I had been to both cities during the trip to Vietnam in late April beginning of May 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) for 11 days and Hanoi 12 days.
There are many articles on the internet about the differences between the two.
In this article, I will review the differences based on my own experiences.
Everyone’s experience is different though, so you might have a different look and feel of it.
Both cities were generally humid and warm.
I was in HCMC in the third week of April and the second week of May.
And in Hanoi the fourth week of April and the first week of May.
However, I noticed some days, Hanoi was much more humid compared to HCMC.
This made it very stuffy and uncomfortably warm.
It happened that the feeling temperature was 40 degrees.
While the actual temperature was 32 degrees.
After a period of a week in HCMC, I arrived in Hanoi with a cloudy sky.
And since my arrival, I did not see the sun during the 12 days of stay.
Maybe a brief glimpse of it for 1-2 hours on some days, but mostly very cloudy.
So cloudy that the blue sky is not visible, just white or gray.
This was quite depressive and not so good for making blue sky sunny pictures.
I also had noticed it rained a lot more with thunderstorms in Hanoi compared to HCMC.
This made the temperature a few degrees lower than in HCMC.
But the humidity was higher in Hanoi and so it felt the same as in HCMC.
Following the weather conditions are the pollution levels.
The pollution was worse in Hanoi than in HCMC.
I noticed some days I felt really tired, not because of the heat but of the high pollution levels.
Some days were unhealthy for sensitive groups, but some days for unhealthy for everyone.
I checked from time to time the real-time index of the pollution levels.
Some days were over 150 or over 170, which is considered unhealthy.
However, on rainy days and thunderstorm days, there were moderate to healthy pollution levels.
I noticed the amount of mosquitoes were more in Hanoi than in HCMC.
My suspicion of this was the place I stayed in Hanoi was near water.
It was actually just in front of a fishing pond.
Whereas in HCMC I first stayed on the 14th floor and the next trip on the 3rd floor.
Surprisingly the mosquitoes were also not on the 3rd floor.
The Airbnb owner had all the windows open without any filtering.
Another thing is, Hanoi had more lakes, so those were perfect breeding places for mosquitoes.
Officials say that mosquitoes breed in any standing water.
Even though both are cities, I noticed immediately the surrounding was just different in Hanoi.
HCMC was modern, fast-paced, full of concrete buildings and commercial oriented.
A perfect place for those who like to experience a vibrant city with western style.
Whereas Hanoi also had buildings, but still the traditional energy was clearly in the air.
I felt like I was in a not yet fully grown city, even though it is the capital of Vietnam.
Another obvious thing was that people were more keen to sell me things in HCMC than in Hanoi.
In Hanoi, the people were less “pulling”.
Hanoi has a lot more nature comparing to HCMC.
This was not only just more parks because HCMC you rarely can find a park.
But lakes and fishing ponds were spread in Hanoi, with houses built around it.
It was quite easy to spot water and green.
On the way from the airport to the accomodation, I even saw a big pasture with cows.
This cannot be find in HCMC so easily.
And this gave Hanoi a traditional look, it reminded me much of Thailand.
In Thailand, there were lots of bridges and canals.
A lot of people experience the people in Hanoi to be proud, distant and not so friendly.
They say it is rare to see someone smiling at them.
I did not notice this aspect though.
It could be possible that I like some distance, so on this, it did not bother me at all.
On the contrary, I felt the people in Hanoi were more themselves.
Like, if they did not like it, they would not please everyone around them and still do it.
In HCMC, it is a relatively modern and fast-paced city, so the desire is also bigger.
People with certain motives can be “friendly” on the surface because they want something from you.
This go-and-get-it attitude can make people more social and open to possibilities.
Whereas the people in Hanoi are less commercially oriented or career growing that much.
An example was the Grab driver who brought me to my Airbnb in Hanoi from the airport.
He gave me his business card to contact him directly for a ride back to the airport.
He was providing the ride much cheaper than via Grab.
Even though on the surface this is a commercial dealing here.
I did not feel any pressure at all, I could easily reject him and not call without feeling any guilt.
He was not being friendly in a way to convince me of anything, he just provided an opportunity.
The way he behaved was also not perse friendly smiling at all.
It was just him doing his job and that was it.
To me, this was more authentic and not playing games.
Not to say that the people in HCMC are playing games, but some of them could be.
There are many more differences between the two.
But I will leave that up to you to discover for yourself.