CHECKING OUT HANOI
Mike Eckel of AP wrote: “Hanoi's noise doesn't yet rival that of its larger southern counterpart, Ho Chi Minh City, but it still can take some getting used to. If the incessant beeping of motorbikes and cars pushing through the streets aren't enough, there are the exhortations blaring from the pole-mounted loudspeakers, courtesy of the Communist Party, which remind listeners to keep the streets free of trash, not to mention the eternal supremacy of the Party. [Source: Mike Eckel, AP, February 9, 2011 **]
“The blare of slogans like the "Vietnamese Communist Party Will Live Forever!" may inspire you to learn more about Ho Chi Minh, the revered revolutionary leader who died in 1969 but who lives on through ubiquitous admonitions like "Live, Fight, Work, Study." A massive museum west of the Old Quarter features Ho's biography in a series of displays that are Cold War-archaic and mildly informative. Despite sometimes bizarre exhibits (one display compares the cave where Ho hid during World War II to a human brain), the respect and admiration the Vietnamese people express toward Ho is genuine. **
“Just a block away is another structure you could easily find in Moscow's Red Square: Uncle Ho's mausoleum, where his body is embalmed for public veneration. Like his comrade Lenin, Ho had no interest in being turned into museum display, but party leaders spurned his request. For older Vietnamese, the mausoleum is a site for honoring Ho, and visitors are expected to behave respectfully, as if visiting a funeral parlor. **
“If the Old Quarter din gets overwhelming, stroll down to the edge of the quarter until you see Hoan Kiem, the Lake of the Restored or Returned Sword, and marvel at the smallish 19th-century pagoda called Thap Rua (Turtle Tower), which appears to float on the water when illuminated at dusk. Mind you, the crowds will be thicker at the lake's north end, walking over the Sunbeam Bridge (The Huc), a red pedestrian bridge that leads to an island where the ornate Jade Mountain Temple (Den Ngoc Son) stands. **
“Just across the street from The Huc is the epicenter for another of Vietnam's most authentic art forms: water puppetry. Accompanied by live music performed on traditional instruments, the puppeteers at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater stand in the water, behind a bamboo curtain, using poles to move wooden dragons, farmers, long boats, kings and other figures through the water. During some festivals, the dragons will breathe smoke and fireworks, as well.” **
Climate of Hanoi: Hanoi is situated in a tropical monsoon zone with two main seasons. During the dry season, which lasts from October to April, it is cold and there is very little rainfall, except from January to March, when the weather is still cold but there is some light rain. The wet season, from May to September, is hot with heavy rains and storms. The average annual temperature is 23.2 degrees C (73.7 degrees F), and the average annual rainfall is 1,800 millimeters. The average temperature in winter is 17.2 degrees C (62.9 degrees C , but can go down to 8 degrees C (46.4 degrees F). The average temperature in summer is 29.2 degrees C (84.6 degrees F), but can reach up to 39 degrees C (102.2 degrees F).
Tourist Information and Layout of Hanoi
Tourist Information Center Address: 28 Hàng D u Street, Hanoi, Hoan Kiem district. Tel: : +84 94 133 66 77. Tourist Information and Support Desk: 9:00am– 8:00pm from Monday to Sunday, Hotline 24/7: 0941 33 66 77. Vietnam Tourism office is located in downtown Hanoi at 30A Ly Thoung Kiet Street (Tel: 256-916). It operates more like travel agency than a tourist information offices. There are also tourist information offices at the airport and at the railway station, but they usually don't have much stuff. Many budget traveler make travel arrangements at the Green Bamboo Cafe (42 Nha Chung Street) and the Darling Cafe (33 Hang Quat Street) and other cafes and backpacker travel agencies or at the hotel where they are staying.
Orientation: Hanoi is a pleasant city for strolling around in. Most places of interest to tourists in Hanoi are located on the west side of the Red River around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoan Kiem Lake and Old Quarter shopping area. Hanoi has numerous parks and small lakes scattered throughout the city.
The streets have names and Western-style addresses. Hanoi consists of four urban The districts are Hoan Kiem District (the city center), Da Dihn District (around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum), Hai Ba Trung District (along the Red River), and Dong Da District (southeast Hanoi).
