VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Ha Noi

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities - Walking Tour - Courses - Ha Noi For Childern - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping - Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around - Around Ha Noi - Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum - Perfume Pagoda - Handicraft Villages - Thay Tay Phuong Pagoadas - Ba Vi National Park - Co Loa Citadel - Tam Dao Hill Station.

EATING

In recent years Hanoi has undergone a miraculous transformation from a culinary wasteland to a world-class city for drinking and dining. The city boasts everything from cheap backpacker joints (yes, more banana pancakes) to exquisite Vietnamese restaurants and a growing legion of chic cafes. Restaurants, bars and cafes have a strong tendency to change names, location, management and just about everything else, so ask around or check out the current listings in the Guide and Time Out.
Dining for a Cause
Combine food for the body with food for the soul at restaurants and cafes that run vocational training programmes for street kids Good cause, good food, good idea.
KOTO on Van Mieu ( 59 Pho Van Mieu; mains 30,000-50,000d;closed dinner Mon;Recently relocated into a much larger property, KOTO has a cracking menu of local specialities, home comforts,elicious sandwiches and cakes, real coffees, fruit shakes and other wholesome dishes. With five floors, there is something for everyone, including an expanded bar with cocktails. KOTO is a not-for-profit grassroots project providing career training and guidance to former .street kids. KOTO stands for 'Know One, Teach One’.The restaurant overlooks the Temple of Literature, making it the perfect place to recharge the batteries before or after some sightseeing. Want more? Free wi-fi it is.
Hoa Sua ( 28A Pho Ha Hoi; Vietnamese/French set lunch 35,000/75.000d, lunch & dinner) A shady retreat by day, a dignified diner by night, this restaurant offers the perfect blend of East and West. The set menus are a good deal, or go a la carte for some DIY fusion. Menu high lights include Argentinean steaks and a pis tachio creme brulee. Hoa Sua is a successful goodwill project that trains a steady stream of disadvantaged kids for culinary careers. It also offers cooking classes at its train ing school.
Baguette & Chocolat (tell: 9231500; 11 Pho Cha Ca; cakes around 10,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner). Another member of the extended Hoa Sua family, this is a bewitching bakery with divine (or devilish) cakes and pastries, depending on your calorie count. Remember those patisseries in Paris, with artistic creations at €4 a go? Try them here for less than US$1.
Vietnamese
For some of the tastiest, and certainly cheapest Vietnamese food, stroll up to some of the street stalls around town. The food is as fresh as it comes and the kitchen is right there in front of you. Most of Vietnam's greatest hits are available if you shop around, and it's a great way to plug the hole after a long night on the town. Almost every corner and alley in the Old Quarter has street stalls. Check out how many locals are eating there; the more, the merrier, as the food must be good. Over charging is the norm rather than the exception at many of these places, so it is worth checking the price before you order a spread. Another excellent and inexpensive fast track to a feed is to visit one of the innumerable bia hoi joints around the city. Ail of them have minimenus to help hold off the hangover. For more on the national institution that is the bia hoi scene, see the boxed text. For other Vietnamese options, consider the speciality food streets.
OLD QUARTER
There is an incredible array of Vietnamese restaurants to choose from in the Old Quarter.
Little Hanoi 1 (tell: 926 0168,9 Pho Ta Hien; meals from 20,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Blink and you'll miss it, this tiny little estaurant recently moved up the road. This small place has a big personality and the popular speciality is do-it-yourself fish spring rolls, a deli-cious dish.
Pho 24 (1 Pho Hang Khay; meals 25,000d, breakfast, lunch & dinner) Fast pho, Vietnamese-style, this maybe part of an expanding chain, but it\s growing for a reason: heavenly noodle soups. Pho is cheaper on the street, but rarely better. Choose by the cut.

ourpick 69 Bar-Restaurant (tell:26 0452; 69 Pho Ma May; meals 20,000 60,000d; lunch .& dinner) Located in a beautifully restored old Vietnamese house, this is an atmospheric escape from the bustle of the Old Quarter The predominantly Vietnamese menu includes succulent tuna steaks and a large vegetarian selection.
