Recommended Places and Food in Hanoi By Local

As a city lying on the fertile field of Hong River, Hanoi keeps a-thousand-year cultural history of Vietnam and withholds unique attractive East Asian cultural values. Many valuable historic remnants were left in Hanoi since the year 1010 when King Ly Cong Uan moved Vietnam’s capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh province) to Thang Long (Hanoi’s former name). 

In this article, I will recommend you some must-visit destinations and must-eat food in Hanoi that should be in your bucket list when travelling to Hanoi. 

I – Best Season To Visit Hanoi:

There are four seasons in Hanoi,mostly humid and hot with a lot of rain. In the summer, it is quite hot and rainy, but cold and dry in the winter. The spring and autumn, with comfortable weather, play the role as a transiting season and enrich climate diversity for the city. Every season of Hanoi is glamorous and worth exploring.

For instance, if you visit Hanoi in the spring from January to March, you will experience the exciting atmosphere of traditional Tet festival (Lunar New Year) in the light rainy weather with blossomed peach flowers coloring all streets with red and pink. As for romantic people, please come to Hanoi in July and September and you will be amazed by the leave-changing mosaic beauty of such streets as Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu, Kim Ma, etc.

Phan Dinh Phung street. (Photo: hanoihotels.info)

II – Must-visit Destinations in Hanoi:

Here, I will skip some popular destinations like Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, etc.

1/ Imperial Citadel of Thang Long:

In 2010, it was 1000 years since the day King Ly Cong Uan moved the capital to Hanoi, Thang Long royal castle was recognized by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee as the World Cultural Heritage. Although Thang Long Citadel was torn down throughout history, fortunately its main entrance to the Forbidden City (‘Cấm Thành’) – Doan Mon Gate is still remained. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is one of the regrettable things of Hanoi people, and Vietnamese people as general. If it was still in its complete shape, it would be comparable to the Forbidden City of China (‘Tử Cấm Thành’.)

  • Address: Quan Thanh District, Ba Dinh, Hanoi.
  • Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00 every day except Monday.
  • Entrance ticket: 30.000 VNĐ ($1.32) (for students is 15.000 VNĐ ($0.64).
  • Public transportation: Bus number 22, 33, 45, 50.
Photo: TourHanoi

2/ St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church:

Catholics is the second biggest religion in Vietnam after Buddhism. From the sixteenth century, the European missionaries began to introduce Catholics to Vietnam. Over 5 centuries, Catholics became familiar with a large Vietnamese community. The religious values also left for Hanoi some beautiful architectures carrying uniqueness of European Gothic architecture, namely St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church, Ham Long Church, Cua Bac Church, Phung Khoang Church, An Thai Church, Thinh Liet Church, and Ha Dong Church. Out of those, St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church is the most famous one.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church was built in 1884 and consecrated on Christmas day in 1887. It is one of the first western architectures that were reconstructed in Hanoi. Its original name was Saint Joseph because Pope Innocentinus XI wanted to honour Saint Joseph as a saint protecting Vietnam and neighbouring countries. However, people usually call it ‘Nhà thờ Lớn’ (the Big Church.) It was also a cathedral of the Hanoi archdiocese.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church. (Photo: timeoutvietnam)

One interesting point to attracting tourists to St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church, which also has led to unique trademark of Hanoi people, is ‘Trà chanh nhà thờ’ (Church’s Lemon tea.) This area has become a familiar place of young Hanoians. With a cup of iced tea, sitting opposite to the church, visitors can feel relaxed enjoying the whole view of the church in ‘one of a kind’ area of the capital. In addition, there are famous night street food nearby, including cheese sticks, roasted fermented pork roll.

  • Location: Nha Trung street, about 5 minutes of walking away from Hoan Kiem Lake.
  • Small tip: Visitors can choose visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, and rent a cyclo, which is always available on two side of pedestrian zones, to go to the Big Church.

