From a cozy coffee shop hidden in the corner of narrow streets to the emerging modern skyscrapers, Hanoi truly masters at knowing how to welcome the modernity while still remaining its authentic and original values.
Hanoi - Vietnam From a cozy coffee shop hidden in the corner of narrow streets to the emerging modern skyscrapers, Hanoi truly masters at knowing how to welcome the modernity while still remaining its authentic and original values. Hanoi are not different forms other big cities, everyone is in a hurry; however, if you know how to explore this place, you are guaranteed to be wowed.
Waking up early enough, you will have a chance to experience low lifestyle in one of the most populated cities in Vietnam. One of the thing that can put a big smile on tourists' face is the morning workouts. If you walk around the streets at around 5-6 am, you definitely can catch sight of people doing exercises in the parks, around several lakes which look somewhat like aerobics. They don't need the gym when they have a massive playground right at their disposal, only a group of people at any age and a radio are far sufficient. Even if you are a Vietnamese, you can be wowed because you think you get lost in another place: noisiness and quietness especially combine to be one. All of these special things require tourists to plan a trip to discover this appealing city in their own ways.
Rumor has it that Hanoians are more polite and rule-following compared to residents from the South; however, when it comes to discovering Hanoi, travelers can experience it in an entirely different way. Instead, people from the South are caring, friendly and social which can be proven in many cases, especially at tourist-centered spots. You can be wowed by being stopped by some random strangers to ask for a picture then they handle you some tasty homemade sweet snacks as a gift. I bet you stand no chance to experience that thing in European countries.
Besides, the unique architecture which is a combination of Vietnamese, Chinese and French characteristics guarantee not to get you bored of exploring this city ranging from a numerous historically aging places to valuable French architecture buildings throughout the city. A dash of old and new available everywhere seems to blend in with each other perfectly. Almost all of the tourist attractions are relatively close to each other, therefore, taking a walking tour or a cyclo ride is not a bad choice for visitors to explore the beauty of Hanoi. Before get to the Old Quarter, my favorite part of Hanoi, let's have a look at the neighborhood.
Considered to be the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem lake, a majestic lake with big green trees surrounding, vividly shining under the sunlight and becoming an inspiration for many artists. The lake also relates to a legend that embraces in every single Vietnamese's soul and heart. Even a small child know this legend which is said that after many failures in war, one day while boating around the lake, a Viet king was given a divine sword by a giant tortoise living in the lake which helped him confront and defeat the Chinese after 1000 years of occupation. Taking a walk around the lake, you can see Ngoc Son temple sitting on an islet lead to by a lovely red bridge. Not far from here situated The Old Quarter. It is so unique to Hanoi because this is the place with the first Hanoian settle and a site where people still maintain the things they have been doing for decades.
Having lived in the Old Quarters for centuries is the feature that local residents have in common, they stay in the Old Quarter and remain it in generations. Having a look at the front of the house, you can see almost all of local dwellers use their house for business. There is shop next to store; however, behind these business areas, local people have been sharing their limited space with each other. Some living area is only approximately 9 square meters in width that are unbelievable. The Old Quarter is different from other parts of Hanoi that the local people cook in the narrow alley and the Old Quarter residents grow up with the smell of their mother's cooking and the food of the neighbor as well. The Old Quarter contains 36 streets which are the first streets of Hanoi. The name of these streets came about owing to the type of goods sold there. Even though now the name still remains but some of the commodities have changed. The Old Quarter is definitely an ideal stop for both domestic and foreign travelers passing by to take a sip of drip-coffee or have a look at life flow of Hanoians with a varied local form of entertainments available and the way people live here. The place that is most famous and crowded part of the Old Quarter is Ta Hien street which can wow visitors that within the Vietnamese sounding street are packed with foreigners accessing to have a sip of cheap beer while sitting awkwardly on a small plastic chair on the narrow pavement. Ta Hien street has been known to be a walking street since 2013. Not only does this street offer a various type of drink but also a plenty kind of both street and restaurant- standard food to satisfy tourists’ diversified eating desire. Alternatively, spending some time to wander around the Old Quarter you will definitely catch sight of a diversified range of street food that anyone craves for and they just can't help it. To be honest, when people reckon about good food in Hanoi, the cuisine village in the Old Quarter undoubtedly first come to mind
To Hanoians, Pho is seen as one of the yummiest foods which are served with rich broth, tender beef popped up with some onion and herbs on top to give the best flavor. In addition, if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a man riding around serving typical Vietnamese coffee as a mobile “coffee shop” or some sweet tofu that you get to try once.
Now you might be able to picture Hanoi in your mind partially, the capital that is combined with antique and modern features. Moreover, the ancient beauty of Hanoi also can be spotted in the antique citadel and the Cathedral church built by the French nearby where is always packed with young people gathering and enjoying some lemon tea, having a chit chat and nibbling a plate of sunflower's seeds.