Ladybird Restaurant ( tell: 926 1863, 57 Pho Hang Buom; meals 25,000-3 5,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Hidden away in the northern section of the Old Quarter, this little restaurant has been earning rave reviews for its affordable eats. Whether it is Vietnamese or Western, it's all tasty.
Hanoi Garden (tell:824 3402; 36 Pho Hang Manh; a la carte/set menus from 40,000d/80,000d;lunch & dinner) This restaurant is very popular with Vietnamese diners: always a positive sign. Hanoi Garden serves southern Vietnamese and spicy Chinese dishes in a relaxed setting with an open-air courtyard for steamy sunmer nights. One of Hanoi's most famous food specialsties is cha ca (filleted Fish slices grilled over charcoal), your very own fresh fish barbecue.
Cha Ca La Vong ( tell: 825 3929; 14 Pho Cha Ca; cha ca 70,000d; lunch & dinner), the cha ca capital of the Old Quarter, has been family-run for five generations. It cracks out the condiments, fire up the hot coals and so begins a free cooking lass in the art of cha ca. The succulent fish is all that's on the menu, so it's great for in decisive types. Other places to seek out:
Golden Land Restaurant (tell: 8281056; 15 Pho Cha Ca; meals 20,000-60,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Elegant decor, efficient air-con and a hearty mixed menu add up to a good place.
0ld Hanoi (tell: 824 5251.106 Pho Ma May; meals 25,000-75,000d; lunch & dinner) A sophisticated little eatery with tasty Vietnamese specialities.
CENTRAL HANOI
Restaurant 1,2,3 (tell: 822 9100; 55 Pho Hue; meals 30,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Need a quick fix? This place delivers a range of Vietnamese favourites in double-quick time, The barbecued fish and 'fish porridge' (chao) .are smart selections.
Ourpick Quan An Ngan (tell:942 8 '62, 15 Pho Phan Bos Chau; dishes 30,000-60,000d) Fancy that street food experience, but afraid to lake the plunge? Build your courage with a meal here; it brings street and market food to the middle-class masses. Minikitchens turn out terrific food, including banh cuon (rice paper rolls with minced pork) and chao torn (grilled sugar cane rolled in spiced shrimp paste).
GREATER HANOI
Highway 4 (tell: 212 8998; 575 Pho Kirn Ma, meais 30,000-80,000d;lunch & dinner) Bringing the fabled food of the mountains to lowland Vietnam, this is the latest in a growing family. Specialities include the catfish spring rolls with wasabi dip and the Son La smoked pork Wash it down with its smooth signature Son Tinh rice wine. There's another Highway4 (tell: 976 2647; 5 Pho Mai Hac De; lunch & dinner) that's very popular with the Vietnamese.
Gourmet Vietnamese
OLD QUARTER
Club Opera ( tell: 824 6950; 59 Pho Ly Thai To;mains from US$6; lunch & dinner) Tucked away be -neath the Press Club, the Opera has delectable Vietnamese dining with a refined European atmosphere. The menu changes, but always includes an impressive array of seafood.
Cub 51 LyThai To ( tell: 9363069; 51 Pho LyThai To, meais 50,000-200,000d;lunch & dinner) Set in an elegant old residence, entering Club 51 is like gaining membership to the Groucho, a hidden world of lounge chairs, long drapes and fine food. Drop by for a drink or some fusion flavours
CENTRAL HANOI
Wild Rice (tell: 943 8896; 6 Pho Ngo Thi Nham, mains 40,000-120,000d;lunch & dinner) Deceptively simple from outside, the elegant interior is a fine backdrop for the contemporary Vietnam ese cuisine. Start with a spring roll selection, as there is a unique take on this most traditional of foods.
