Being in Asia for study abroad has its perks. One of them is being able to travel to another country for a weekend trip without spending too much money!

This past weekend I was able to venture to Hanoi with my friend Emilie. We flew to Vietnam on Thursday via Cathay Dragon and landed at around 8PM. This was my first international leisure trip without my family, so it was pretty exciting!

Our first order of business after landing was getting our financials in order. I exchanged about HKD$1000 (~USD$100) at one of the money exchange counters at the airport, but there are also ATMs available for cash withdrawal. Next, I decided to get a SIM card just in case. I got my unlimited data SIM card for ~USD$7 at a Vinaphone counter. We also booked our car service to and from the hostel ahead of time at the same counter to save ourselves the headache of dealing with the Uber app which refused to work with us. But it was pretty much all smooth sailing after getting all of the logistics sorted out and arriving at Hanoi Centre Hostel in the Old Quarter.

Over the course of our 4-night trip, we were able to get a lot done! In total, we visited 4 museums, 1 mausoleum, and 2 temples. It was a cultural experience that I am so thankful I was able to be immersed in.

Here is a glimpse of some of the places we visited (and the delicious food we ate):

Taken from the airplane heading to Hanoi

The busy streets of Hanoi scared me at first! I could barely cross the road through the hordes of people and motorbikes, but I eventually got used to it.

The Vietnamese Women’s History Museum was one of the first museums we visited.

Ho Chi Minh was in Russia getting his mustache fixed at the time, but we just had to stop by the mausoleum anyway.

This is the house where Ho Chi Minh used to live in the Presidential Palace.

The Banh Mi was delicious, especially with pâte!

We stumbled upon this temple while wandering around.

This was taken at the Hoa Lo Prison Museum where John McCain was once held captive. It was eye-opening to learn about the US from a Vietnamese prospective.

We saw some interesting mixed western and eastern architecture all throughout the French Quarter.

I tried egg cacao while overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. The view was breathtaking!

I tried Poly Juice Potion in a quaint Harry Potter cafe smack dab in the middle of Hanoi!

I ended up keeping all of tickets I bought at each site as souvenirs. They are tucked away in my schedule book.

I learned so much at Vietnam’s culture and history through the museums I visited and by just walking on the streets of Hanoi. To my surprise, I even got to learn more about the US’s relationship to Vietnam during this trip. I’ve never been much of a history buff, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about how the US interacts with the world on a global scale and was surprised that there is still so much to learn about my own country when I am so far away. I think with this trip, I am starting to get a better grasp of what it means to be a lifelong learner and global citizen.