Vietnam is a deceptively big country – over one and a half thousand kilometres from north to south, although only around 50km wide at its narrowest point. With these long distances in mind, I could only ever get round the southern part just over six years ago when I combined that area with a trip up the Mekong into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat on what was one of my most memorable holidays ever.
This time though it was just the north starting off with the capital city Hanoi which is buzzing with atmosphere, particularly in the Old Quarter where motorcycles zip around the streets day and night in a city where traffic lights are few to non existent. These thousands of motorcycles provide a constant soundtrack of angry insect swarms and beeping horns. The city throngs with foreign visitors but is somehow not touristy as it seems that it doesn’t bend to their whims who instead have to adapt to the Hanoi way. Overall the place is fascinating and a little overwhelming but its never uninteresting and made quite an impression on us. It’s just a little difficult to really portray the place with just words and pictures when it really needs to be seen to be believed.
Whilst Hanoi does have a fair few interesting sights grouped quite close together they are not the memories that most people leave with as it is the aforementioned street noise and ubiquitous food stalls which provide the highlight for many. Pho (noodle soup) is naturally the most common dish and we didn’t waste too much time in eating that on arrival at ‘Rising Dragon Grand Hotel’ on Hang Ga. After some pho and spring rolls on a noisy street we then sampled the dish you see below of which the name sadly eludes me at this moment.
One of my favourite places was Banh Ghoi on Ly Quoc Su (below) which was where I ended up in the rain a couple of times. I love these simple kind of street food restaurants and this one in particular had some amazing deep fried pastries filled with the likes of pork, vermicelli and mushrooms. Very tasty and so, so cheap!
Nearby to that was a place where I followed the above snacks with some bun cha (barbecued pork and rice vermicelli) as seen below.
Pho 10 (above) was a place I never tried unlike Pho 24 (below) which is located next to the Hoan Kiem Lake and offers a cleaner, sleeker experience to that of the street hawker food.
Above and all photos below show some of the other dishes and street food available in a city famed for its local cuisine. In fact the Old Quarter seems at times to consist of nothing but scores of vendors taking over the streets with smoking charcoal burners, tiny plastic stools & tables and hordes of locals and tourists alike throwing themselves into the chaotic neighbourhood eateries.