Emperor (tell: 826 8801,18B Pho Ie Thanh long; mains 50,000-100,000d; lunch & dinner) Lone. considered one of the best Vietnamese restau ranis in town, try to get a table overlooking the lively courtyard. Experience live traditional music (7.30pm to 9.30pm) on Wednesday and Saturday, and good food at any tune.
ourpick Wild Lotus (tell: 943 9342; 5SA Pho Nguyen Du; mains 50,000-150,000d;lunch & dinner) The ultimate designer restaurant, this i,s an art gallery as much as an eatery. The menu includes three spice journeys; set menus that guide you through the highlights of the Vietnam table. The seafood is superb, including scallops and king crab.
Brothers Cafe (tell: 733 3866; 26 Pho Nguyen Thai Hoc; lunch/dinner buffet US$6.50/12) Located in the courlyard of a beautifully restored 250 year-old Buddhist temple, this brings a touch of Zen to the buffet experience. Yes, it's buffet only and the lunch is a snip. For those who like choice, try the wine list as it's extensive. And the style goes on:
Nam Phuong (tell: 824 0926; 19 Pho Phan Chu Trinh; mains from 50,000d; lunch & dinner) A chic place in a charming villa with authentic and delicious Vietnamese food.
Seasons of Hanoi (tell: 843 5444; 95B Pho Quan Thanh; dishes 40,000-100/OOOd; lunch & dinner) This classic French villa is decorated with Vietnamese and colonial-era antiques. The food is equally impressive. There are also some good Vietnamese restau rants at the leading hotels in town. Ba Mien (tell: 933 0624; Hilton Hanoi Opera, 1 Pho Le Thanh Tonq US$12 set lunch; breakfast, lunch & dinner) is causing a stir thanks to its authentic regional cuisinr Spices Garden (tell:826 6919; Sofitel Metropole Hotel, 15 Pho Ngo Quyen; mains around US$7 15; break fast, lunch & dinner) offers a serious spread from around the region.
Other Asian
OLD QUARTER
Baan Thai Restaurant (tell:8281120; 3B Pho Cha Ca; mains 30,000-100,000d; lunch & dinner) An established Thai restaurant with a loyal following among the growing Thai community in Hanoi For anyone that has been in Vietnam long enough to have forgotten their Thai favourites, there is a handy photo-illustrated menu at the door,
Tandoor (tell: 824 5359; 24 Pho Hang Be; mains 40,000-80,000d; lunch & dinner) Right in the thick of things in the Old Quarter, this is a place to spice up your life. Not surprisingly, the tan-doori is tops here, plus there are good value thalis if you feeling indecisive. Halal food.
Saigon Sakura (tell:825 7565; 17 Pho Trang Thi;lunch & dinner) There are lots of Japanese restaurants in Hanoi these days, but this one remains a firm favourite thanks to fresh sash-imi and beautifully presented sushi, Expect to pay around US$15 for a set.
CENTRAL HANOI
Benkay Restaurant (tell: 822 3535; 84 Tran Nhan Tong; set lunches around US$10; lunch & dinner) Talk to Hanoi's resident Japanese, and they’ll tell you that it is hard to beat Benkay for a taste of the motherland. Location is another matter, as it's on the 2nd floor of the sprawl-ing Hotel Nikko.
Van Anh (tell: 928 5163; 5A Pho Tong Duy Tan; meals 30,000-100,000d; lunch & dinner) This was the first non-Vietnamese restaurant to dare to take on the mass of Vietnamese restaurants in speciality food street Pho Cam Chi (p116)i. The taste of Thailand.
International
OLD QUARTER

Cyclo Bar & Restaurant (tell: 828 6844, 38 Pho Duong Thanh; mains from 60,000d; lunch & dinner;No-one ever forgets this place… no, it's not down to the tasty Vietnamese and French food, but the cyclos that have been creatively transformed into tables. The set lunch is a good deal at 80,000d.
Al Fresco's (tell: 826 7782; 231 Pho Hal Ba Trung; meals from 80,000d; lunch & dinner) The original location of tills expanding empire this place has been turning out juicy Tex Mex ribs, fish fajitas and pastas for a decade now. Al Fresco's is also well known for its margaritas, but bewarr as they are seriously strong.