The next destination tourists can go for is the very first national university of Vietnam- the Temple of Literature which can be found in Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam street. It was first constructed in 1070 dedicated to Confucius then used to celebrate doctorates and scholars. Formally, it only served the noble birth, years later it adopted other talented students throughout the country. Today, annually before school or examinations get started, a huge number of students from primary to high school and college animatedly pay a visit to the temple to pray for luck in their study. Conventionally, students rub stone tortoises' head located along the hallway lead to the main construction for luck before their examinations with sacred belief. It is because tortoise is a sign of longevity and intelligence for Vietnamese people; furthermore on the back of these stone creatures lying a stone stele carved with doctors and professors' name on it which is supposed to be a reminder that the following generation should head up in their study and career. It is interesting that I'm not an exception. Before I took my entrance exam to my current university, my aunt did take me there to do the same thing. I have to admit that I'm not a superstitious person but it seems to work. The temple of literature is designed with five courtyards, two of which are covered with lushly verdant grass and hundred-year-old trees along the path leading to the inner area. Every single part and detail of the construction represents and deliveries a significant meaning, from two small shrines at the outside, the lake to the statues in front of the souvenir shops.
One more location that you should not miss when traveling to Hanoi is Ba Dinh Square, where president Ho Chi Minh presented the Independent Declaration on the September 2nd, 1945. If you can make it be here, it is no doubt that you get inside and pay a quick visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex. The complex is pretty huge which contains several museums, well-known One-pillar pagoda, Uncle Ho's stilt house, lush garden and stunning lake where Uncle Ho always woke up very early, takes some time to feed the fish and water the plants, etc. As a result, it might take half of the day for travelers to explore every corner of the complex. However, it's really worth a try. After discovering these amazing places, tourists can consider relaxing by passing Long Bien bridge or Nhat Tan bridge both of which can lead to the West Lake - the largest lake in Hanoi. Long Bien bridge was open for traffic in the beginning of the 20th century which used to be the longest bridge in Asia designed by a very famous French architect named Gustave Eiffel. Gustave Eiffel is known to be the one designed the Eiffel tower in Paris, French. As a witness of all ups and downs of history, Long Bien bridge still remains an impressive and imposing construction regardless of the modernization and urbanization. Nhat Tan bridge is more modern and new compared to Long Bien bridge. However, it doesn't mean that Nhat Tan is less attractive than Long Bien bridge. Nhat Tan bridge is larger and more sparkling at night which is equipped with the gorgeous light system. Every night, especially at summer time, a numerous of people take each other to Nhat Tan bridge to get some relaxing time due to the fact that it is incredibly cool and windy at night.
To get to know more about Hanoi, you should spend more than one day reaching several other well-known sites such as the Ethnology, History, Women, etc museums; West Lake; Hoa Lo prison; etc. Alternatively, travelers can also take a bike trip to the suburban of Hanoi for a day or half of a day, visit a numerous of traditional villages and reward yourselves with some conventional fine art products from these places, for instance, Bat Trang -the Ceramic village; Dong Ho painting village; Duong Lam ancient village; Ngu Xa (making bronze,Yen Phu(making incense), Phu Do (making noodle)and Ngoc Ha flower villages, etc.
For those who wish to buy friends and family some nice gifts or just to satisfy their shopping desire, the Old Quarter or Dong Xuan market definitely, ranks top. As noted before, the Old Quarter offers products following street's name which facilitate tourists to choose a gift without having to spend too much time looking for a right place. In the Old Quarter, in one specific street, almost all of the shops sell the same products. Therefore, customers can freely choose the one they like. Moreover, the commodities are also very various ranging from shoes, clothes, jewelry to sweet sugar-coated snack, food and so on. The second location that tourists should have a look too is Dong Xuan market which can be easily accessed from the Old Quarter when you follow straight up from Hang Dao street. Dong Xuan market is also regarded as a popular market gathering all kind of necessary goods serving both domestic and foreign customers. When visiting Dong Xuan market, tourists have a wide range of choose from dried to fresh food products, clothes items, house gadgets, souvenir etc. Especially, on every Friday to Sunday night, the Old Quarter is hustling and bustling with the night market spreading from Hang Dao to Dong Xuan market that nobody traveling to Hanoi misses out on. I bet you will fall in love. Instead, tourists also can do shopping in some huge shopping mall centers throughout Hanoi such as Royal City, Time City, Lotte or Vincom shopping mall. Besides shopping, in these sites, we also offer indoor sports, a wide range of entertainment, children's playground, food, coffee shop and supermarkets all in one.
