This is the Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi, more popularly known as the Old Quarter. Located near the Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s considered the commercial heart of Vietnam‘s capital, as well as its tourism hub.
Such was my friend Jaja’s anticipation for this trip, she came up with the hashtag #BETNam2016 (LOL).
I guess you can consider this city as a microcosm of the country itself, with its blend of French colonial architecture and traditional structures, proliferation of sidewalk vendors, and swarms of motorbikes. Living here would keep you on your toes.
The Old Quarter consists of 36 streets, each specializing in a particular craft. Think of these streets as aisles in a supermarket. Hang Hom, where were stationed, is like the hardware section, selling paints and other construction materials. But of course, that doesn’t inhibit other merchants in the area from selling souvenirs and such.
Our preliminary morning stroll spilled over to lunch time, and what better welcome lunch for us to have here than a bowl of piping hot pho? We ended up at Só 1 at the corner of Hang Manh and Hang Non, one of the hundreds of makeshift sidewalk restaurants proliferating the area. Só 1 serves traditional rice noodle soup with bún chà (grilled pork) and nem cua bé (fried crab rolls). The entire set meal cost us 210,000 Vietnamese dong (VND), or roughly around PHP433, inclusive of drinks – not bad for a pretty hefty serving.
After that, we needed something sweet to neutralize all that spiciness. So for dessert, we headed to Yummy Hanoi Crepes and Coffees in Hang Non, which is just a quick walk away from Só 1. The space is narrow, just like most of the buildings in the district. Fortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd when we stepped in. It made our brief stay quite relaxing. We needed that vibe to prepare us for our afternoon of activities.
(TO BE CONTINUED)