3/ Temple of Literature:

In Hanoi, there is a place considered as the soul of Hanoi, the heart and symbol in the mind of Hanoi people. That is the first university of Vietnam – The Temple of Literature. Built in 1070 (King Ly Thanh Tong,) it was originally the school for princes and the place to worship Confucius scholars and sages, namely Khong Tu (Confucius), and Chu Van An.

The architecture of the Temple of Literature is unique with Confucius style. The most outstanding of the whole relic site is 83 Stelae of Doctors on turtles (only 1 stelae has only turtle). Those stelae were carved the names of the doctors who had passed the exams in Han language. According to archaeologists, the oldest stelae was constructed in 1484, and the newest in 1784. Those stelaes did not only have historical value, but also philosophical, architectural, and art values.

>>>We have a full article about the Temple of Literature, please click here.

Stelae of Doctors on turtles. (Photo: dkn.tv)

The relic site of the Temple of Literature was placed 23th on the list of National Monuments in Vietnam. If you have a chance to visit Hanoi, should not miss this place.

  • Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam street, Dong Da District, Hanoi City.
  • Opening hours: 
    Monday – Friday: From 7:30 – 18:00 (I checked it from Mon- Fri not Thurs)
    Saturday – Sunday: From 8:00 –  21:00.
  • Entrance ticket: 30.000 VND/1 time ($1.32), 50% off for the disabled, students, the elder from 60 years old to above.
  • Public transportation: bus number 2, 23, 38, 41.

***From Hanoi, it is easy to visit other provinces like Sapa, Moc Chau, Cao Bang, etc.

II – Must-Eat Food in Hanoi:

Hanoi is not only famous for interesting places, but also for various cuisines which have all the quintessence of Hanoians. Let’s move on those already popular dishes, which had been introduced from the past Vietnam Track’s articles such as pho, bun cha, bun thang, cha ca La Vong, bun dau mam tom, banh tom Ho Tay, etc. Here, I will recommend you some other delicious dishes that you must try in Hanoi:

1/ Bún ốc (snail vermicelli soup)

Bun oc is easy to find because of its popularity; from street booth to restaurants, they all serve it.  The main ingredient is vermicelli noodles and snails, which have been cleaned. A bowl of bun oc is always colorful with distilled tomato and yellow banana. The taste is a perfect combination between soup with a little bit of greasiness, sour, and smell of vinegar. With thin slice of banana flowers and vegetables, the bowl becomes full of different flavors.

Bún ốc. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

Recommended restaurants:

Ms. Beo at Hoe Nhai street,

Ms. Luong at Khuong Thuong street, 530 Thuy Khue,

Tinh Que restaurant at Cao Dat street,

Inside Dong Xuan market,

Around Tay Ho (West Lake).

2/ Banh cuon (Rolled rice crepes)

Banh cuon is made from rice flour through the skillful hands of the cooks to create a very thin and soft layer. Banh cuon has different types to keep up with the various tastes of people such as Banh cuon without filling, banh cuon filled with wood ear mushroom, banh cuon filled with egg, or shrimp, salted shredded meat, roasted cinnamon pork, etc.

However, the only thing to make banh cuon delicious is sour and spicy fish sauce, which is the cook’s secret. Using chopsticks to dip a piece of banh cuon in the sauce then put it straight into your mouth will give you an unforgettable experience.

Bánh cuốn. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

Recommended restaurants:

Banh cuon Phuong, 68 Hang Cot (Hanoi),

Banh cuon Ms. Thoa at Ham Tu Quan street,

banh cuon Thanh Van at Hang Ga street.

3/ Pho cuon (rice noodle rolls)

If you already felt familiar with the pho with broth, then pho cuon (rice noodle rolls) will be an interesting thing for you to try when visiting Hanoi. It is different from pho with broth, but rather similar with banh cuon (rolled rice crepes). However, the flour is tougher and thicker. Inside the roll is fried beef, egg, vegetable; and it is served with sweet and sour fish sauce. The most delicious pho cuon is at Ngu Xa village, near Truc Bach lake; it is also the original place of the dish.

