If you go
THE BEST WAY TO HANOI
From LAX, connecting service (change of plane) to Hanoi is offered on JAL, Asiana, Korean, China Southern Airlines, Thai and Singapore. Restricted round-trip fares range from $782 to $807, including taxes and fees. A visa is mandatory for American visitors. The easiest way to apply is through http://www.myvietnamvisa.com. The cost is $25 for a one-month, single-entry visa. The online site arranges for your documents to be waiting for you at the Hanoi airport , where an additional $25 stamping fee is required.
To call these numbers from the U.S., dial 011 (international dialing code), 84 (country code for Vietnam), 4 (the regional code) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY
Sofitel Hotel Metropole, 15 Ngo Quyen St., Hanoi; 3826-6919, http://www.sofitel.com. One of Vietnam's most historic hotels, built in 1901. Gorgeous spa, heated pool, flat-screen TVs. Doubles from $271.
Zéphyr Hotel, No 4-6 Ba Trieu St., Hanoi; 3934-1256, http://www.zephyrhotel.com.vn. Sleek boutique hotel in the middle of the energetic Old Quarter. Top-floor bar has beautiful city views. Doubles from $87.
WHERE TO EAT
The following are street stalls with no phones or websites. It's possible that one day they simply won't be there anymore — or will have picked up and moved elsewhere.
2C Ta Hien St., Hanoi. A tiny room with an open front that serves delicious breakfast noodles called bun doc mung made with meatballs, sliced pork, herbs and noodles.
9 Ngo Trang Tien St., Hanoi. A stall in a small alley across from the Hanoi Opera specializing in fried tofu soups called bun dau.
Corner of Hang Bo and Hang Can streets, Hanoi. A makeshift shop that sets up at night and caters to a young crowd that loves its fried chicken feet dipped in salt and lime, as well as its noodle-based soups with chicken and liver.
TO LEARN MORE
Local food blog, http://stickyrice.typepad.com