5 street-things you MUST do when in Hanoi
Welcome to Hanoi, a beguiling balance between tranquility and chaos, traditions and modernism. Welcome to a fast-paced city where – you will probably notice – the street-side is jam-packed and the pavement quickly turns into a bar, a restaurant, a meeting room. Welcome to an impressive street-culture that was shaped over the time. Have a seat and be part of it with these 5 not-to-be-missed Hanoi street life experiences.
1, Food, food, and food again
On the pavement, seated on small plastic stools. The image is a classic one. Hanoi is a city where gastronomy is featured best on the streets. From the iconic noodle soup Pho to the flame-grilled Bun Cha, hundreds of various dishes are served on the sidewalks of the capital. Everything is cooked fresh and in the limits of available ingredients. So don’t be scared of any food hygiene problems. It is much cleaner and safer than it may look like at first sight. Often cheaper than in restaurants, probably fresher, and offering real local experiences; eating on Hanoi’s streets is the ultimate must-do.
2, Nuoc ep, ca phê, tra da. Drink all day
A coffee in the morning, a fresh pressed juice during the day, an iced tea later on… Streets of Hanoi are generous when it comes to quenching your thirst. The coffee is mostly Robusta and drunk either hot or icedl; either black or with sweetened condensed milk. The fruit juices are varied and depend on the season. But you can get your load of exotic vitamins all year round. Iced tea can be served with lemon and sugar, it is then called Tra Chanh, and it is pretty chic to drink this on the pavement in front of the cathedral while pecking sunflower seeds.
3, Watching a frantic game of Chinese chess
Often played on the sidewalk-terraces of coffee shops, Chinese chess is something social with a little theatric twist. Two players only but several folks around yelling their advices, many pieces that look all the same, moves marked brutally by hitting the board to show confidence, laughs, screams… all the ingredients of a good drama. If you pass by and see a game being played, stop for a while and have a look, it is worth it.
4, The holy bia hoi
A tradition, a cultural pattern, an unmissable experience. Bia Hoi is a light beer made out of rice and often served on the streets in typical crafted glasses. From about 5pm to 9pm, these spots are crowded with men mainly who spend time there after work or sport before heading back home. Very cheap and refreshing, it is something you must try for its atmosphere as well. Messy, noisy, but friendly and cheerful, Hanoi summarized in a pint of beer. One advice, avoid the so-called bia hoi corner and any other bia hoi in the backpackers areas. Better go a little farther on the sidewalks of Hang Bun or Cua Bac streets for a more authentic experience [and a cleaner, better beer].
5, Unplug and witness daily life scenes
Too many travelers rush to see this and that. They never stop, they never take the time, they are on a very tight schedule. But when in Hanoi, there is one thing to do over everything else. It is to stop, sit, and observe. Hanoi is not really a city of museums or sites to visit. Hanoi is, above all, a city to live and experience. So, again, have a seat and be part of it.
And if you look for any other fun things to do while in Hanoi, feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]