Phở cuốn.(Photo: chiecthiavang.com)

Recommended restaurant: Hung Ben restaurant at 33 Ngu Xa, Hanoi.

>>>For drinking beer, here is a good place to check out.

>>>Hanoi has a very special tea, click here to discover.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translator: Diem Nguyen.

The Art of Marinating Lotus Tea at the West Lake

 

If the land of East Asia is famous for tea ceremony around the world, there is also a tea art no less quintessential and longevity  in Hanoi, Vietnam: the art of marinating lotus tea at Tay Ho Lake (aka Ho Tay, literally The West Lake) in the northwest of centre Hanoi. Compared with Hoan Kiem Lake – the symbol of the thousand-year-old culture of Ha Thanh  (another name of Hanoi,) Ho Tay is much larger with an area of over 500ha, perimeter of 18km.

Lotus Blossom Season On The West Lake

The lotuses growing on the West Lake are pretty big and beautiful. Some say that Ho Tay Lake already has a hundred types of petal lotus, some of which are rare types. Ho Tay lotuses have many stacked petals and yellow stamens; pink petals are not too dark, but not too pale.  The petals open brilliantly big over the lotus blossom season from June to the end of August every year. This is also the only season for artisans to make lotus tea.

West Lake ‘s lotuses. (Photo: vietravel.com)

Therefore, if you have a chance to visit Hanoi on this occasion, don’t miss that opportunity to enjoy a cup of tea with typical essence of Ha Thanh. Tay Ho’s marinated tea is an art form because this tea requires the artisans to be meticulous and patient in each step. That is why this kind of tea was only for the noble long time ago.

The Meticulousness of Making  Lotus Tea

In the early morning, when the sun has not risen, the tea maker silently rows a small boat to the middle of the lotus pond. The lotus aroma is still intense and not scattered in the early-morning mist. Lotus buds and leaves are covered with sparkling droplets like girl’s tears. The tea connoisseurs catch that kind of fog to use as water to make the original Tay Ho tea.

Picking up lotuses in the morning. [Photo: tuoitre.vn)
Selecting qualified lotus buds on the lagoon carefully, tea makers use the well-dried buds to slightly separate the pink petals; then drop small portions of tea into the lotus bud; after that, let them stay there all night for the tea buds to be flavored with the essence of the heaven and earth. In the next morning, the lotuses that pouch tea are carefully picked. The way to marinate tea directly on the lake is called live marination (uop song).

In addition, the artisans making lotus tea also use the method of marinating the already-picked lotus flowers. This method is very picky as well. The lotus buds, were picked early in the morning, must have slightly open petals as they are smiling. From 1000 to 1400 lotus buds, after marinated, are reduced to only 1 kilogram (2 pounds) of precious tea. After the lotus flowers are picked, their petals are carefully separated by the artisans. Inside it reveals lotus stigmas and anthers.

Marinating lotuses. [Photo: baomoi)
There are tiny milky white particles on the anthers of Tay Ho lotus. Tea artisans call this lotus rice (gao sen,) which lies among the yellow lotus anthers. In spite of being tiny, they contain the fragrance of the Ho Tay Lake. Therefore, only lotus rice is used to marinate lotus tea. To filter between lotus rice and lotus anthers, the artisans carefully separate the lotus rice into the baskets, then sieve them to remove the remaining lotus anthers. The lotus rice is spread evenly over the tea and marinated for 5-7 times to produce 1kg of Tay Ho tea.

Marinating tea in a lotus. (Photo: songmoi.vn)

Conclusion

Rare and precious Tay Ho Tea has spent years of historic events along with the historic Thang Long land (the old name of Hanoi capital). Not everyone living in Hanoi for many years gets a chance to enjoy a real cup of Tay Ho tea. However, if you have ever tried it, that strong and gentle aroma will surely be an unforgettable experience in life.

Writer: Linh Dang

Translator: Nhu Tran

All Things You Need To Know About Cao Bang

Today, Vietnam Track Team will introduce you a well-known attractive travel destination – a place far away from hustle metropolitan area. This destination is called ‘Cao Bang’.