Hanoi covers a relatively large area of 3,324.92 square kilometers, which included both urban and rural districts. Administrative divisions: 1) the urban districts are Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Dong Da, Hai Ba Trung, Tay Ho, Thanh Xuan, Cau Giay, Long Bien, Hoang Mai, Ha Dong; 2) the one town is Son Tay; 3) The 18 rural districts are The districts are Dong Anh, Soc Son, Thanh Tri, Tu Liem, Gia Lam (Hanoi); Ba Vi, Chuong My, Dan Phuong, Hoai Duc, My Duc, Phu Xuyen, Phuc Tho, Quoc Oai, Thach That, Thanh Oai. Thuong Tin, Ung Hoa (former Ha Tay province) and Me Linh (a former district of Vinh Phuc province).
Hanoi is located in the Red River Delta, in the center of northern Vietnam. It is encompassed by Thai Nguyen to the north, Vinh Phuc and Ha Tay provinces to the west and south, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Hung Yen provinces to the east and south-east. Hanoi means "the hinterland between the rivers" (Ha: river, Noi: interior). Hanoi's territory is washed by the Red River (the portion of the Red River embracing Hanoi is approximately 40 kilometers long) and its tributaries, but there are some other rivers flowing through the capital, including Duong, Cau, Ca Lo, Day, Nhue, Tich, To Lich and Kim Nguu. Hanoi also characteristically contains 18 beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake, which are, in many cases, surrounded by gardens and trees.
Entertainment in Hanoi
The nightlife situation has improved greatly since the hardcore Communist era Hanoi remains genteel despite an abundance of cheap, home-made beer. Not as wild and energetic as Ho Chi Minh City, it still interesting while being controlled and easy for a tourist to take in. Most discos and nightclubs are found in the large hotels. Many travelers gather at the Green Bamboo Cafe (42 Nha Chung Street) and the Darling Cafe (33 Hang Quat Street). Popular hang outs among Vietnamese and expatriates include the Queen Bee (42 Lanh Ha), a club with clinging hostesses and Vietnamese bands that play Western pop music, Discotheque 23 (Quang Trung), and Hanoi Star Bowl, with 30 modern Brunswick lanes and a sound system that blasts out disco music. Karaokes scattered around town are arguably the most popular form of entertainment for locals.
Beer halls, known as “bia hoi” , are full or men smoking, munching on peanuts, dried squid and pork sausages known as “nem chua” and drinking 13 cent glasses of “bia hoi” , a kind low carbonated beer that is not chemically treated and has a shelf life of only two or three days. It is served chilled but not cold and is sold in 10 gallon kegs like draft beer that are called bombs. These halls are so popular that they often have to close early because they run out of beer.
Check the Hanoi Circus, set up under Soviet guidance, and the Conservatory of Music for traditional music performances. The city’s first water park opened in 2000. A calendar of events may be obtained from the tourist offices. Also check out the Hanoi newspapers, the Lonely Planet Books, and posters put up around town.
Naomi Lindt wrote in New York Times, “In a country that's up before dawn and closes down around 9 p.m., it's by necessity that Vietnamese nightlife kicks off early. Bia hoi, a type of local draft beer, is also the name for the outdoor cafes that serve it at rock-bottom prices, forming the center of the city's raucous drinking culture. The intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets in the bustling Old Quarter is called “bia hoi corner” for its no-frills beer vendors. Backpackers, students and middle-age men in post-workout mode cram onto sidewalk seating for drafts directly from a keg (3,000 dong, about 17 cents at 18,000 dong to the dollar). [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
“Hanoi's buzz can be as exhausting as it is intoxicating, so head to the Sunset Bar at the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake (1A Nghi Tam Street; 84-4-62-70-88-88; www.ichotelsgroup.com) for a tranquil cocktail. Built on an artificial island overlooking West Lake, a 15-minute drive from the town center, the stunning bar's wooden deck features woven rattan couches and plush daybeds topped with triangular pillows, making it a favorite late afternoon hangout for diplomats and designers alike. With the breeze in your hair and a martini in hand, you'll feel as if you've been whisked away to an exotic, tropical resort far from the city.
