Category Archives: Hanoi

Hanoi Sleeping

 

Small menus are good, right? So here goes (based on price, service, location)

Budget – Hanoi Backpackers www.hanoibackpackershostel.com/  (10 – 30 US$) – has dorm rooms too. there are 2 locations, one by cathedral, one on Ma May. Ma May more bustling backpacker life.

Mid Budget – Impressive Hotel http://www.impressivehotel.com about uS$35 for a room – great hotel, highly recommend. great for flashpackers

Upper Budget – May de Ville – http://maydevilleoldquarter.com/ US$70 per room

Mid Range – Maison de Hanoi – http://www.hanovahotel.com/ – ask for deluxe rooms with windows – about US$120 ish

Upper Range – Sofitel Metropole is my favourite. US$250 +++

As long as you are near Old Quarter then you’ll be fine.

Halong Bay

After the tragic incident in Halong Bay today, I’d like to advise those booking packages to Halong Bay to not pay rock bottom prices as health and safety standards are sometimes sacrificed for profit. There are however some fantastic junks out there who do have proper health and safety standards so don’t be put off. I I will add a Halong Bay section with reputable companies, but I wouldn’t pay less than US$70 per person per night for a tour otherwise you may be going with an operator who doesn’t follow proper safety procedures and also the service will be sacrificed for profit. Meanwhile, my sincere sympathy to friends and family of those who died this morning.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110217/ap_on_re_as/as_vietnam_tourist_boat_sinks

Tour to local villages that directly benefits local people

There is a great tour that runs most months to a village outside of Hanoi. It is going on 20 February and is highly recommended. The link to the tour is http://www.bloom-microventures.org/vietnam/?page=vietnam

contact them directly if you’re interested and pass this onto friends. Its a great cause and an awesome way to experience local life in Vietnam whilst helping the poor (who live on 13 usd per family per month)….if you don’t go on the tour you can donate. 1 million dong which is 50 dollars can get someone out of poverty..

Hanoi Drinking

Ok, Hanoi isn’t one of those cities with bright lights, super clubs and streets full of glitzy people, drinking fancy cocktails. If you want that, then best to go to Bangkok or even Saigon. The bar scene in Hanoi is getting better, 5 years ago when I first moved here we had a couple of bars, and now we have a few more than a couple. We still however, seem to end up at the same bar at some point in the weekend. There are lots of small bars selling relatively cheap drinks, with 90’s music which cater for expat and intrepid tourists. There are bars with thumping music (actually, make that deafening music), over priced drinks and very uberly cool looking rich Vietnamese, which I generally avoid, mainly due to prices and the fact that I value my ear drums. There are also a few cocktail like bars frequented by expats and Viet Kieu’s (those who were educated outside of Vietnam but of Vietnam nationality). Ok maybe best to start with what to drink, then I will list my favourite drinking holes.

Beers

Hanoi has many beers, domestic and international. Here is a list with my comments.

Bia Hoi – local beer, normally 3,000 dong for a glass. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. It is 3,000 VND for a glass. First glass goes down slowly, then your taste buds adapt and before you know it, its 3 hours later, but don’t fret because the bill isn’t going to damage your wallet too much. I actually either buy a 7 UP or ask for a slice of lime, to smoothen the taste a bit. My favourite place to drink Bia Hoi is…………Bia Hoi Corner, of course! Its at the junction of Loung Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien on the Old Quarter. Its also fun too just to stumble across a bia hoi place and just order one and watch the world go by (they are everywhere, recognisable by Vietnamese men, sitting on small plastic chairs, drinking from cups, who promptly leave at 8pm because they are too drunk to stand up).

Halida – my personal favourite, good value. It’s my King of Beers

Beer Ha Noi – a no from me, unless I am in the countryside where there is no option but plenty of ice available I am not going to buy this stuff. Sorry.

La Rue – this is ok, but mind the hangovers, for some reason this is the killer in the morning.

The rest of them are Hieneken (say Ken if you want to sound local), Tiger etc etc. These are imported so come at a price.

Expect to drink beer with ice, many places don’t have fridges or just don’t get that westerners don’t like ice  with their beers. Get used to it and get over it. Life ain’t that bad, the beers are cheap!

Rice Wine – when in Vietnam you have to try rice wine. Best places to try are in the countryside (normally you’ll have no choice as a local family befriend you), Highway 4 (they make their own which is delicious) or Chim Sao (see Hanoi Restarants)

PLACES TO DRINK

Ok, here goes, this is by no means comprehensive and things change a lot, especially even during the week. Hanoi is unpredictable.