1/ Where is Cao Bang?

Located in the Northeast of Vietnam, Cao Bang Province shares a more than 333 kilometer border with Guangxi (China.) Its natural land area is almost 6700 square km – mostly occupied by forests (90%) and endlessly extended mountains. Because of this feature, the climate in Cao Bang is mild and breezing cool.    

Photo: Wikipedia

2/ How to get to Cao Bang:

Cao Bang is 240 km away from Hanoi, and you can get there by car or motorbike.

2.1/By car:

You can follow the belt road 3 (vành đai 3,) go across the Thanh Tri Bridge, and head to Ha Noi –Thai Nguyen Highway. Upon arrival in Thai Nguyen City, you need to follow the National Highway 3 for 50km to reach Bac Kan Province and then for another 120km, you will set foot in Cao Bang territory.

2.2/By motorbike:

As for those who like backpacking or couchsurfing, going to Cao Bang by motorbike to explore beautiful sights is a perfect choice. From Hanoi city center, you should go straight to Nhat Tan Bridge and then follow National Highway 3, which will lead you to Cao Bang province territory.

One advice for foreign tourists: although the road to Cao Bang is not so hard to track, you should be accompanied by experienced Vietnamese-native backpackers/couch-surfers because there are dangerous mountain passes, which are full of heavy-loaded trucks.

3/ Beautiful scenes in Cao Bang:

3.1/ Ban Gioc Waterfall:

Ban Gioc Waterfall lies on the Vietnam – China border in Dam Thuy Commune, Trung Khanh District which is 84-88 km away from Cao Bang city center and 25 km northeast away from the center of Trung Khanh District. The 30-metre high waterfall is one of the most imposing ones in Vietnam. To capture its best moments, you had better visit it in August or September because of the rainy season.

On arrival in Cao Bang City, you have two options to reach Ban Gioc Waterfall. First, hire a motorbike and drive to the destination by yourself. Or hire a local motorbike taxi to drive you there. It’s advisable for foreign tourists to choose the second way because the road to Ban Gioc Waterfall is quite dangerous. 

Ban Gioc Waterfall. (Photo: luonggiatravel.com)

From faraway, you are able to see regal white water pillars and hear the thudding water hitting multiple limestone stairs. Especially, in the middle of the waterfall, there is a wide stone block dividing the waterfalling line into three smaller streams. On sunny days, the steam risen from water bubbling at the end of waterfall creates magical glittering rainbow.

Services there are not fully completed yet. So it is advisable to bring food, water and other personal stuffs by yourself. There are a few motels and restaurants at Ban Gioc, but reservations are needed. Entrance ticket fee is VND 20,000/person (approx. USD $1.)

The famous cuisines you should taste are grilled chicken, sour pho, cóng phù (similar to Chinese stuffed sticky rice balls), xôi trám (canarium steam sticky rice balls) and Chongqing nuts.    

Cao Bang ‘s cusine: Xôi trám. (Photo: baomoi)
3.2/ Nguom Gao Cave:

The second famous travel destination which Vietnam Track would like to introduce is Nguom Ngao Cave. Located 3km away from the Ban Gioc Waterfall, the cave was first discovered in 1921, but not until 1996 did it become a travel destination. According to local natives, the name of Nguom Ngao originally came from the fact that there were ferocious tigers living there a long time ago and they often sneaked into nearby villages to eat the cattle.

Nguom Ngao cave. ( Photo: atlatvietnam.besaba.com)

The total length of the cave is 2144 meters with 3 main entrances: Nguom Ngao, Nguom Lom and Ban Thuon. The Nguom Ngao entrance is a few hundred stairs from the bottom of the mountain while the Nguom Lom entrance stays hidden under stone blocks of the bottom as well and the Ban Thuon entrance is behind the mountain. When entering the cave, you will be amazed by the nature’s construction printed on the limestones in various shapes. 

