Hanoi – the round-up post

So anyways, we’re on holiday in Vietnam. We started our Vietnamese experience in Hanoi – a thoroughly charming city, and an absolute assault on the senses.

Where we stayed…

Hotel De L’Opera – at the edge of the Old Quarter and a short walk to the lake.

The rooms were super comfy and beautifully quiet; the beds tall enough to make you come over all princess and the pea-ish; and the bathrooms done in fabulously over-the-top mosaic tiles.

Where we ate…

Mostly on the street.

Stand-outs were this Bun Cha (essentially a pork noodle salad) at New Day and the Bun Bo Nam Bo (essentially a soupy beef noodle salad) at Bun Bo Nam Bo.

Of course we also had to have a pho – and were recommended the pho bo tai (rare beef) at Pho 10 at Ly Quoc Su St. When we went past on our foodie tour there were queues– mostly of locals – but we timed it perfectly and didn’t have to wait. Having said that, if we had have had to wait, it would have been worth it.

Where we drank…

We had a fun evening at Tom’s Bar. There are heaps in Ta Hien street, but this place had great drinks, chatty staff, and a fun attitude.

We also sampled the craft beer for sale everywhere. At 5000dong, it’s around 30c a cup – and tastes surprisingly ok, but light.

Where we cocktailed…

We poshed it up on our last night with cocktails at the Sofitel Metropole. The original purpose of this trip was to celebrate my turning fifty, so this was our my turning 50 celebration posh night out.

We followed that with dinner around the corner at Club Opera Novel – a French inspired restaurant just down the road from our hotel.

We chose the Hanoi menu – and it was great. Although it was a tad pricey (relatively speaking), it was a special dinner. If you’re not sure about trying Vietnamese food, it’s a good introduction.

What about the traffic?

Yep, it’s mad and unrelenting – as is the noise of horns from motor scooters. Traffic lights tend to be pretty much indication only – in fact, there’s a t-shirt for sale everywhere with a picture of a traffic light and the words:

Green : I can go

Orange: I can go

Red: I can go

As for crossing the road under these conditions? Essentially you step purposefully into it and walk – don’t run.

The coffee is bad, right?

Not in Hanoi. The sweetened coffee of the South takes second fiddle here to the bean. Coffee is a serious business in Hanoi. As is coffee made from the previously digested beans of a weasel. Hubby and our travelling companion went there – and said the caffeine buzz lasted for hours. Yeah, not for me.

What was a little Big Brotherish, but sort of retro cool at the same time…

Street corners in Hanoi are a tangle of power lines. On corners in the old town, speakers are attached to the telegraph poles and peek out through all the wires. These speakers broadcast the news of the day in the morning and the evening. It’s a hangover from the (American) war days when people didn’t all have tvs or radios, so this was the best way of keeping the community up to date with what was going on.

These days, even though most people have TVs, they tend not to watch the news. Fancy that.

Best part?

Easily the Saturday night by the lake. My Hanoi is an amazing community initiative aimed at family and determined to resurrect traditional games and stories and music.

Seeing families out and about, groups of young people sitting on the floor playing games with stones, watching people get their portraits sketched – and everyone smiling – was something we won’t forget in a hurry. Yes, there was a crowd, but ir was a great natured one.

Did we get sick?

No. One of our travelling companions had a tad of a dodgy tum, but other than that, all was good!

Isn’t it really hot?

Nope. Hanoi is in the north so has proper seasons. It’s Spring at the moment, so the humidity and the temp was ok.

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

19 thoughts

  1. I didn’t make it to Hanoi on my one and only visit to Vietnam. Mine was a ‘forced’ visit as I’d been working in Cambodia (volunteering ) in 1997 for about 7mths and I left in the lead-up to a coup. In those days there were only weekly flights between Vietnam and Australia (which sounds weird in retrospect) so I flew out of Phnom Penh into Ho Chi Minh City and then had a 6 day wait until I could get to Australia. While waiting I caught buses up the coast as far as Danang and then flew back to Ho Chi Minh.

    PS. Hoi An was my fave place.

    1. You’ve had such an interesting work life, Deb – we’ll need to seriously chat it through some day. Hoi An is quickly becoming one of my faves too.

  2. We spent a few days in Hanoi about 10 years ago and I was completely over-awed by the hustle and bustle and the amount of motor scooters on the streets. We had a drink at Tom’s Bar (as this is my husband’s name) and we really enjoying the cuisine. Vietnam is a fascinating place and we are re-visiting later on this year. Enjoy!

  3. Feeling a little bit of envy here – your photographs are so colourful and inspiring! The food looks absolutely delicious and the people look happy. I don’t know how I’d cope with the crowds and noise (not fond of those things) but the culture, the food, the people and the shopping would fascinate me! Happy 50th by the way. Enjoy the rest of your holiday. 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

  4. Looks like you’re having a wonderful time! Thanks for introducing me to Hanoi, somewhere I’m dying to go. I loved your description of the traffic lights and when to go – and having to walk ‘with purpose’. I can imagine 😉 #teamlovinlife

  5. Looks like you’re having a ball in Vietnam Jo. The concept of My Hanoi sounds like something we need to adopt here in Australia – it would be great to see more families out enjoying their time together and sharing stories. Safe travels! #TeamLovinLife

  6. Seems that you had a great time. Our local “bia hoi” craft beer is cheap but good, hah? Dont trust on story of weasel coffee so much but hand made coffee is really tasting. Didnt you see that?

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