“Thanks to the government's regular crackdowns on what if refers to as "social evils," finding a spot that's fun for a late-night drink can be challenging. To thwart the authorities, many bars will simply shutter their front entrances around 11 p.m. or midnight, but in speakeasy fashion, keep the party going. Le Pub (25 Hang Be Street; 84-4-39-26-21-04; www.lepub.org) is a friendly Old Quarter bar with drink specials and a great iTunes library as its soundtrack. Eté (95 Giang Van Minh Street; 84-4-9-76-75-13-31) lures a diverse expat crowd for its labor-intensive fresh fruit cocktails, tasty pub food and impromptu dance parties. On weekends, D.J.'s create a bumping scene at Loop (6 Hang Bai Street; 84-4-62-70-05-95), a small dance club just south of Hoan Kiem Lake.”
Bia Hoi: Hanoi’s Streetside Beer
Beer halls, known as “bia hoi” , are full or men smoking, munching on peanuts, dried squid and pork sausages known as “nem chua” and drinking 13 cent glasses of “bia hoi” , a kind low carbonated beer that is not chemically treated and has a shelf life of only two or three days. It is served chilled but not cold and is sold in 10 gallon kegs like draft beer that are called bombs. These halls are so popular that they often have to close early because they run out of beer. Naomi Lindt wrote in New York Times, “In a country that's up before dawn and closes down around 9 p.m., it's by necessity that Vietnamese nightlife kicks off early. Bia hoi, a type of local draft beer, is also the name for the outdoor cafes that serve it at rock-bottom prices, forming the center of the city's raucous drinking culture. The intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets in the bustling Old Quarter is called “bia hoi corner” for its no-frills beer vendors. Backpackers, students and middle-age men in post-workout mode cram onto sidewalk seating for drafts directly from a keg (3,000 dong, about 17 cents at 18,000 dong to the dollar). [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
Nguyen Ngoc Trung wrote in Ohmy News: "Nguyen Tuan Tu, 27, has just drawn his salary. Now it is his turn to give his friends a big feast. What came quickly to his mind is Bia hoi, fresh beer without any preservatives. Hai Xom, a favorite fresh beer establishment among Hanoians, is where Tu and his buddies go to enjoy a cool drink and social atmosphere. "When we have a special occasion like this, I always invite my fellows to have some Bia hoi and talk about many things in comfort. Bia hoi is cheap too," said Tu. [Source: Nguyen Ngoc Trung, Ohmy News (.kr), May 05, 2005 ::]
"In the stuffy climate of Hanoi, when the temperature sometimes reaches 31̊C (88̊F), a mug of Bia hoi is the most popular choice for many chain-smoking men. Foreigners also consider it to be a good example of a Vietnamese specialty. People can watch the world pass by since almost all Bia hoi establishments are streetside. In a crowded city like Hanoi, with a lot of motorbikes and bicycles, it is a lively experience to drink a glass of Bia hoi on the sidewalk during rush hour. ::
"With a small investment in a few low wooden tables, tiny plastic stools, glasses, packs of peanuts, dried squid or fish, and of course a keg of fresh beer, you can become the owner of a Bia hoi establishment. That explains you can find them on every corner of Hanoi. Lots of streets are well known for Bia hoi, including Le Duan, Tang Bat Ho, Nui Truc, Le Hong Phong, Giang Vo or Nguyen Chi Thanh. Whenever somebody wants to have Bia hoi, they often head to those areas of the city. Many Vietnamese say Bia hoi establishments are like a miniature society where you can witness and enjoy the feelings of other people from every walk of life. It is unique to have so many kinds of people all drinking together: workers, businessmen, doctors, teachers and professors, among others. ::
"What makes Bia hoi so popular in Vietnam is the price. A glass costs about VND 3,000 (18 cents). Moreover, Bia hoi establishments are where people can talk and even argue with each other without fear of interference and nosy attention. And as a result, it is extremely noisy at Bia hoi establishments — the sound of people shouting "Bottoms up!" is heard all the time. ::