We hope that the information given is helpful for your trip to Cao Bang. Please share with us your own experience when visiting our country!

If you have any problem travelling in Vietnam, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more assistance. We will be thrilled to help.

Writer: Linh Dang

Translator: Diem Nguyen

Vietnamese School Snacks

You may have known, and even tasted some popular Vietnamese cuisines like Pho, Banh Xeo, Bun Cha, Hu tieu, etc. These food usually appear in the daily lives of every Vietnamese. But how about Vietnamese school snacks, are there any uniqueness compared with other countries? I bet there are. If you do not believe me, please explore with me the world of school snacks in Vietnam! You may be amazed by the diverse Vietnamese cuisines.

The difference in regional culture and climate will create different snacks for each region in Vietnam. However, the common points of these snacks are the convenience, deliciousness, and more importantly, low price. Below is the list of five most popular snacks among Vietnamese students for many years.

  1. Mixture Rice Paper (Bánh Tráng Trộn)

    Mixture Rice Paper. (Photo: jamja.vn)

This is one of the most popular snacks in Vietnam, especially in Southern region. Until recent years, this snack has found its way to Hanoi and quickly gain popularity among young Hanoians.

As the name implies, mixture rice paper includes rice paper as the main ingredient, mixed with mango threads, dried beef threads, dried small shrimps, dried onion, quail eggs, lemon/ kumquat juice, soy sauce, and chilly sauce. These ingredients make the snack have the mixture of different tastes like salty, spicy, sweet and sour.

  1. Fruits with Chilly Salt (Hoa Quả Muối Ớt)

Mango with chilly salt. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

This food is far more popular among girl students and can completely be made by themselves with easy recipe. As a country with tropical humid climate, Vietnam has various types of fruits. But only sour fruits, crunchy and not too sweet, become a target of Vietnamese girl students. The most commonly chosen fruits are green mango, guava, etc. Green mangoes are hard but easily sliced  to pieces, and then mixed together with the chilli salt (or ‘Muối Ớt’ in Vietnamese.) This cuisine is easy to prepare in just a few minutes, but its attractiveness is irresistible.

  1. Fried Fish Balls/ Meatballs (Cá Bò Viên Chiên)

Sticks of fried fish balls and meatballs are popular snacks after school. After consumers order, the sellers will put fish balls/meatballs sticks into an oil pan and cook them for some minutes. After well cooked, added with chili sauce (tương ớt) and hoisin sauce (tương đen,) hot sticks of fish balls and meatballs are ready to be enjoyed. Imagine when the weather is cold, groups of students standing around the sellers, waiting for their orders, trembling when each cold breeze flies by while chatting joyfully with each other. It is Vietnam. Interesting, right?

  1. Bean Curd with Coconut Milk

Bean Curd with Coconut Milk. (Photo: Lozi.vn)

This cuisine is favored in both winter and summer. Made from soybeans, the taste of bean curd is cool and sweet, softer and smoother than normal tofu. An bowl of iced bean curd in summer and a hot one in winter, accompanied with coconut milk and bubbles would make your stomach satisfied.

  1. Melon/Pumpkin Seeds (Hạt Dưa, Hạt Bí)

You may notice the appearance of these seeds in many Vietnamese households during Lunar New Year. Melon seeds and pumpkin seeds are usually placed on a plate and served during talk with guests. As its outer is a hard shell, ones must use their teeth flexibly to extract the inner part of the seed. Truthfully, the popping sound of cracked shells becomes the engine of New Year conversations. And when every Lunar New Year passes, melon and pumpkin seeds are indispensable snacks at class. The seeds then become the engine of the chitchat among students.

Hopefully this article brings you more interesting and useful information about an unique feature of food culture in Vietnam. How about you? How are school snacks in your country? Please share with Vietnam Track.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translators: Diem Nguyen, Nhat Nguyen.

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration

 

Buddhism is one of the most influential religions in Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Japanese, Taiwan and also Vietnam. It has a great influence on the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese. Tourists in Vietnam will be extremely amazed by the number of temples, pagodas, shrines, etc. throughout the country, even in big metropolitan areas, where tourists can also easily spot decades- or centuries- ancient temples alongside 21st century’s modern buildings.

