While an hour is hardly enough to take in Hanoi’s millennium of historical and cultural significance, groups looking for some quick post-event ideas can consider these off-the-beaten-track activities in the vibrant city.
Compiled by SIRIMA EAMTAKO
Take a cyclo ride through the Old Quarter
Touted as a ride fit for kings and queens, many royal personalities such as the King and Queen of Spain and former French President Jacques Chirac have taken a cyclo. A common means of transportation for shorter journeys, this three-wheel bicycle taxi contains a seat supported by two wheels at the front with the driver seated at the back.
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel is a popular starting and finishing point for a one-hour cyclo ride, through some 36 streets in the city’s Old Quarter. En route, shaded by trees, are historical buildings and landmarks, temples, shops, artisan workshops, local eateries, restaurants and bars. There are endless rows of colourful shops selling everything from hair bands to rice flours.
Apart from the disturbing fumes from passing vehicles, the area is filled with the aroma of Vietnamese and French-Vietnamese dishes and the sound of motorists, pedestrians and merchants going about their daily lives. Most DMCs offer group cyclo rides for incentive gatherings.
Watch a water puppet show
Water puppetry is a traditional Vietnamese art form and remains one of the highlights of Hanoi. The show offers a peak into the ancient folklore of Vietnam and day-to-day rural living with a humourous twist.
Controlled by hidden puppeteers and accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese pit orchestra, wooden puppets perform Vietnamese tunes in a waist-deep pool stage. It’s a fun watch even without reading the subtitles, which are often available in several languages.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in the Old Quarter offers guests several timings throughout the day, but tickets must be booked in advance. Local DMCs will be able to help reserve the best seats for groups.
Hold a cocktail reception at Hanoi Opera House
Built by the French colonial administration at the dawn of the 20th Century, the Hanoi Opera House is one of the many historical landmarks in the city. There are on-going orchestra and ballet performances, which often last more than one hour.
The venue, however, offers an ideal setting for a cocktail reception held between busy conference or meeting schedules. Hire a DMC for liaison as it can be tricky securing the permits to use the space. Try top DMCs such as Exotissimo Travel Vietnam, Destination Asia (Vietnam) and Asian Trails Vietnam.
Organise a cooking class
It ordinarily takes three hours for a cooking class. However, DMCs can arrange everything and prepare the cooking stations for your incentive high-flyers. Many hotels offer cooking classes, but you can also take your group to dedicated cookery schools, including Vietnam Culinary School and Hanoi Cooking Centre.