"Tran Trong Phu, 56-year-old retired gentleman, said that he comes to have Bia hoi twice a week. He always goes with his friends because "when you have Bia hoi alone, you cannot enjoy fully what it brings. It is a feeling of friendship and gathering together." It is quite common to see workers and officials enjoying Bia hoi during working hours. Apart from Bia hoi, Vietnam's elite now has another choice: draught beer establishments modeled on ones in Germany and Czech Republic. But for many, Bia hoi is still the most favorite refreshment in the summer heat. ::
There are three major breweries in Hanoi that make Bia hoi: Hanoi Brewery, Viet Ha Brewery and South East Asia Brewery. However, with the growing thirst of many, private breweries are starting to spring up. ::
Bia Hoi Culture in Hanoi
Ben Stocking wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, "Despite all the change in Vietnam's beer industry, by far the most popular drinking establishment remains the traditional bia hoi, where the 15-cents-per-glass tab helps the watery draft go down easily. The beer stalls take their name from the drink bia hoi, "fresh beer." [Source: Ben Stocking, San Jose Mercury News, December 9, 2004 +]
"It is the simplest corner bar on earth: tiny plastic stools on the sidewalk; tables just a foot or two above the ground, laden with glasses of beer.Aside from women pouring cheap, watery draft, these establishments are patronized almost entirely by chain-smoking Vietnamese men whose favorite refrain is tram phan tram - "100 percent" - as in, "drain your glass of every drop." Bia hoi, as the beer stalls are known, are a staple of Vietnamese life and the cornerstone of the nation's beer-drinking universe. But more and more, the urban beer market is going upscale to meet the evolving tastes and growing incomes of Vietnamese drinkers. +
"These ubiquitous establishments are almost always on the sidewalk, where customers sometimes have to raise their voices over the din of motorbike traffic and passing buses sometimes belch clouds of diesel over the plastic tables. The customers are plain folks with no need for the sleek furniture and fancy entertainment they might find in a brew pub. Nobody minds if the tables are dirty and the sidewalk is littered with paper napkins. This is the place everyone comes to unwind - from truck drivers returning from a grueling haul to college professors who use the bia hoi as a sort of street-side salon. "We come here twice a day," said Le Vinh, 67, sitting at a bia hoi in the shadow of the central Hanoi train station. +
"A retired doctor, Vinh's drinking pals include a retired soccer star, a film maker, an engineer and a newspaper photographer. They gather for an hour or two at lunch, and reconvene at the end of the day. "We share our ups and downs," said Nguyen Trinh Thai, a painter "That's what being in a bia hoi is all about." At Bia Hoi Viet Ha, a humble stall just down the street from the U.S. ambassador's stately residence, five friends gather after a hard day's work at a Hanoi print shop. They've been coming four times a week for six years now. +
"They suck down eight glasses at a sitting, but claim they are sober. If they come home drunk, they explained, their wives will be furious. "If we have less than eight glasses, we're fine," said Pham Tien Anh, 55, picking at a plate of fried tofu with his chopsticks. "More than eight glasses, and we're drunk." "Chuc suc khoe!" they cheered, raising their mugs for yet another toast. "Here's to your health!" +
Water Puppet Shows in Hanoi
Water Puppet shows are featured on the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (two shows a day), the Municipal Water Puppet Theater and the National Water Puppet Theater (8 kilometers outside of Hanoi). Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is the main place. Accompanied by live music performed on traditional instruments, puppeteers behind a bamboo curtain, use poles to move wooden dragons, kings long boats, farmers, and other figures through the water. Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street; 84-4-38-25-54-50; Getting There: just across the street from the Sunbeam Bridge (The Huc) at Hoan Kiem Lake. Website: thanglongwaterpuppet.com ; Admission: about US$9.
