After a mere breakfast at the hotel, I took the camera, GoPro, iPhone and went for a walk in the city focusing primarily on the Old Quarter and the French quarter.
The Old quarter is a touristic area and as such has a backpack street Ngo Huyen Street located near the St Joseph’s Cathedral. In this part of the city, you will find a bit of everything and nothing, from very useful to very useless. You can buy handmade crafts, paintings, cards – you can have street food, fresh juice, or go to the barbershop for a quick fix.
I was walking toward the Hoan Kiem Lake, a landmark in Hanoi. This is where they showcased the fireworks the night before celebrating the 60th anniversary of Hanoi independence from the French. While walking on the west bank of the Lake towards the French quarter, I was suddenly hungry and craved for Pho Bo, my first one in the country well-known for this dish.
Somehow, right next to me there was a Pho Bo shop that appears to only attract Tourists. I went in — the food was OK, but I don’t recommend it. I hope to have better Pho Bo during my visit in Vietnam.
Pass the lake on the Southeast; you walk into the French Quarter. The area is quite distinctive from the Old Quarter. Back then, the French destroyed the Vietnamese landmarks and built these wide-open large boulevards, together with French style buildings. A perfect example is the Opera House.
The French quarter is the upscale area of Hanoi; you will find fancy shops, several luxury hotel, and restaurants like steakhouses. The area also has more Caucasians.
In the French quarter, nearby The National Museum of Vietnamese History, I stopped at a coffee shop called Moccafe Hanoi. It’s a small cozy coffee-house offering the famous local coffee, a strong one, for a real man you know…
The shop is own by a Vietnamese couple; they buy their coffee from South Vietnam, do the rest and sells it. Coffee lover will love it.
Exploring the French quarter, I ended up in the National Museum of Vietnamese History. It is a great stop to understand the country history from the early age to their current state. I am not the museum type, so it was a brief stop for me. Those of you who fancy museum and Indochina history, it is a great stop.
I am great sport fan, and each country I visit I try to get a sense of what excited the locals. Here although football, particularly the premiership is the main attraction. I met a lot of Vietnamese playing Jianzi; and if like me you did not have a clue what this game is, below is a short video.
In case you wonder the shuttlecock look like this:
On my way back to the hotel, I just wander around the city taking pictures, trying street food, drinking with some locals. I met few youngsters, and we talked about their dreams, how they see their country, etc. One was in love with France, and Paris and wanted to live there while another one was into Australia and dream to finish his studies there.
Exhausted by a long day of walking I came back to the hotel to have a nap.
Nap done; I went for my first night out in town. Hanoi by night is quite noisy, so many people outside, some are eating, some are drinking, scooters, taxis, yes the same as in the day. Most of Hanoi by Night (at least for a tourist) happens nearby the Hoan Kiem Lake (great place for couples or just with friend hanging around).
… or in the Old street area of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. In case you don’t know where to go just wander around and follow the noise. I was looking for a live band bar with some food to spend the night. I could not find a spot although I’m sure there are some. Instead, I ended up in two different nightclubs; one full of tourist/backpack people with western music and the other one fill with local Vietnamese youngsters. Both but especially the latter one was quite happy to have a black dude in Da club you know…
Be alert, clubs closed around midnight so better go out early. Midnight I was out looking for food and after another omelette baguette sandwich I went back to the hotel, exciting for the next day for my trip to Mai Chau, in the mountainous region of Northern Vietnam. Expect rice terraces, forest, delicious food, and more.