The smell, sound, taste and feel of Hanoi City and its busy streets still linger in my head. The energy of the city is high. Life here starts as early as before the sun rises and ends before another day starts.
The simplicity of Hanoi city is very engaging. Once you step out of your hostel and peek outside the narrow streets filled with motorbikes that city vibe feel can enliven your wandering spirit like an unseen force inviting you to discover more of this 1003 year old city.
It was a short stay for us in Hanoi but we were able to accomplish quite a lot of things.
Next time you’re in Hanoi expect that these things could happen to you too:
1. You will have an over-booze of Bia Hoi
This Vietnamese local brewed beer is a hit among locals and travelers. Dare to have a taste of this local bestseller. With its light bitterly bite and that classic beer aroma, it’s as good as the commercial ones. Although way cheaper at $0.25 (7000 Vietnamese Dong) per glass a shot might leave you wanting a pitcher more, or the whole fridge of it. If you look around the wonder that is the stainless fridge behind you is the fountain of youth.
Having your Bia Hoi booze while sitting on a plastic stool in sidewalks cramped with parked and racing motor bicycles is also one way to interact with the locals. Just have patience if they don’t understand an English word you said.
2. You will get high on Vietnamese coffee
Around the Old Quarter coffee shops and coffee stores abound. If you’re a coffee addict like moi, hunt for the sweet iced coffee in roadside cafes and the coffee stores in roadside shops.
Roadside cafes are generous with their local tea, too. It is served before that glass of sense-stimulating iced coffee (made tastier by a load of condensed milk) is laid at your nose tip. Not bad for a cheap $1 (21000 VND)
|Iced Coffee is Yum!|
|Coffee da lat! This is mine!|
Upon entering small kingdoms of plastic jars filled with varieties of coffee, bow down to whoever is the king or queen in charge. They might just serve you their heavenly version of that iced coffee or brew you a coffee variety of your choice for a sampler. Don’t faint. After the taste test you can buy all the coffee you can take. They will grind it for you as you watch and wait.
3. You will enjoy the clutters of night markets
A photographer friend told me once: the life of the place is in the markets. Well, he is right. Hanoi’s night markets reminded me of Tagum City’s own version. Hanoi’s night markets cover several blocks and the crowd, mostly locals, just like in any night markets, is noisily amusing. Hear the sound of locals and foreigners haggling for a lower price, the ambulant food vendors mixed amidst the sea of crowd and the rally of passing motorbikes.
4. You will become a millionaire!
Yeah, I became a millionaire in Vietnam! We had our $60 converted to Vietnamese Dong for street stroll use. That was equivalent to 1,260,000 VND! I was a millionaire for three days!
The rest of the expenses could be in dollars so don’t forget to reserve some greens!
Hanoi’s Old Quarter looks like a laid back space but people here drive like hell. Seriously, Hanoi locals live in bikes and pretty much do everything while moving in it. You’ll be amazed at the speed and their manner of driving and how they get away with near-crash incidences.
Crossing the street is an adventure, as they say. But you will have to think many times if you’d do it or not.
6. You will fall in love with street foods
Street foods in Hanoi are fresh, served fast and cheap….above all, it taste good. Vietnamese phos (soup) are all over the city streets. Slurp on the streets like the locals do. The way the foods are presented you can tell that it took time and some effort to prepare them.
Small roadside eateries serving a variety of local foods are also scattered all over the city. My favorite are the seafoods, vegetable and tofu menus.
7. You will learn a piece of Vietnam’s history
Hop on museum that commemorates the life of Vietnam’s late great leader Ho Chi Minh. The vast museum houses materials remembering Vietnamese people’s past struggle against bigger foreign countries.
There is also a mausoleum named after Vietnam’s great leader. The Ho Chi Minh’s body is now laid and is said to be embalmed and preserved inside the 21.6 meters high and 41.2 meters wide structure.
We we’re not able to get inside but good read (leaflets, books, travel blogs) will lead you to the right spots.
8. You’ll be forced to learn a few Vietnamese words
This will save you time and money. We’ve learned this the hard way from misunderstandings that led to wrong orders and prices which cost us a bit.
Start from basic greetings and then learn how to negotiate prices. Most importantly, update yourself of the right money conversion from Dollar (or whatever allowed currency you have with you) to Dong.
9. You will not miss tour de walkathons
Walk around the city center to have the feel of the city. Inside the taxis you’re just a spectator in a different environment watching the world go by. But outside in your favorite walking sandals/shoes, you are one with the world.
When in the street be sensitive of the local vendors. It irritates them if you ask lots of questions, block their goods and don’t buy from them. If you want to take photos of them, ask. Rejection is common as locals are normally shy but some would give you a positive response with a smile.
Walk around the city with a map. You can ask your Hostel attendants for free copies. They will even suggest places you can go to and time required to get there.
10. You will take the Hanoi-Halong connections
Hanoi is the jump off point to Halong Bay, home to 1600 islands and islets and a UNESCO world heritage site in Van Don District. More about our amazingly cheap Halong Bay tour on my next blog posts.
For reservations and bookings for a Halong Tour your hotels/ hostels can always help you.
Our Hanoi tour made me forget about the trouble we had at the Airport when we almost missed this trip. The sensory overload overtook the stress from dealing with unexpected woes.
Indeed, once you start taking steps to indulge yourself in Vietnam’s capital known as the “Paris of the East” you will go further in desiring to explore more, taste, smell, hear and feel more.