Naomi Lindt wrote in New York Times: “For a family-friendly treat, head to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater where 1,000-year-old stories invented by farmers during the Red River's rainy season are recreated several times a day. Puppeteers, hidden backstage and standing thigh-high in a pool of water that extends onto the stage, expertly maneuver long sticks to make lacquered wooden marionettes skip, splash and frolic across a shallow pool. Puppets are given voice by singers as musicians play traditional instruments. [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
Water puppetry is unique to Vietnam. Featuring stories from everyday life and famous legends, it features fire-breathing dragons, farmers, frogs, old men, gods, goddesses, and fish. Performances are usually accompanied by music and have little dialogues. The stories, which are well-known to Vietnamese, are conveyed through actions. According to one story, water puppetry was developed in the 11th century in the Red River Delta by puppeteers who decided to carry on even though there was a flood. More of a folk art than a court art, it has a long history of being performed in ponds and rice paddies during lulls in the agriculture cycle. Water puppetry nearly died during the war years but has been revived in recent years and is enjoyed by Vietnamese and tourists. The Vietnamese government has asked that it be declared part of the world’s cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Vietnamese water puppets are made of wood and coated with lacquer and waterproof paint. Each puppet is handmade, has its own posture and expresses a certain character. The most outstanding puppet, known as the chu teu, has a round face and a humorous and optimistic smile. Some of the puppets are quite large—60 centimeters tall and weighing 13.5 kilograms—and are manipulated by three puppeteers. During some festivals, the dragons breathe smoke and fireworks. The puppets are manipulated with rods hidden under the water. Complicated mechanisms make it possible to move the puppets’ limbs and even to make a puppet smoke a cigarette. The configuration of the poles and wires under the water is a secret, and spectators are not allowed to watch from behind the screen. There are many contributing factors to the art of water puppetry, including such handicrafts as wood sculpture and lacquer work. The factors all work together to bring out charming glimpses of the Vietnamese psyche, as well as typical landscapes of Vietnam.
Theaters in Hanoi
The Municipal Theater (also known as the Opera House) hosts numerous events. There are about a half dozen theater companies in Hanoi, the most well of known of which is Hanoi’s Youth Theater. They perform everything from classic Vietnamese folk tales to Shakespeare to works by modern Vietnamese playwrights. Most of their performances are in Vietnamese. Ceo folk performers can be seen on weekends at the Ngoc Son temple, a small Buddhist shrine on an island in Hoan Kiem Lake. A five-course meal ay the Metrople with a floor show costs around $50.
Friendship Cultural Palace (Tran Hung Dao St.) is the biggest cultural center in Hanoi. Covering 3.2 hectares, it has three major buildings: a performance house, a study house, and a science and technology house, comprising 120 rooms. The construction of the palace started on November 5, 1978 and completed on September 1, 1985. The Friendship Cultural Palace, also called Huu Nghi Cultural Palace, was a present from the USSR Central Trade Union Council to the Vietnam Trade Union. The front building is the performance house, equipped with a rotary stage, and two halls (the big hall has a seating capacity of 1256, the small one 375). Behind this block is the study house with a library and rooms for clubs to hold workshops and conferences. The science and technology house connects the two buildings together. The Friendship Cultural Palace is where cultural activities, art performances, fashion shows, beauty contests, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and sports events are usually held.
Hanoi Young Pioneer Palace (36 Ly Thai To St.) is six-storey building with nearly 100 well-equipped rooms for the practice and study of different subjects, including technology, culture, and arts. There is also a library with thousands of books. During the French domination period, the building was divided into two parts: the northern area was a kindergarten and the southern area was a French club. After Liberation Day in October 1954, the building became the Young Pioneer Center, a recreation center for children. In 1973, the infrastructures were renovated and upgraded with the assistance of the former Czechoslovakia.
Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House (Le Thanh Tong St., near the Red River and several hundreds meters east of Hoan Kiem Lake) was completed in 1911 after 10 years of work. Located near the French quarter along the Red River and modeled after the Paris Opera, it regarded as the main symbol of Vietnam's French colonial past. Supported in swampy sub soil on 35,000 bamboo piles and used in the past by the Communists as a government hall, it contains an ornamented balcony where Vietnamese Nationalists declared their independence. During the Vietnam War The Opera House was used for making concrete bomb shelter casings and boarded up much of the time. It was given a $14 million facelift in the mid-1990s. Air raid sirens on the Opera House roof sound at noon to announce lunchtime.
The Hanoi Opera House contains Gothic features, mosaics, door domes and glass rooms. For a long time, the Hanoi Opera House has been a rendezvous for those who love theatrical performance and traditional songs and music, symphonies, opera and classical opera. It is also a tourist attraction for local and foreign visitors.