Maos Red Lounge. This has been my favourite bar since I got to Hanoi 4 years ago. Its small, smokey, cramped, has a play list that is on repeat, the drinks are rediculously cheap and the owner and staff are awesome. What more could you want from a bar?

Funky Buddha – also on Ta Hien. This has good music, is actually quite funky, has lots of bright lights and mirrors but isn’t bad if you want to spend a little more on drinks, get table service and hang out with the cool crowd.

Q Bar – ok while we’re in this area, you can pop into Q Bar. Its at the end of Luong Ngoc Quyen (west end at the bend where it goes around to the right). It has good music, a pool table, prices are quite expensive but its worth it if you fancy a boogie.

Le Pub  – there are 2 of these but I like the one on Hang Be. It has great value drinks (wednesdays are one dollar for a g and t all day) and the food is ok. Its very touristy but thats not a bad thing. Great place to sit and watch the world go by. Also the beers are always cold (a rare treat in Hanoi).

The Factory – a new bar in Hanoi/art gallery. I like this place, they have live music often, its got an outside terrace and the drinks are good. It’s on Bao Khanh (the tiny street off Bao Khanh, just west of Hoan Kiem Lake).

Black Pearl – another new addition to the Hanoi music scene with live music, pirate look. Its open late until the early hours and the vibe is pretty cool.  Kicks off at weekends. It’s on Yen Phu which is a taxi drive north of the Old Quarter just past Sofitel Plaza hotel. Not sure which number but if you drive north its on the right and has an anchor painted outside.

Fusion Bar – a new favourite of mine. This bar is on Truc Bac lake so has glorious views and is super chilled. Great cocktails, great shisha and a cool vibe. I have never seen it heaving so its more a place to chill out, but they do salsa once a week (will find out when). Its also a great place to have pre/post drinks after eating a hot pot or Pho Cuon on Truc Bach Lake. Actually, thinking about it, if you want a nice evening away from the Old Quarter which is relatively cheap. Head to Truc Bach lake, eat some Pho Cuon and then go to Fusion Bar fro some cocktails. Sorted. Address is 25 Truc Bach

Hanoi Rock City – another new addition to Hanoi (I told you the city is rocking) and it truly is. Live music here we come. This place attracts local and international rock bands and is uuber cool with inside and outside venue, and a lovely bridge in between. Certaintly gets a good crowd of locals and expats at weekends and is kinda the place to be seen amongt the cool kids. Its on To Ngoc Van which is just off Xuan Dieu up in Tay Ho/West Lake. Rock on!!!

Rooftop Bar – ok I have to admit I have never been here but my fancy friends rave about it. Its on the rooftop of Pacific Place on Ly Thong Kiet and apparently has good cocktails (am sure at a price) and awesome views. Must try it out soon, maybe wait until I am paid..

Don’s – great happy hour, buy one get one free on all drinks between 5 – 7 every day. It’s got an awesome rooftop overlooking west lake, with oyster bar and a great resturant below if you get too drunk and can’t be bothered to move. They also, apparently, do a great saturday morning mexican eat and drink as much as you can thing between 11am – 3pm. Its on Ngo 27, Xuan Dieu in west lake area. Oh, and out of happy hour, bring your credit card…

Deluva – another establishment that requires a credit card but has good happy hour too also between 5 – 7pm. Has a local feel and very good food. I love the shared platter and also the Baos Chicken. And don’t forget to try their speciality: Crouching Tiger Drink – tiger beer, passion fruit, honey, lime and chili. 90,000 VND for one but in Happy Hour you get 2 for that…. bargain!

Puku: Its 2am, the bars have closed, but don’t fret, you don’t have to go home…yet. Puku serves alcohol and western food 24/7. Yup, just what Hanoi needed. They also have live music venues and yoga in the mornings. Nice venue, friendly crowd (mixed western and VN) good value food, cocktails are a little pricey but you can’t really complain. Its on 24 hour food street off Hang Bong. See Hanoi Restuarants for exact address.

Phuc Tan – ok I can’t really believe I am recommending this place, but its a kind of Hanoi establishment and as far as I can work out, never closes. Its on the river, has shocking music, a nice outside terracy area, average priced drinks. But yeah, has a dance floor and garenteed everyone else there is as drunk as you, so no worries there. Just be really careful when leaving, don’t take any of the taxis, best to call one Hanoi Taxis 0438535353. I had a bad experience a few years back.

