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Hanoi – An explicit guide to the hidden gem of Indochina

BY MobileFolk

16.12.2021 | 4 mins

Interested in knowing more about Hanoi and our office there? Chat with us today!

Hanoi was and still is my everything. I grew up in Dong Da, moved to Nam Tu Liem when I was 16, moved back to Hoan Kiem when I was 19, and used to cycle around Tay Ho with friends since I was young. I wouldn’t say I know Hanoi “well”, since half of my lifetime has been spent abroad or in another part of Vietnam. But when one of my clients at MobileFolk asked me to talk about Hanoi where our office is at, I immediately thought I’d write a guide about Hanoi, for anyone curious about this hidden gem in the North of Vietnam.

Photo credit: Travel Passionate
  1. Hoan Kiem and its street food culture:

When visiting Vietnam, most travellers choose to stay in the Old Quarters of Hanoi. But here’s the mistake that everyone makes: eating at restaurants instead of family owned food vendors. It’s not hard to see people sitting on small, red or blue chairs on the streets of Hoan Kiem district, while the sellers, mostly old ladies, are busy passing orders around and still keeping an eye on the cops that might come at any time. It’s as chaotic as you think it is, but it’s the chaos that makes Hanoi Hanoi. 

You wander around the streets of Hoan Kiem and start wondering about what to eat as there are too many choices. Here are a few addresses that a Hanoian will lead you to:

  • Banh my chao, or baguette filled with steak and pate, Dinh Ngang
  • Nem chua ran, or fried sticky meat, 74 Hang Bong
  • Ga tan, or braised chicken with instant noodles, 11 Tong Duy Tan

And many many more.

Hoan Kiem is also a historical district as there were many tales about this place. Its literal name translates to “Returned Sword” which is linked to the tale where King Ly Thai To returned the magical sword to the Gods of Turtle. The Hoan Kiem Lake in the middle of the district also attracts many tourists to come by and learn about its unique culture. And hey, when you’re near the lake, don’t forget to come for Bun dau mam tom at 2 Trang Tien, or rice noodles, fried tofu and shrimp paste, which scares many foreigners away by its strong smell, but once you taste it, you can never say no ever again.

  1. Ba Dinh, the political epicenter:

The Ba Dinh Square is known for its historic significance. It’s the place where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from the French colonization, and it’s also the place where the leader’s body stays after his passing. The Tran Phu street of Ba Dinh also has so many embassies and government offices. Moving down south from Tran Phu, there’s the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long which was a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. 

I don’t know restaurants or coffee shops in this area that well, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy walking down the street of Hoang Dieu with many old trees that make the street the most beautiful one in Hanoi. And if you ever want a tattoo or earring to remind you of this charming capital, you can always go to Cockstock in Cao Ba Quat, where I got many of my tattoos done (trust me, they never disappoint!)

  1. Tay Ho, the most scenic district of Hanoi:

Most of my foreign friends and partners choose Tay Ho for residence due to its scenic view. Almost every house in Tay Ho has a great view of the West Lake which helps you escape from the crowded and noisy Hanoi. I always go on bike rides around this big lake (it’s big, 17 kilometers of shoreline!), then stop by a coffee shop anywhere along the way, order a giant cup of lemonade tea, and enjoy the quiet time in Hanoi. 

Don’t get me wrong, Tay Ho has its pub and hub culture as well, so it’s not the boring, silent place as you might think it is. There are plenty of pubs with good music, like Savage or Under the basement on Xuan Dieu, where my friends often intoxicate themselves with cocktails and techno music on weekends. If you feel like a romantic date with your partner, hey, there’s El Gaucho and Over-the-roof steakhouses as well. Tay Ho has so many things to offer, and no wonder why it has become the place that everyone wants to live in in Hanoi.

Interested in knowing more about Hanoi and our office there? Chat with us today!