Thiên Mụ pagoda. (Photo: chuanoitieng.com)

Although the era of technology and global integration is developing at a rapid pace, Vietnamese Buddhists ( or ‘phật tử’ in Vietnamese) still retain their traditional religious values. One of three most important and sacred Buddhism’s ceremonies is the Buddha’s Birthday Celebration held on April 15th (also called Mid-April day) in the lunar calendar. On this day, Buddhists have a vegetarian diet, honour ‘tam bảo’ (three precious treasures) and uphold ‘ngũ giới’ (five rules.)

Tam bảo

Tam bảo’ is a Sino-Vietnamese word. ‘Tam’ means three, ‘bảo’ means precious treasure. Therefore, ‘Tam bảo’ is three precious treasures of Buddhism, including Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Buddha is the first treasure. The true figure in human history – Prince Shakyamuni, the son of King Śuddhodana in nowadays Nepal, was the first person to enlighten and teach Dharma. In other words, Buddha found the truth and method of meditating towards liberation to abolish human sufferings in life.

Buddha (Photo: thefamouspeople.com)

Another treasure is Dharma. Dharma is the method of meditating and the truth of enlightenment taught by the Buddha. To attain enlightenment and liberation as the Buddha, Dharma is the only way the Buddhists can follow.

Sangha is the last treasure. This term refers to those who spend their lives dedicated to Buddhism, following Buddha’s footsteps, and practising Dharma. The monks while practising it are always trying to exemplify and teach the righteous deeds of the Buddha to other new religious converters, with the positive desire for a better and less suffering life.

Sangha. (Photo: What – buddha – said.net)

Ngũ giới

‘Ngũ giới’ is five rules for the Buddhists to comply to achieve highest liberation. If all of them are conducted, human’s society will be full of happiness.  Here are the five rules:
1. Stay away from killing: Do no harm people or animals, no matter how weak or strong they are.  When a Buddhist sees somebody doing a harmful act against his/her own kind or other animal species, s/he should stop them.
2. Stay away from theft: Do not commit greedy acts. Do not steal or damage properties, money, food, etc. that belong to someone else or the society.
3. Stay away from sexual misconducts: Do not seduce or force others to satisfy your sexual desires against their wills. Do not manipulate others to commit adultery, and one must stop these acts upon observing the bad conduct is taking place.

4. Stay away from fraud: Do not lie or make up things, because lying with bad intentions creates harmful consequences to other people.
5. Stay away from alcohol and intoxicants: Buddhism believes that drunk people will lose their sanity and wisdom, and they also would be unable to control their behaviors. Consequently, people will easily break four above stated rules and in the end, they will meet their bad karma.

Buddha and Sangha. (Photo:daibaothapmandalataythien.org)

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration in Vietnam.

Because of the importance of the Buddha’s Birthday in the spiritual beliefs of the Buddhists, its celebration is held very solemnly on a large scale in many Buddhism-worshipped countries. On this day, millions of Buddhists in Vietnam will perform rituals such as parades, ceremonies, dropping flower pots to the river, and organizing Buddhism teaching sessions. In addition, the Buddhists erect grand stations and decorate flower carriages to give pagodas.

One of the most important rituals is the “Bathing the Buddha” ritual, which is a watering ceremony on the newborn Buddha statue. The meaning of this ritual is  to eradicate negativity and enhance purity of each Buddhist.

Bathing the Buddha (Photo: daibaothapmandalataythien.org)

Moreover, Buddhists can become volunteers at pagodas by helping with some chores, charity work, cleaning and decorating Buddha altars, and then they can enjoy vegetarian meals together.

Vegeterian meal. (Photo: media.cooky.vn)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any problem travelling in Vietnam, whether it’s food problem or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more assistance. We will be thrilled to help.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translators: Diem Nguyen, Nhat Nguyen.