A FEW DAYS IN HANOI
I was very fortunate to visit Hanoi for a few days and totally enjoyed my trip.
The best way to explore the city is by strolling around and trying to cross the street that can be a challenge at times. Every street is filled with motorbikes whose drivers don’t really pay attention to red lights or stop signs. But it is worth taking the risk as you have dramatic sights to see from Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum where his preserved body lies in a glass coffin surrounded by guards to the Hoa La Prison famous for having John Mc Cain as an inmate during the Vietnam War.
The city is simply beautiful between the old French colonial buildings like the opera or the many palaces or houses in the embassy district and the area around the Sofitel Metropole where you can easily imagine being in Paris or in Madrid. The old quarter, set up in the early 13th century by the artisan guilds, is buzzing all day and night. The lakes and squares bring a romantic feel to the city where newly weds can be seen taken their picture for their wedding album or where locals improvise a dance hall at night. Don’t forget the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam’s oldest university.
Hanoi’s food is simply great. Don’t hesitate to taste the fantastic street food made with some of the freshest ingredients. Everything was packed with flavors most likely thanks the variety and quantities of fresh herbs such as mint, Thai basil used in the Vietnamese cooking. The best you can do is taste the huge variety of street food available and it is seriously cheap!!!!! Just go where to locals go, be curious and find one of these busy food stalls or hole in the wall. I can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer to explore more of Hanoi’s belly.
Bun Cha together with Pho are in my opinion some of the best food I could find in Hanoi. Bun Cha is a simple barbecued pork patty in a spicy broth with fresh herbs and noodles . My advice is grab one at Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim (67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter). Don’t forget their crab nems that are to die for. This place should definitely rank high in your Hanoi to do list.
Outside of Vietnam, nems are often soggy and with little filling. Here, the nems were simply light but crusty the way it should. The generous filling was quite something; all the flavors from the crab or pork and herbs were coming through. Dip it in the nuoc man chan sauce, the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce.
The beef Pho is the local dish with many Vietnamese having one for breakfast lunch and dinner. Beef Pho is a simple broth with almost raw beef. Top it up to your liking by adding some of the fresh herbs and chili sauce and you got yourself a fantastic light diner.
I love a good coffee, preferably a nice strong espresso. As one of the largest coffee producer in the world, it should not be a surprise to find great coffee shops everywhere and I am not talking about Starbucks in this case. Try out some of the blue mountain or the rich and heavy Vietnamese coffee where the coffee is brewed individually in a small metal French drip filter into a cup containing condensed milk. This is definitely a most try during anyone stay in Hanoi.
Finally, try to have a drink at the beautiful terrace of the Sofitel Metropole if you are looking for a relaxing evening. You can also head up to the Sofitel’s Spice Garden for a sophisticated and upscale Vietnamese feast.