutes. It gave me a quick buzz!

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From Sofitel, we headed to Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake features several attractions apart from the scenic stroll around. You can also visit the Ngoc Son Temple, Huc Bridge and view the Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) in the middle of the lake. The locals suggest that we visit the lake during early morning and night time as well.

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We spent most of our time hanging around the lake as there seems to be a lot of things going on.

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Before we headed back to our hotel, we made one last stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Hanoi (Day 1 ½: Hanoi at Night, Old Quarter, El Gaucho Steakhouse)

– The Tourist Pao

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