I loved Hanoi. I like the speed, the weather, and the coffee culture. I thought it was a great town. We stayed at a nice hotel called O’Gallery Premier Hotel on Hang Bong Street. When we got to Hanoi we dropped off our laundry and decided to take a walk through the city. We ended up on something referred to as Beer Street. It is a small street with tons of bars and people sitting outside. We sat down at table to have a beer, and the waiter said, “you will need to go inside in 10 minutes.” We didn’t realize what he meant. There was no space inside and there were tons of people hanging out in the street. Ten minutes later a cop walked through beer street and EVERYONE picked up their tables and chair and went inside. The cop saw everyone outside, but while he was there no drinking or eating happened on the street. It was weird. We finished our beers and the entire street returned to normal about 20 minutes later.
On our second day in Hanoi we visited the Temple of Literature. This is a very old Confucius Temple in the middle of the city. While we were there a lot of elementary school kids were having a graduation ceremony on the grounds. The kids were so cute. The temple is beautiful and hosts Vietnam’s first university (built in 1076). I liked the grounds and the second floor of the last building. On that floor there are statues dedicated to the three rulers who built the Temple of Literature.
Afterwards we walked to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. We were unable to go inside which means I have now stood in front of the Lenin and the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum without going in, but I was able to enter Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara. My communist leader bingo card is nearing completion.
On our last night, we met a friend from Philadelphia who was doing some work in Hanoi. We ended up eating Bbq on the street at a place called Thai Dat. It was chaotic and they forgot some things, but it was a fun way to kick back on our last night. They serve Czech beer and let you pick out raw meat that they then grill. There was nothing fantastic, nor anything terrible about the food. I’d recommend anyone trying it out.
Holly and Spencer left very early on the last day, so Samer and I were on our own. We walked through the french district. We stopped for coffee and walked past the Hỏa Lò Prison (ie Hanoi Hilton). The bookseller street that runs next to it was far more interesting. Our one destination that day was the Vietnamese Women’s museum. The stated mission of the museum is “to enhance public knowledge and understanding of history and cultural heritage of Vietnamese women… thus contributing to promoting gender equality.” It is wonderful and I’ll recommend it to everyone. I learned a lot about different cultural and historical roles women have been a part of in Vietnam. Each floor has a theme: Family, History, and Fashion. I particularly liked the history floor. No shocker, but some bad ass women fought in the war with America.
Afterwards we meandered past the opera house and around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake toward lunch. Our last meal in Hanoi was fried foods near the Cathedral at a place called Quán gốc Đa. Then we had some delicious bun cha at a street vendor. It was delicious and a perfect last meal.
Was my culinary favorite bun cha? Nope, it was Ca Phe Sua Chua, which is yogurt coffee. That’s it. Yogurt served with ice and super strong coffee. I loved it. I want it right now. It was amazing. The coffee with condensed milk is too sweet. One of the stranger things we had to eat was che thap cam. We found it an alley full of stalls. I didn’t love it for texture reasons, but it was surprisingly good. I discovered these sesame donuts called banh tieu being sold by the old east gate and immediately ordered a second bag once we finished the first. I loved them and would be 500 lbs if I lived near someone who sold them.