Cafe des Arts (tell: 828 7207; 118 Pho Bao Khanh; mains from US$5;9am late) Part Parisian brasserie, part art gallery, this gastronomic. grill has an impressive menu of French flavours. The steaks are particularly good, but rare really means rare here.
Stop Cafe (tell: 828 7207; 11A Pho Bao Khanh. steaks 60,000d; 9am-fate) The phone number sort of gives it away: this is the place to sample Cafe dcs Arts cuisine at cheaper prices.
La (tell: 928 8933, 49 Pho Ly Quoc Su, mains 135,000-210,000d; lunch & dinner) A loveable little bistro with an inviting menu of international fare. Fresh sea bass, chunky tenderloins and desserts to die for...chocolate espresso brownie tart anyone?
ourpick Green Tangerine (tell: 8251286; Pho Hang Be; mains around USS15;lunch & dinner) A beautifully restored 1928 house is the back drop for this renowned French restaurant. Salmon steak in tamarind sauce and delicate-cuts of duck headline the menu. The wine list is impressive tor those who appreciate a liquid accompaniment to their meal.
La Salsa (tell:828 9052; 25 Pho Nha Tho; meals 25,000-150,000d; 10.30am-midnight) Specialising in paella, slabs of steak and tapas, this bar restaurant has a prime position on the hip strip opposite St Joseph Cathedral.
ourpick Restaurant Bobby Chinn (1 Pho Ba Trieu; mains US$10 20; 10am-late) Owner-chef Bobby Chinn is part Chinese and Egyptian, and draws on his roots to offer the liveliest of menus. It changes monthly, but includes rich tastes and textures. For an aperitif or a coffee, move through the silk drapes to the chill-out cushions at the back where smokers can stoke up a sheesha (water pipe) with fruit-flavoured tobacco.
Restaurant (Press Club; tell: 934 0888; 59A Pho Ly Thai To; mains US$ 15-25; lunch & dinner) The res¬taurant to see and be seen for a business lunch or dinner, it is drawing more tourists who come in search of innovative international flavours. Specials include imported salmon and lamb, plus a smattering of seafood.
Le Beaulieu Restaurant ( tell: 826 6919 ext 8028; Sofitel Metropole Hotel, 15 Pho Ngo Quyen; mains from US$20; breakfast, lunch & dinner) At the refined Sofitel Metropole Hotel, Le Beaulieu is the home of fine French food. This is the place for authentic French cooking, regular regional specialities and a professional wine list,
GREATER HANOI
Vine (tell: 719 8000; 1A Xuan Dieu; mains US$ 10-20; S lunch & dinner) Home of the grape, this res¬taurant, on the shores of Ho Tay, has one of (he best wine lists in the world according to Wine Spectator magazine. Sink a bottle with a rib eye steak with blue cheese and you will sleep well. The Xuan Dieu strip is taking off, with plenty of restaurants and shops in this area,
Italian
OLD QUARTER

Pepperoni's Pizza & Cafe (tell: 928 5246; 29 Pho Ly Quoc Su; mains from 40,000d; lunch & dinner) This is a laudable lunch stop, thanks to the US$2 all-you-can-eat weekday lunchtime pasta and salad bar. It also has authentic pizzas and take away.
Try the busy branch (tell: 928 7030; 31 Pho Bao Khanh) on the popular Bao Khanh strip.
Mediterraneo ( tell: 8266288; 23 Pho Nha Tho;mains USS5-7; lunch& dinner) This small Italian restaurant is in the heart of happening Nha Tho. The pasta sauces are rich and filling, including gorgonzola ravioli, and perfect with a crisp salad.
Pane e Vino (tell: 826 9080; 98 Pho Hang Trong;meafsUS$5-15;lunch & dinner) This trattoria-wine bar is a great place to take a break from com mercial blitz of Hang Trong. Memorable mo-ments include chestnut and almond ravioli, and rice Italian style, such as porcini mush-room with truffle oil.