Solace – this has slightly been taken over by the teenager gay community of Hanoi but is still worth a shot if negotiating a gang plank onto a boat that definitely wouldn’t pass any European Elf n safety laws is your idea of fun. Be aware of thieves, don’t leave anything behind the bar, they will loose it. But its fun for a while and if you’re drunk enough. Normally closes at 2am. Don’t ask me where it is, I have been there far too many times but really have no idea. Its somewhere on the river.

Ok, so am sure there are more places but that’s all the ones I can think of. I used to like Dragon Fly on Hang Buom but its been taken over by UNIS (international school kids) at weekends and the decor really has gone down hill. The bar staff, are however the best and friendly bar staff in town so its a real shame.

Jeez, I nearly forgot Tet Bar, another establishment that never closes, this is tiny (its on Ta Hien) and serves cheap drinks and ham and cheese toasties (a savour at 4am). Expect very drunk expats, clinging onto their chairs. I prefer Puku for 4am drinks and food but if you’re in the Old Quarter this may be a more convenient option.

Written by Abs Lakin (expat in Hanoi)

Hanoi Restaurants

Hanoi, in the past few years, has got many international restaurants catering to the higher end. 5 years ago the choice was very limited, now its almost limitless. Here is a selection of my favourite restuarants (in no particular order)

Vietnamese

I love Highway 4, its been my favourite since I arrived 4 years ago and I cannot get enough of it. They now have a few ones all over town and I hear their one on Bac Su is the best for service, although I always go to the one on Hang Tre, just because. The food you must try there are cat fish spring rolls, banana flower salad, pork thailand style. They have some crazy food like crocodile, horse, buffalo (this is the place where I famously ate buffalo penis for the travel channel). Also a must is to buy a bottle (or 2) of their homemade rice wine. It comes in mulberry, apple, passionfruit and peach flavour. My favourite is apple. Ask to put the bottle in a box of ice then have shots. Their website has more information www.highway4.com

Another goodie, although very touristy is Little Hanoi, on Ta Hien (in the old quarter), the food is very good, excellent value with huge portions but the place does attract tour groups which can be a bit off putting.

If you want to try lots of street food from all over Vietnam head to Quan An Ngon which is about a 10 min drive in a taxi away from Old Quarter. It has a lovely outdoor setting where you can watch people cook a variety of dishes at the side of a courtyard. You actually order from a menu but its a great way to try new things, see people preparing and cooking the food. This place gets packed, you may have to wait 10 mins for a table, ask for a table outside. Arrive between 7 – 8pm, by 8.30 most of the dishes have run out. This place is cheap for a restaurant. Address is Pham Boi Chau (near Movenpick Hotel). I’m sure its in the lonely planet.

Another goodie, hidden on a side street in the French Quarter is Chim Sau. they serve countryside vietnamese food here, very good value and very local. Very few tourists come here but attracts a sprinkling of expats. Most of the seating is crossed legged on mats with tables that are barely off the ground. Not much english is spoken but their menu is in english. They also have rice wine (local style) which is worth trying but can’t say delicious. There is normally no need to book unless you are going on a friday or saturday night. It is off Ngo Hue which is off Pho Hue (a large road running north up towards Hoan Kiem Lake). If you want to make a reservation, their number is 0439760633 but bear in mind they cannot speak english!

I am useless at recommending smart places as I usually just eat local style or up near my house. By I do like the following restaurants

French/Vietnamese = La Verticale on 19 Ngo Van So St (expensive)

Fusion – Green Mango 18 Hang Quat (in Old Quarter), run by a good friend of mine, funky cocktails, good food, service can be a bit hit or miss

Indian – Foodshop 45 has a lovely setting on Truc Bach lake and the indian is seriously good value. Mains are about 40,000 dong. It has a nice chilled atmosphere. Address is 45 Truc Bach.

If you just want to wander and look at menus, then head to St Joseph’s Cathedral (just west of Hoan Kiem Lake) and opposite that in Nha To and on the right in Ly Quoc Su there are loads of nice restaurants, including La and Tapas.

If you want to hang out in West Lake with the expats then jump in a cab to Xuan Dieu but take your credit card with you…..  Starting at the bottom of Xuan Die and heading north

Vine (italian with amazing wine selection)

House of Son Tinh (has the same rice wine as highway 4 but a tapas menu) mid – high range

Bobby Chins – this is an establishment in Hanoi. The food is good, has a nice atmosphere and you can smoke shisha.Its not cheap but if you have some cash to splash its not a bad place to do it.