The Hanoi Opera House is the largest theater in Vietnam. It was built between 1901 and 1911 on the site of a big pond, adjacent to the city gate of Tay Long (also called Tay Luong) of the ancient Thang Long Capital. The construction met with many difficulties, because the foundations of theater were built on the pond. Before building a concrete foundation, nearly one meter thick, the pond was emptied and dredged, then 30,000 hard bamboo stakes were placed on its bed.
After nearly 100 years of operation, theater's equipment and adornments became old and run down. In 1997, theater was repaired and modernized under the management of two Vietnamese French architects, Ho Thieu Tri and Hoang Phuc Sinh. The original architecture of the 3-storey theater has remained. The decorative designs on the ceiling, arches, walls, and doors were renewed. The 3-meter-high stage and the audience's hall, with 600 seats, were also modernized in conformity with international standards.
The Opera House is the main center of culture in Hanoi. It is the home of the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra. The theater has been equipped with state-of-art facilities and appliances, compatible for all types of artistic performances, from folk music and songs, ballets and piano to classical opera, reformed opera, Vietnamese operetta and drama, all made great impressions on the audience. The Hanoi Opera House has also successfully organised many large-scale international concerts.
Restaurants in Hanoi
The best restaurants are generally located in the large hotels such as the Metropole. Vietnamese food, French food, French-Vietnamese food, Chinese food, Italian food, Thai food, Japanese food, Indian food, Korean food and other international cuisines are all available in Hanoi. Hanoi didn't get its first McDonald's until 2017. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut have been there longer.
A good place to sample Vietnamese food is at the numerous small restaurants and food stalls with soups, meals and snacks are found in the back streets around the Old Quarter. The area around the Hang Da market also has good small restaurants and street food.Backpackers gather at the Green Bamboo Cafe (42 Nha Chung Street) and the Darling Cafe (33 Hang Quat Street). Le Mat neighborhood is famous for its snake restaurants. Nhat Tan is home to numerous dog meat restaurants.
Naomi Lindt wrote in the New York Times, ““If you're willing to forgo air-conditioning and proper chairs, you'll discover the sublime flavors cooked up in Hanoi's street stalls, which are known by their addresses and the dishes they serve. Generally, you'll find the freshest and finest fare at the most crowded stalls, with prices of roughly 20,000 to 50,000 dong. Don't-miss items include banh cuon, soft rice crepes filled with minced pork and mushrooms at 14 Hang Ga Street; bun cha, grilled pork patties served with crispy crab spring rolls and fresh herbs at 1 Hang Manh Street; and bun bo nam bo, grilled strips of beef served over rice noodles, fresh herbs and peanuts at 67 Hang Dieu Street.” [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009 ]
Mike Eckel of AP wrote: “For culinary traditions, Cha Ca La Vong is a nondescript restaurant on Cha Ca Street that's been serving up one dish for more than a century. Sit down at a communal tables shared by random guests - common language not required - and forget the menu. Waiters bring out tabletop, gas-fired stoves in which chunks of marinated, turmeric-coated whitefish are fried in oil - by patrons themselves - along with dill, chives and other greens. Dump the mixture over rice noodles, top with peanuts and wash it down with a draft beer known as bia hoi. The fish itself doesn't deserve many superlatives and tourists have pushed up prices, but it's still worth the experience. You can also find bia hoi at the corner of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Dinh Liet streets, where backpacker tourists outnumber the Vietnamese sitting on the stools. [Source: Mike Eckel, AP, February 9, 2011 **]
“Pho is the dish Vietnam is best known for - a steamy broth of beef or chicken with noodles, greens, star anise and spices. It's served up everywhere, and everyone has their own spice secret. Order a bowl from a sidewalk vendor, squat on a plastic stool a foot or so from the traffic, savor the broth and watch the crush of people go by. You can also sop up good soup in quieter, though less interesting settings in the indoor comforts of the chain restaurant Pho 24.” **
Upscale Restaurants in Hanoi
According to Tim Larimer of the New York Times, Indochina (16 Nam Ngu), restaurant housed in an old villa has some of the best food in Hanoi. Gustave (17 Trang Tien) has a piano bar and bistro-style French food. Pho Lam (Nam Ggu Street) has good noodle soups. Across the street is a restaurant called No Noodles, which as it name implies has sandwiches made with French bread, but no noodles.
