Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.
Some may consider staying in the more modern areas with the 5 star western hotels, wide open streets, shopping malls and McDonalds, but to do so in a city like this is really missing the point. It would be like travelling to the desert but staying in an air conditioned cocoon the whole time or visiting the north pole while living in a cosy caravan.
The Old Quarter in Hanoi is where you get a taste of the life, from the constant soft burble of scooters, the beeping to the tiny tree lined streets and their colour. It’s fun, frenetic and a joy to explore on foot where you get to see, hear and smell everything the city has to offer.
As night descends the place transforms, walkways turn into makeshift restaurants as the street food makers come to life. Open barbecues, tasty soups, fresh fish, cuts of meat; you name it and you’ll find it. Uniquely apart from being made on the streets pathways you also sit at street level on tiny plastic chairs, its how the people come together after a hard day.
Venturing away from the main tourist areas has its rewards, here you won’t mind poor attempts at western dishes, instead you will find excellent examples of local cuisine that is tasty and where all the locals eat.