Baguette and Bone China soup bowls, Frogs legs and fragrant rice, in some cities two cultures melt into one, blending the best of each. Vietnam can be summed up as a French colonial style cafe with table setting of chopsticks; you can experience the relaxed ambience of France’s South coast without the at times stuffy Parisian attitude. Check out where to stay, people watch and drink in Hanoi. Enjoy!
Stay: The takeover of luxury power house hotels in Hanoi has begun. If you like to wander into the lobby unsure of whether you’re in Toronto or Thailand until you rifle through your purse to pay for something with the consistently amusing “Dong notes” then avoid the larger chains like the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hanoi, 10000 Vietnam 866-539-0036). For local flavour Golden Sun (23 Hang Hanh Street, Hanoi) in a quiet back street and close to Hoan Kiem Lake, the central reference point of the city will hit the spot. Be prepared for hot towel abuse. The service is so insanely attentive you are offered a hot towel after what seems like each breath or step across the foyer. But it is charming and consistently reflective of the kind and generous Vietnamese culture where you couldn’t feel more loved than if you were bone in a dog pound.
Check out: Ah that life-long dilemma, ‘Where shall I put that wreckage of my crashed B-52 bomber?’ If this sounds like one of your problems, go to Hanoi’s Army Museum (28A Dien Bien Phu St), a building crammed with battle memorabilia. The legendary tank called the T54 B No 843 is another draw, as it was the actual piece of equipment that burst through the gates and helped seize the Saigon Presidential Palace in April 1975. There’s also a nod to Pop Art styling on the 10 feet tall VietCong soldier posters with the underlying tinge of sadness of knowing the art reflects mind-blowing levels of propaganda in a crushed nation.
People Watch and Drink: For an Aerial view of the lunacy that is Hanoi’s traffic — where the motto is if there’s an inch of pavement available, it’s the opportune moment to accelerate into a crowd of elderly market stall holders — the City View Cafe ( 1-3-5 Dinh Tien Hoang St, Hoan Kiem Dis, Hanoi, Vietnam 04-3934-7911 ) is home to a giant veranda with noodles to contemplate the city’s brilliant insanity. For a mixture of expat and Hanoi’s music aficionados Minh’s Jazz cafe (31 Luong Van Can, Hoàn Kiem, Hanoi ) is the orginal Jazz venue with a classic smoky feel that borders between old Chinese opium house and a New York soul club.
Eat: The Vietnamese restaurant name creation formula of colour + food name repeats itself at the Green Tangerine (48 Hang Be Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: +84(0)4 3825 1286) but it’s a prescription for a full stomach like no other. French themed but Vietnamese flavour and the wine, a rare and expensive commodity, is worth every penny.
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