CENTRAL HANOI
ourpick Luna d'Autunno ( tell: 823 7338; 118 Pho Dien Bien Phu; pizza from 60,000d, fresh pasta from 90,000d) It doesn't get more popular than Luna, one of the best-known and best-loved Italian restaurants in Hanoi. The menu includes a superb selection of homemade antipasto and some of the only fresh pasta in town. Upstairs is the Luna Lounge, a lively drinking den for the after-dinner crowd.
Seafood
Sam Son Seafood Market (tell:825 0780; 77 Pho Doc Bad This huge restaurant doubles up as a giant fish market. On the banks of Song Hong (Red River), this is fish heaven, or fish hell if you happen to be a fish. Survey the scene, choose your Fish and it will be at your table in minutes.
San Ho Restaurant (tell: 934 9184; 58 Pho lyThuong Kiet; meals around 200,000d) Set in an attractive French-era villa, San Ho is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in Hanoi. Crustaceans and molluscs come in every shape and size, bathed in delicious sauces. Most prices are by the kilo.
Vegetarian
Dakshin (tell: 928 6872; 94 Pho Hang Trong; meals 25,000-60,000d) Under the same ownership as Tandoor, Dakshin is all-vegetarian and enjoys legendary status among the curry crew in Hanoi. The menu features speciality southern Indian food, including delicious dosas (paper-thin lentil-flour pancakes).
Whole Earth Restaurant ( tell: 926 0696; 7 Pho Dinh Liet; set menus from 30,000d; 8am-11pm) In the middle of the lively Dinh Liet strip, this is the place to come and be healthy before moving on to the less healthy pursuits in nearby bars. It specialises in mock meat dishes.
Com Chay Nang Tam (tell: 826 6140; 79A Pho Tran Hung Dao; meals from 30,000d) It is a mystery how this place can make simple vegetables and pulses look and even taste like meat. Hardcore vegetarians may find this a contradiction, but it is actually an ancient Buddhist tradition that is designed to make meat-eating guests feel at home. Yes, it really is down that unlikely looking alley behind those buildings. It's smoke free, so it's healthier still.
ourpick Tamarind Cafe ( tell:926 0580; 80 Pho Ma May; meals US$2-4; 6am-midnight) Vegetarian heaven: there are some wonderful creations here blending together Asian and European elements. Impressive shakes and smoothies include some healthy anti-oxidants for the morning after. Free wi-fi too.
Cafes
OLD QUARTER

Cafe Pho Co (tell: 928 8153; 11 Pho Hang Gai; shakes 15,000d) One of Hanoi's best-kept secrets, this old house has a historic courtyard and plum views over Hoan Kiem Lake. Enter through the Feeling Gallery, which sells paintings, and continue up to the top floor for the monu-mental vista.
Moca Cafe ( tell: 825 6334; 14-16 Pho Nha Tho; espresso 20,000d; 7.30am-11pm) One of the most popular cafes in Hanoi, this the perfect spot for people-watching thanks to its huge windows. See which boutiques are in fashion this month by the names on the shopping bags while tucking into excellent Vietnamese, Western and Indian food.
Littie Hanoi 2 (tell: 928 5333; 21 Pho Hang Gai; sandwiches from 25,000d;7.30am-11pm)Unrelated to Little Hanoi 1, this is a likeable little cafe with a tempting selection of baguettes, pas¬tas and salads. On a busy corner near Hoan Kiem Lake, the French breakfast is a steal at around US$2.
Puku (tell: 928 5244; upstairs 60 Pho Hang Trong;snacks 25,000-35,000d; 7am-10pm) A funky little cafe on fashionable Hang Trong, this place has a fun vibe, tasty food and two floors. It also has regular art exhibitions showcasing emerging artists.
ourpick La Place (tel: 928 5859; 4 Pho Au Trieu; meals from 30.000d) Readers have been raving about this place so we checked it out. We're Joining the rave. The menu is small but includes iced shakes with bite and delicious savoury crepes. After dark, it morphs into a cate-bar and drinking is the name of the game.