Don’s (on Nga 27 off Xuan Dieu) is very cool (well for hanoi standards) right on the lake with an awesome roof top with great happy hours. On that road as well is Le Petit Brasserie (belgium). expensive

You can also head up to To Ngoc Van Street where you will find Deluva Bar (another slightly older expat haunt) but they have happy hour between 5 – 7pm and good food. Their crouching tiger cocktail is to die for (beer, lemongrass, honey, chilli and lemon). And if you feel like eating Ukranian food and drinking horseradish vodka, on a side street next to Deluva you’ll find Bud Mo.

If you still need inspiration then browse the New Hanoian which is a community expat website with most restaurants (including street food) in Hanoi listed. http://newhanoian.xemzi.com/venue/category/11/Restaurants#1/11

Written by Abs Lakin (lives, works and studies in Hanoi)

Hanoi Street Food

Vietnamese food has just been voted the healthiest cuisine in the world and it is also so tasty, diverse and seriously cheap. A general rule, as with any country is this. Eat only where locals are eating, of course if you are new into asia your stomach may not be too happy, try new things and don’t be afraid to point at a dish that looks good and go for it.

The way restaurants are pretty much set up in Vietnam is that each restaurant (when I say restaurant it probably resembles more like red plastic chairs, minimal decoration and possibly outside) each place generally serves just a couple of dishes that they specialise in. Tourist places normally have a menu with everything under the sun and most of the food is adapted to tourists and in my opinion, not as tasty as eating local style.

The Vietnamese eat at very particular times of the day and if you want street food that isn’t between 6am – 9am, 11.30 – 1pm or 5.30pm – 8pm you might have problems finding it. There is always 24 hour street food street which has local places open all night serving soups, noodles, rice etc and also a fantastic bar called Puku that serves western food and alcohol (YAY) throughout the night at reasonable prices. This is in Tong Duy Tan Street a short taxi drive away from Hoan Kiem Lake (too far too walk).

Food you have to try when in Hanoi (in no particular order, with my favourite spots to eat each dish, but there are plenty of others)

Bun Cha

This is thin white round noodles served on a plate, served seperately in a bowl with grilled pork, lettuce, herbs and then normally they have a tub of raw garlic and chilli on the side. The bowl with pork etc has broth in it and you add the noodles and herbs/lettuce to it and eat. It’s delicious, possibly not the healthiest but is famous in Hanoi and definitely worth a try. Bun Cha is also served with deep fried crab spring rolls (Nem Rua),  if you don’t want these just say ‘Khong Muon Nem’. My favourite Bun Cha is either on Nguyen Du in the French Quarter or Hang Manh in the Old Quarter. Prices are set  and normally between 20,000 – 30,000 dong per bowl, have no idea how much the spring rolls are as am allergic to crab 😉

Pho Ga/Bo – prounounced ‘fur’

This is the staple diet of Vietnamese people and normally eaten for breakfast. It is a noodle soup with either Ga (chicken) or Bo (beef). In Hanoi I personally prefer the chicken and in the south of Vietnam I prefer the beer. Although the south is very different to the north pho, I prefer the southern but my northern friends would kill me for saying that. The Vietnamese take their pho very seriously. Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner it doesn’t really matter. I normally pay between 15,000 – 25,000 depending on where I am. This is a great breakfast option, don’t be shy to sit down on the tiny stools with the locals, slurp it up and spit the bits you don’t like onto the floor! The best Pho in town (cleanest and no MSG), apart from Pho 24 which is a rip off, is the Pho place on 10 Ly Quoc Su (about 3 mins walk north of cathedral). The Pho Tai is my fave, half done beef and is 25,000 VND per bowl.

Bun Bo Nam Bo

Me and my house mate, Kerstin, live on this. Its healthy, cheap and fills you up. Its basically a big bowl with noodles, a tiny bit of broth, fried beef, shallots, herbs, peanuts, bean sprouts and other stuff. You add chilli sauce and soya sauce to it and it rocks. The best Bun Bo Nam Bo in town is near where Hang Da meets Yen Thai just north of Hang Bong in the Old Quarter. Next time I go I will get their actual address. Its 40,000 dong for a bowl.

