Pass through a small alley up a flight of steps to find yourself in a relaxed
dining room where you'll feast on comfort food made from family recipes
that have been passed down for generations. All meals conclude with the
server washing your hands in a bowl of water and herbs, allowing you to feel
full and energized as you fold back into the Quarter.
In the evening, locals, students and those in the know descend upon
The Fat Cat Bar in Ta Hien nicknamed Beer Street — ground zero for the
Quarter’s party scene — to swill “bia hoi,” a fresh, light rice beer that costs
about 60 U.S. cents a pop. For more sophisticated palates, seek and you shall
find a thriving craft brew, spirits and cocktail culture bubbling up as well.
ocal spirits at Highway 4 at 25 Bát Sú’ is the perfect choice
for a flight of locally distilled Son Tinh rice spirits and
liqueurs. Drink enough and you may find yourself brave
enough to indulge in a plate of spicy locusts from the insect
menu. The less adventurous will love the catfish spring rolls
and wasabi dipping sauce. If craft brews are your preference,
take a scooter-taxi to Standing Bar on Truc Bach Island
and sip local craft brews overlooking Hoàn Kiê´m Lake.
Whisky lovers will find a good Scotch selection at The
Moose & Roo, where the Americanized menu with burgers, fries and meat-
loaf is the perfect respite for homesick Westerners.
In the cocktail bars, talented bartenders who focus on local ingredients
to update classic cocktails are propelling Hanoi’s emerging mixology scene.
The Unicorn Pub, The Alchemist and Polite & Co. are a few places creat-
ing a stir (no pun intended). Meet locals and
fellow travelers by checking out “Fab-Eventer”
on Facebook, where event planner Anastacia
Lo produces a biweekly bar social for locals
and travelers to meet up in Hanoi’s happening
After the bars close, the cafés open and the
Hanoian coffee scene comes alive. Locals and
travelers relax and sip “egg coffee,” a brew with
local beans roasted in cocoa butter, brewed
strong, and blended with a thick mixture of egg
yolk and condensed milk. The sweet, viscous concoction is the perfect way to cap a robust evening
of bia hoi and street food, and enjoying an evening cup, perhaps while overlooking the bustling
city streets and watching the motorbikes buzz by,
can make for a true Hanoian experience.
But don't forget about Hanoi’s rich culture.
A quick rickshaw or motorbike taxi from the
The Vietnam Military History Museum, Fine Arts Museum and
center of the Old Quarter will transport you to a
progressive, cultural city filled with modern art, a
collision of French and Chinese architecture, and
a carefully preserved history. At the Southeast end
of Hoàn Kiê´m Lake you will find the Hanoi Opera House, where the city’s
art scene thrives. Galleries, theaters and French neoclassical design are all
around, and museums, temples and pagodas are plentiful.
the Temple of Literature are just a few of the city’s bounty of cultural
destinations, and they’re accessible enough to check off a few before lunch.
But for a full immersion into Vietnamese history and culture, set aside
some time for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Complex.
Before entering the mausoleum, you will be asked to forfeit your cameras
and walk silently, double file under the watchful eyes of the military honor
guards. As you view the beloved ex-leader’s body, the gravity of his
importance to the Vietnamese people is evident as native countrymen who
drove from all corners of Vietnam line up to pay their solemn respects to
“Uncle Ho.” Outside, the mood lightens as you hang around the stunning
gardens and peruse Ho Chi Minh’s offices and residence, plus a quirky gift
shop village, before stepping into the Ho Chi Minh Museum, where you
can lose yourself for hours.
An understated culinary haven filled with history, temples and museums,
Hanoi is a feast for the senses both captivating and seductive. At its heart
is a peaceful people whose positive energy radiates a sense of warmth
and comfort in an emerging city steeped in old traditions and a future
unbound. A destination for the blissfully uninhibited globetrotter, Hanoi is
an experience unlike any other. [