Exploring Hanoi Vietnam is by far my favourite Vietnamese city. It is a vibrant and energetic city which is developing really quickly – it’s a collision of traditional values such as hard work, community spirit and determination to succeed mixed in with Western Capitalism in the sense that everyone is doing whatever they can to make money.
There are thousands of mobile foods stalls cruising through the streets, at all hours of the day – most of them with a little megaphone attached to them blaring a pre-recorded message into the city streets.
The traffic is insane in Hanoi. There were a few occasions where there was literally a massive gridlock at the intersection which we needed to cross and all of a sudden a crew of policemen would arrive, blowing their whistles and shouting and some normality would return.
The traffic makes the air in Hanoi quite acrid – you can definitely taste the pollution in the air and your nose generally gets a bit blocked. Besides the air pollution, traditional Vietnamese culture is to throw your food waste onto the floor rather than leave a chicken bone on your plate. This causes some issues with the drainage, but every night teams of street sweepers and washers comes out and clean up the grime – ready for the next day.
EAT AND DRINK
Vietnam is known for its street food – little make shift kitchens on the side of road where locals cook speciality food. The food is cooked with lots of flavour using loads of fresh herbs, a favourite is the use coriander, tamarind and chilli as well as fish sauce, vinegar and of course soy sauce. Proteins range from seafood, pork, beef and chicken, however in the north beef and pork are more popular. Proteins are mixed with noodles, rice and greens like Bok Choy. They also love to eat chicken kebabs – fresh off the grill.
In the north one finds a local favourite Banh Mih, a cuisine influenced by the French but with a Vietnamese twist. The meal consists of a French baguette and is filled with pate, pickled vegetables like carrots, cucumber and onions and then roast beef or pork. They are delish and very cheap – perfect for a lunch break and enjoyed in a park.
Of course I must add, the fresh fruit one finds in Asia is delicious and locals sell dragon fruit, jack fruit and coco-nuts (which locals turn into a drink) on the side of most streets.
The Vietnamese love their coffee however they drink theirs differently to what we do. They tend to make espresso’s mixed with sweetened milk like condensed milk. Ordering an Americano proved difficult. They also served ice coffee which take on a literal form as they literally add ice to the coffee.
We found the most magical coffee spot, Urban Station, located opposite St Josephs Cathedral. One can enjoy a coffee whilst looking at a magnificent view, browsing the internet and chatting to friends. While we were there a group of Vietnamese girls were playing a card game and instagraming their day away. Located in a building that reminded me of Amsterdam, one found ourselves climbing long and narrow staircases going up four different floor – each decorated to a different theme. Modern décor and murals on the walls fill the shop with colour and fun.
The Old Quarter had some great bars where we could enjoy our evenings. One fun bar we found was, RockStore, run by a great guy named Benny. They play all the best rock n roll with decorated walls giving tribute to legendary bands like The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Grateful Dead and of course Led Zeppelin. Locals and tourists gather here and a night of fun is most definitely had. Thanks for all the shots Benny!
One also must mention a local beer named Bia Hoi, which is a fresh beer brewed daily and is served from a keg with ice if its not cold. Its super cheap and delicious, one wont just simply have one beer.