Hanoi is busy at daytime, quite at night time. Hanoi during the day is bustling and hustling with thousands of motorbikes “racing” on the streets, everyone in a hurry; however, when the city lights on, you might not realize where you are. The traffic quiets down, Hanoians go to their favorite restaurants, coffee shops or bars to relax and have some good food. So do the travelers. In other words, Hanoi by night is more gentle and calm than the daytime. Bridges and lakes are dazzling lit up by the city light during the night. Also, you can catch sight of familiar pictures that happens on a daily basis in Hanoi at night without any efforts. In the parks, public playgrounds, lakes or squares are packed with local residents spending their precious time after a hard-working day, doing some exercises with the outside “gym” in the parks, dancing, skating, or simply just chilling out, sipping some beer or tea and talking to friends. That even takes place on some big bridges such as Nhat Tan or Long Bien bridge where people just come, park their bike next to them then they simply lean on the bridge handle looking down the river below and enjoying the rarely refreshing air which hardly can they have a chance to experience in a busy city like Hanoi. Sometimes, out of nowhere, you will hear the sound of vendors trying to sell their food such as snacks, sticky rice, bread, coffee, "bo pia", or loads of iced tea group along the street, etc to please the crave for food at night time of Hanoians and tourists. It's more fun when you can easily get a glimpse of a woman sitting on the pavement baking their corn and sweet potatoes fanning and using a small charcoal stove. That is incredibly attracting to anyone due to the sweet and appealing smell of grilled food. Besides, at every street food stand, it's full of customers no matter whether summer or winter time. In contrast to busy daytime, it seems like Hanoians are so eager for receiving their night time as a reward to let everything in their mind go with a blast of wind and refreshing ready for the next day. That's how nightlife going on in Hanoi.
It is easy to spot that Hanoi is full of food stands, coffee shops, small and big restaurants and street food appears at every single corner of the street, near schools, university, on the pavement, especially at the Old Quarter and local markets etc. I am a sweet tooth person, traveling a lot and I know how good the food in Hanoi is. To be honest, Hanoi is a melting pot of delicious and affordable street food. In most cases, only with less than $1, I guarantee you a super tasty dish that you can seek on the street. A wide range of food that tourists can have a look at including a various type of noodle from familiar dish such as noodle with beef, chicken noodle to fish, grilled meat, crab or seafood to fresh spring rolls, fried rolls, shrimp cakes, fried and sweet snack, etc . However; Hanoi's cuisine still shines its own light by featuring a combination of natural and a balanced taste, not too spicy like the Middle of Vietnam, not too sweet like the South but moderately featured flavor with meats and a selective use of spices. Even though the climate in the North is more moderate resulting in the using of fewer herbs than the South, tourists should not mistake the modest topping for the lack of flavor. Every single tourist before coming to Vietnam all know that Vietnamese food is highlighted with Pho, Bun cha (noodle with grilled meat) or Vietnamese sandwiches; nevertheless, there are much more than that waiting for you to explore. Even for me, I am not really into noodle in general, but it's not a shame to say that Hanoi's food is incredible. You can mostly look for any specialties of any part of Vietnam in only one small city.
Let alone all kind of noodle which represent deliciously different taste that you get to try, Hanoi's cuisine is so much more than that. Let's get started with the “desert”, I will definitely go for ice-cream. While in Hoan Kiem lake area, it is famous for Trang Tien ice-cream, West lake is well-known for fresh ice-cream both of which is popular for decades of its extraordinary flavor and low price. Additionally, Westlake is all about coconuts, coconut ice-cream, fresh coconut juice and even coconut coffee (you can find this kind of coffee nearby Hoan Kiem lake too). Other sweet snacks can be mentioned comprising sweet tofu, sweet soup, sugar-coated dish, bubble milk tea, etc. For the main course, West lake still gets its slot of proposing its typically yummy dish such as fresh spring rolls, fried spring roll, shrimp cakes, grilled chopped fish, fried corn, so on. I have to say, it doesn’t count if you visit West lake without tasting fresh spring rolls, only with $ 2,5 you will be served 10 delicious rolls with yummy specified sauce and $2 for a full plate of fried spring rolls with veggies on top. Once you try these dish, you cannot help it for the second crack. Asides from these foods, Hanoi is also common for banh cuon (steam rolls), nem lui (grilled mashed pork with lemongrass sticks), xoi (sticky rice), banh trang cuon thit heo (pork spring rolls), banh trang tron (rice paper salads), bun dau mam tom (noodle with tofu), boiled and fried snails, and the list goes on.
After your main meal with Hanoi’s specialties, it is customary to chill out in a plastic stools on the pavement with some tra da (iced tea), tra chanh (lemon iced tea); a small cup of egg coffee on Nguyen Huu Huan street or a sip of Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk can be found at any coffee corner. Contemplating the energetic city on the move and enjoying a truly Hanoian experience. A Hanoi tour is the best way to discover Hanoi in depth