Pho Cuon

Alright, so by now you are probably realising that I love a combintation of beer and noodles, and here is another one… These are wet spring rolls (they use pho sheets to wrap) with beef and herbs/salad in the middle. They are dipped in a chilli/fish sauce and are great as a snack. Pho Cuon is found by Truc Bach lake (between Old Quarter and West Lake), ask a taxi for Sofitel Plaza and walk back down along the lake. There are spaces by the lake where you can sit on mats and watch the world go by. These places also serve ‘Lau’ hot pots (like steam boats) and great clams with lemongrass and chilli. 10 pho cuon normally cost about 30,000 dong. I love to sit by the lake, eat pho cuon, drink beers on a nice weekend afternoon. Its a very local thing to do (as long as you don’t mind sitting crossed legged for hours at end).

Bun Ca

Ca is fish in Vietnamese and Bun is noodle. This is basically fish noodle soup (sometimes they fry the fish, other times its boiled. The soup is a bit sour and has cooked tomatoes along with other spices/herbs. Its an aquired taste but I like it. My favourite place, although rather random just because its near my house, is on Dang Thai Mai near west lake.

BBQ Chicken

Forget Nandos, KFC etc, Hanoi has a whole street devoted to selling delicious, cheap bbq chicken. Its def worth hanging out here and helping the chicken down with some beers. Get a taxi there, the address is Ly Van Phuc (get a taxi, about 15 mins drive from Old Quarter), just off Nguyen Thai Hoc before you reach the stadium, it’s a right turn where you see all the smoke and chicken pieces. YUMMY!

There is street food on every corner, and some of it is delicious and some not so but don’t be afraid to try. Be careful of any place with ‘cho’ advertised – it means dog, also ‘meo’ (less common) which means cat. You can get fried rice (com rang) or fried noodles with beer (my xao bo). Also very popular for a snack is Banh My which is a fluffy baguette, they normally sell with pate (delicious but it is normally out in the sun all day so be careful), fried egg, dairylea slices, tomato.

For veggies, I am told that Bun Do is good which is a tofu soup (I hate tofu so never tried it), and you can always say ‘an chay’ which means vegetarian food.

Just came across this which might help http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/eat/asia-street-food-cities-612721?page=0,5

Hanoi

Hanoi has been my home city for the best part of 3 years. It really should be on everyone’s list as it still holds the charm, architecture, awesome cuisine that Vietnam is knowned for. It doesn’t feel like a large Asian city and has a small town feel. The city can be split up into the following areas

Old Quarter

This is where most travellers stay (doesn’t have 4 of 5 star hotels) but has many 1 – 3 star hotels dotted around. It is hectic but fun. A place to see local people going about their local lives. My advice is to get rid of your map, grab a camera, walk around (dodging motobikes) and get lost. Don’t feel bad about walking down the tiny alleyways, wandering into the local temples (make sure you leave yuor shoes at the door and your knees and shoulders are covered), try the array of street food, stop off at Bia Hoi Corner (corner of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien) and soak up the best of SE Asia.

On the west of the Old Quarter (near St Joseph’s Cathedral) you’ll find a cool coffee shop area, where the locals sip on ca fe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) against the parisian style bakeries, tapas restuarants and chic clothing shops (which, by the way, have western sizes!). This is a great place to be based and my advice is to get a hotel near here (see accommmodation later on). Taking a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake is also fun, be warned though, if you sit down, vietnamese students will ask you to help them with their english, if you have time then this is an easy way to give something back to the people, they are so appreciative.

French Quarter

This area is south of the Old Quarter and contains the Sofitel Metropole (arguably the nicest hotel in town and if you have some spare dong go and enjoy their daily chocolate buffet between 3 – 5pm). The streets are wider (still crazy with motobikes), it has more of a local feel and some beautiful buildings. It is also home to the Hanoi Opera House and Lenin Park which is one of my favourite parks to wander around early morning or late afternoon, to watch the locals going about their daily exercises.

West/North West of Old Quarter

This is where most of the historic buildings etc are located. You’ll find the Temple of Literature (def worth going to), One Pillar Pagoda (hmmm), Ho Chi Minh Museleum (is ok for a weird expereience but those without much time, don’t worry too much), this is closed in November when his body goes back to Russia to be preserved. This area also has old colonial buildings which are now government buildings, large treelined streets and a few good cafes/restaurants.

West Lake

This area is north of the city and has a huge lake (17kms (4 hour walk around)). It is home to many expats as the air is cleaner, there are new, chic winebars/restaurants and having a lake on your front door, sure beats having a sea of motobikes. The Intercontiental Hotel is up there which has a fantastic sunset bar (open only from May – October) right over the lake.

Other areas in Hanoi are out west and best explored on motobike/taxi. There is Korea Town which is seeing huge amounts of construction, in fact, the local government are trying to make this the CBD.