Explore traditional houses at the Museum of Ethnography
It’s a long way from downtown Hanoi but the Museum of Ethnography showcasing the cultures of the many different minority tribes of Vietnam is well worth the drive. The interior of the museum is filled with miniature models of traditional houses and villages, along with examples of traditional dress, as well as a small children’s hands on activities room hidden away upstairs where you can learn traditional games and crafts.
The interior is educational but not that interesting for young children – it’s the outdoors section that truly makes this museum one of the most fascinating museum’s you’ll visit anywhere in the world. We spend a lot of time in museums all around the world and the Museum of Ethnography in Hanoi still rates as one of the most fun and educational outings we’ve had soley for the outdoors section. The indoors is fascinating for mums but it’s the outdoors that will captivate kids.
So what is there? The highlight are the full-scale traditional houses of a variety of types that you can climb inside via huge ladders to see how people live.
Once inside you can explore, touch and experience how people sleep, eat and live in these houses. There are gongs to bang, cooking areas to pretend to cook meals in and rooms to explore. It’s a lot of fun. Even just getting up the ladders into the houses and walking across the bouncy bamboo floors is an adventure.
The outdoor section also has several recreated villages and a free water puppet show, although the water puppets often only run on weekends.
Open from 8.30am – 5.30pm, except Monday, go early as the outdoor section is hot. There is a small kiosk outside selling drinks, snacks and ice creams. Entry and snacks inside are very cheap. The most expensive part is the taxi fare to get there.
Enjoy the water puppets
Located near Hoan Kiem lake, enjoying a performance at the Thang Long water puppet show has long been on the tourist ‘to-do’ list for Hanoi.
Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back to the 11th Century in Northern Vietnam. Brightly coloured puppets are operated in the water by actors either dressed in black or behind a screen. The Thang Long water puppet show last for just under an hour and consists of roughly 17 short folk tales all set to traditional Vietnamese orchestral music and singing.
Between the music, stories and bright puppets the show is highly captivating and will most likely become the cultural highlight of your Vietnam getaway, although young children can find the entire show a little long. Bring snacks and a few small diversions just in case.
Several shows run each day and ticket prices do vary depending on where you buy them from so ask around, and be sure to ask directly at the door as well. If you are visiting Hanoi during peak tourist season it’s worth asking a few days in advance, although it’s not always necessary. Some ticket sellers will lead you to believe you need to book well in advance when sometimes that is just a scam to get you to pay their higher price – just use common sense and ask around. If you think a price sounds too high, it probably is!
Ho Tay Waterpark
Located in the Tay Ho District, who doesn’t like water-slides! With five separate entertainment sections featuring speed slides, regular slides, children’s pools, a lazy river, wave pool and other attractions, Ho Tay lacks the polish of western waterparks but it’s also a lot cheaper! Flip-flops/thongs are a good idea in the bathrooms though!
Open from 8am-8pm, entry is discounted after 5pm. Avoid going on Sundays, school holidays and during public holidays. Weekdays are the best time to go when crowds are less.
Take a leisurely spin around the old quarter by cyclo
Finding your way around the old quarter of Hanoi takes time. Shops are organized together by categories … well sort of! It doesn’t always work, but in general there is some sort of organisation. If you miss one street you might spend hours looking for that one pair of sunglasses you need and never find them because you’ve missed the one glasses street.
With kids a great way to get an overview of where everything is without tiring out little legs and experience a different way of transport is a cyclo ride. Cyclos go a lot slower than a car but faster than legs so it’s a great way to see where everything is in the old quarter and decide exactly where you want to go after your ride finishes.
Of course the first time your driver crosses a busy intersection you may be regretting the decision and holding on for dear life … but it’s a fun experience!
Negotiate your price before you go and remember to haggle, but not too hard – these guys will be cycling you all around town in the hot sun and smog and you might be one of their only rides for the day. .