Diva (tell: 934 4088, 57 Pho Ly Thai To, light meals from 35,000d;7am-midnight) You don't have to be a diva to come here for a leisurely lunch or a sneaky sundowner. Diva is set in a charming French-period villa with a big outdoor terrace.
Cull Cafe (tell: 926 2241; 40 Pho Luong Ngoc Quyen. meals around 50,000d;-7.30am-11 pm) Sangers, pies, burgers and more. this Australian-run care-bar is a popular stop for tasty tucker. There are also pizzas and all-day breakfasts, plus plenty of beer. Good travel information too, as the owners run Wide Eyed Tours, plus free wi-fi.
CENTRAL HANOI
Maison Vanille (tell:, 933 2355; 49 Pho Phan ChuTrinh; cakes 10,000-20,000d) Caffeine addicts suggest that this is home to the best coffee in town. The pastries could in the running too, as they arc almost too beautiful to eat.
Kinh Do Cafe (tell: 825 0216; 252 Pho Hang Bong; light meals 20,000d; 7am-10pm) Fans of Catherine Deneuve will want to make a pilgrimage here, as this was the simple setting where she had her morning cuppa during the making of the film Indochine. It serves healthy yoghurt, plus tasty French pastries and feisty coffee. Le patron speaks French.
Ice Cream
OLD QUARTER

Fanny Ice Cream (tell: 828 5656; 48 Pho Le Thai To; ice creams from 10,000d) The place for French-style ice cream in Hanoi. During the right season try the com, a delightful local flavour extracted from young sticky rice; otherwise taste the ginger for the flavour of Asia.
Kem Trang Tien ( 54 Pho Trang Tien; ice creams from 5000d) There is always a scrum outside this place, as locals struggle to get their hands on the popular ice cream. Located between the Opera House and Hoan Kiem Lake, you'll spot the crowd long before you see the cafe.
Speciality Food Streets
If you would like to combine eating with exploration, most of the following food streets are in central Hanoi.
PHO CAM CHI
A super-small street - more of an alley - Pho Cam Chi is crammed full of lively street stalls turning out cheap and tasty food. Forget about English menus and don't expect comfortable seating. But there's little room for complaint when you get .1 small banquet for a few dollars. Cam Chi translates as 'Forbidden to Point' and dates from centuries ago. It is said that the street was named as a reminder for the local residents to keep their curious lingers in their pockets when the king and his entourage went through the neighbourhood. Cam Chi is about 500m northeast of Hanoi train station.
DUONG THUY KHUE
On the southern bank of Ho Tay, Đ Thuy Khue features dozens of outdoor seafood restaurants. The peaceful lakeside setting i.s popular with locals. The level of competition is evident by the daredevil touts who literally throw themselves in front of oncoming traffic to steer people to their tables. You can eat well here for about 100,000d a head.
PHO NGHE TAM
About 10km north of central Hanoi, Pho Nghi Tam has a 1Ikm-long stretch of about 60 dog-meat restaurants (meals from 75,OOOd). The street runs along the embankment between West Lake and Song Hong (Red River) and the restaurants arc on the right as you leave town: look for the words thit cho. Even if you have no interest in eating dog meat, it's interesting to cruise Ehis stretch of road on the last evening of the lunar month. Hanoians believe that eating dog meat in the first-half of the month brings bad luck, so the restaurants arc deserted. Business picks up in the second-half of the month and the last day is particularly auspicious with the restaurants packed. Now we know why dogs how! at the moon! Cruise by in the evening and you'll see thousands of motorbikes parked here.
Self Catering
OLD QUARTER

Fivimart ( 210 Tran Quang Khai) One of the best stocked supermarkets in the centre of town.
Citimart (Hanoi Towers, 49Hai BaTrung; supermarket with a teasing range of treats for the many expats that live in the skyscraper above.
Intimex (Pho Le Thai Tho) This is another option for any creature comforts you might need. It's on the western side of Hoan Kiem Lake, tucked down a driveway behind ; the Clinique beauty shop.