Hanoi: food, fun & scooters

Arriving in a new city and getting settled is a stressful part of any trip and Hanoi was no exception. The bus from Sapa dropped us off on a desolate street around mid-day and, while there were lots of taxis waiting, we heard bad things about Hanoi taxis so opted to call a Grab, Vietnam’s version of Uber. It arrived quickly and we were soon on our way to de-stressing in our three star, C$33 room at the Helios Legend Hotel. Check-in was smooth, the hotel has a central location and the room was satisfactory. We got a good list of Hanoi safety tips:

Our first task was to meet up with Alex, cousin of our Ninh Binh homestay host, who booked our Halong Bay cruise. He came to the hotel and gave us lots of advice on what to do in Hanoi including the weekend-only Hanoi Night Market, about a ten minute walk away. Lucky for us it was a Friday night. To book tours in Hanoi you can contact Alex at ninhbinhgreenlandhomestay@gmail.com. Nice young guy and quite reliable.

Next stop was at Pho Gja Truyer at 49 Bat Dan, a legendary pho (beef noodle soup) restaurant about half a block from the hotel. Lots of people, cheap great food and fast service. We became repeat customers and highly recommend it. Food abounds in Hanoi. Expensive restaurants, inexpensive restaurants, Vietnamese food, Chinese food, European food, coffee shops, dessert shops and street food. Lots and lots and lots of food. Mihimihi is an Asian thing you must try.

One restaurant stood out, the large Quan An Ngon, partially indoors, partially outside but fully covered and worth a visit. Great variety of good food and a nice atmosphere. Even a Christmas tree.

Lots of good beer too. The night scene is everywhere.

Good atmosphere and lots of beer. Vietnam’s streets are swept nightly.

Hanoi is full of life, shops of all description and streets focused on particular trades or products. “Coffee Street,” or Hang Buom, is, as you might expect, devoted to coffee and it’s the go-to place for “weasel coffee” — pooped out of weasels, available in different grades and quite expensive. A rich flavour and packed with aromatic oils. Our Weasel #1 even clogged our burr grinder. Only available in Vietnam!

That was on the way to the Night Market where there was lots more to see, eat and buy. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Lots of other interesting things on Hanoi’s streets. Remember to express the right emotions.

Sidewalk blacksmith.

Another feature of Hanoi is ‘train street,’ or Le Duan, a narrow, busy street with shops that pull back from the tracks so passenger trains can pass. Trackside cafes were recently shut down for safety reasons and, while we missed the full experience, we saw the train in action one evening.

Hanoi and Saigon don’t have good mass transportation systems and an unavoidable element of city life is the vast number of scooters that flow everywhere. Vietnamese like scooters for the same reasons Americans like cars; they provide direct point-to-point transit, they are fast and you are not jammed into a bus or subway car with hundreds of sweating people. Scooters are used for everything from family transport to commuting, mobile stores and deliveries of everything. They park and drive everywhere and it has to be seen to be believed. Citing pollution concerns, Saigon’s government wants to severely limit scooters and we’ll see how that works out.

Enough for now. Museums to follow.

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