Green Tangerine (48 Hang Be, Hanoi; 84-4-825-1286) offers a menu of innovative and delicious French and Asian fare. Set back from the busy streets in a restored 1928 colonial home in the Old Quarter, Green Tangerine is a great spot for lunch or a drink. The desserts — especially the banana spring rolls — make it worth seeking out. Lunch with drinks, about $40. Club Opera (59 Ly Thai To Street, Hanoi; 84-4-824-6950) is housed in a grand villa across the street from the Metropole. Decorated with bright paint and silks, this elegant restaurant serves well-prepared Thai and Vietnamese dishes, focusing on seafood. Dinner for two with wine, $70.
La Verticale (19 Ngo Van So, Hoan Kiem District) was voted a Hit Table by Travel & Leisure. It is run by Didier Corlou who has been written up in many well-known publications such as the New York Times. Dinner for two US$52. According to Travel & Leisure: “A classic establishment housed in a four-story 1930s French villa, this restaurant features a spice shop on the ground floor that’s been set up to look like an apothecary, with jars of sea salt and peppercorns, huge coils of cinnamon and bowls of loose star anise. Upstairs, the restaurant maintains its old-fashioned sensibility with starched white tablecloths and simple décor. The buildings original walls and tile floors have also been left intact, creating a series of intimate spaces for diners. The open-air roof terrace offers comfortable armchairs to smoke a cigar and enjoy a drink.
“The food is unquestionably the main draw here. Owner and chef Didier Courlou, a Frenchman who built up a loyal following during his days at the Sofitel Metropole, fervently believes in seasonality, and regularly changes his menu to take advantage of the freshest farm produce. Don’t miss the addictively good Dalat artichoke leaves served with clams and Ha Long curry sauce or the ravioli stuffed with mango and foie gras dressed in a light, lotus tea infused sauce.
Naomi Lindt wrote in the New York Times, “Hai San Ngon (199A Nghi Tam Street; 84-4-37-19-31-69), which translates as "tasty seafood," is a restaurant that lives up to its name. The large menu offers an excellent selection of steamed, sautéed and grilled options for countless crustaceans and fish. Standouts include the blood cockles salad (50,000 dong), clams mixed with shredded carrots, cucumbers and green papaya; and sautéed prawns in a sweet, hot tamarind sauce (80,000 dong). Dine on the large outdoor terrace flanked by elegant, slate-tiled pools or in one of the glassed-in dining rooms where chandeliers fashioned from authentic bamboo fishing cages dangle overhead. [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
“From local households to five-star restaurants, Hanoi is a city of superb cooks. A promising newcomer to the scene is La Badiane (10 Nam Ngu Street; 84-4-39-42-45-09), where the Asian-inspired French cuisine that emerges from the kitchen is the work of Benjamin Rascalou, an acclaimed local chef. The restaurant is housed in an old, white-shuttered colonial villa with hand-painted silk chandeliers, earth-toned décor and intimate individual dining rooms. Three-course set menus (from $23; dollars are commonly quoted at high-end Hanoi hotels and restaurants, though payment is in dong) include options like shrimp ravioli in peanut sauce, aubergine mille-feuille and coffee-marinated lamb.
Shopping in Hanoi
Most of Hanoi's largest shops and galleries and the Foreign Language Bookstore are found at the end of Trang Tien Street. The best place to shop for souvenirs, gifts, and interesting items the Old Quarter, where the shopping district are conveniently centered around products, with an streets dedicated to flowers, leather goods, musical instruments, silks and handicrafts. Here, in this maze of narrow streets you can find Chinese apothecaries selling herbal medicines. Hang Ma ("Paper Street"), an entire alleyway lined with shops selling paper handicrafts, many of hich are meant to be burned to honore the dead. Hang Gai (“Silk Street”), Hang Tre (“Bamboo Street”), Hnag Bac (“Silversmith Street”) and Hang Bong are winderful streets to wander around and shop for handicrafts from small stors and windowless stalls. See Old Quarter Under Sights in Hanoi.
Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Hanoi including bronze molding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery. Hanoi has many famous traditional professional handicraft villages such as Bat Trang pottery village, Ngu Xa bronze casting village, Yen Thai glossy silk. A good place to shop for Western and Vietnamese silk items is Khai Silk (96 Hang Gai). Pham Bich Huang (11 Huang Non) has an interesting collection Vietnamese musical instruments. Thang Nga (40 Hang Manh) sells hill tribe fabrics and Quang Ceramics (93 ba Trieu) is a pleasant place to shop for vases and dishes.
Naomi Lindt wrote in the New York Times, “The Vietnamese are renowned for their industriousness, an attribute nowhere more apparent than at the city's nocturnal markets. Around 1 a.m., the Long Bien Market (Dyke Road, next to Long Bien Bridge) is just getting started; for the next few hours, it's positively throbbing with activity. Along the dimly lighted aisles, you'll see seas of green-skinned oranges, baskets overflowing with hot-pink dragon fruit and trucks stacked to the brim with watermelons. Just a few miles down the road is the fragrant, colorful Quang Ba flower market, where huge bouquets of red roses and armloads of pink gladiolas are sold for less than 50,000 dong. It's all packed up and gone by 5:30 or 6 a.m. [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
“With talented seamstresses and cheap materials, Vietnam is a fashion maven's paradise. In a strikingly white three-story building on a street known for its silk shops, the new Tan My Design (61 Hang Gai Street; 84-4-39-38-11-54; www.tanmyembroidery.com.vn) shows off the work of talented local designers. Like true Hanoians, they've taken styles of the past — mandarin collars, sumptuous silks and fine embroidery — and given them a new lease on life, perfectly suited for the 21st century.”
Art Galleries and Studios in Hanoi
There are a number of good small art galleries. Some have wonderful original painting that sell for between $10 and $50. There are some first-rate art galleries on Hang Gai Street. Salaon Christopher Kremmer of Destinasian wrote: “Any art-minded visit to the Vietnamese capital should begin at the Fine Arts Museum (66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St.; 84-4/ 733-2131; vnfineartsmuseum.org.vn), whose extensive collection ranges from Champa-era artifacts to works by Gang of Five painters like Dang Xuan Hoa. For a well-curated survey of Hanoi’s avant-garde scene, visit Art Vietnam Gallery (7 Nguyen Khac Nhu St.; 84-4/ 927-2349; artvietnamgallery.com), where American Suzanne Lecht has turned a two-story French villa into a showcase for contemporary photography, painting, and sculpture. The smaller Suffusive Art Gallery (2B Bao Khan Lane; 84-4/ 828-8359; suffusiveart.com) is also worth a look for its stable of young Vietnamese talent. [Source:Christopher Kremmer, Destinasian, August 7, 2010]
Better yet, meet the artists at their studios. Hanoi’s dealers are constantly roaming the city, seeking work by established and new artists for their galleries, and will be happy to take you along. Pho Hong Long is as good a guide as any; to arrange studio visits with artists like Ha Manh Thang and Ly Tran Quynh Giang, contact him at his Dong Phong Gallery (21 Trang Tien St.; 84-4/3936-0481; dongphonggallery.com).
Naomi Lindt wrote in the New York Times, “An essential first stop for painting and sculpture is the Art Vietnam Gallery (7 Nguyen Khac Nhu Street; 84-4-39-27-23-49; www.artvietnamgallery.com), run by Suzanne Lecht, an American who has been involved in the local art scene for 15 years. Other venues like the Mai Gallery (113 Hang Bong Street; 84-4-39-38-05-68; www.maigallery-vietnam.com), the Apricot Gallery (40B Hang Bong Street; 84-4-38-28-89-65; www.apricot-artvietnam.com) and the Dragon Gallery (12 To Tich Street; 84-4-38-25-07-40) represent dozens of artists, though they seemingly lack any specific curatorial direction. [Source: Naomi Lindt, New York Times, March 30, 2009]
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.
Last updated August 2020