The Lazy Foodie’s Guide to 24 Hours in Hanoi
If you believe that travelling is more about experiencing a place rather than the number of attractions you can visit, this brief guide to Hanoi is for you. Personally, as a self-identified lazy person who loves food, I think you learn more about a place by trying the local cuisine and seeing a few sights along the way. Here are my tips on how to spend 24 hours in the vibrant and lovely capital of Vietnam.
Have you already read thousands of guides about the famous Vietnamese egg coffee and you can’t make up your mind? You should definitely try that of Giảng Cafe. You might not notice the place from the outside, as it is hidden behind a tiny alley, but once you find it, you will dive into a timeless space where you can enjoy a hot or cold egg coffee. Egg coffee is a simple Vietnamese coffee (which has become renowned worldwide) topped with a egg yolk-sugar-condensed milk mixture. It is quite heavy but really delicious!
Now that your belly is satisfied, head over to the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, where Uncle Ho’s embalmed body is kept. I know, if you are reading this, you are not really into museums and perhaps neither dead bodies, but this deserves a visit. Besides, it’s totally free. Since it closes quite early, check the closing time online before you go. Generally, from April to October visitors are allowed to enter the premises of the Mausoleum – after a deep and thorough check – until 10:30 am, while from November to March, it is open until 11:00 am. It won’t take long from the centre if you decide to walk, otherwise, you can always grab a moto taxi.
Congratulations, now that you have also done a cultural activity, you deserve to treat yourself to another national dish. Bành Mi is the most delicious sandwich you will ever taste. Walk back to the old quarter to Bành Mi 25. I highly recommend trying the classic one with pork and pâté and the honey glazed grilled chicken and avocado, which I loved! Just as a piece of history, Vietnam was under French rule for many years and oftentimes Vietnamese people were forbidden from eating and changing French dishes. Once the French regime was over, the Vietnamese started adapting French dishes by including Vietnamese ingredients. This is how the Bành Mi was created and it is now an emblem of freedom and independence.
24 Hours in Hanoi: Afternoon
Starting to feel tired? The afternoon is a good time to take it easy. I suggest you go for a pleasant walk along the Hoàn Kiếm Lake, sit in a cosy spot and relax doing some people watching before moving to another amazing Hanoi nook.
Carry on moving towards the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s impressive to see such a “western” building in the middle of Hanoi. Nearby is the communist propaganda poster shop which is THE place to get some art for your home. Continue your easy-going afternoon with some shopping. My best suggestions are: Boutique Phúc Thành for some cool silk outfits (if my finances would have allowed, I would have bought the entire store!); small, medium and large lanterns; and of course, Vietnamese coffee! End your shopping tour with a visit to Train Street. It’s amusing how tiny the street is and how close the trains that go to Sapa are to people’s houses.
The sun is now starting to set. Conclude your afternoon by going to Café Pho Co to enjoy a cold drink while looking at the view.
After your absolutely exhausting day, I suggest you try the last few dishes you haven’t yet. Starting from Café Pho Co head to Bánh Cuốn Nóng – generally I have noticed that places are named after what is being sold in that particular shop – where you will find a little old lady cooking these sort of rice crepes on a silk pan and filling them with pork and mushroom as well as other, less typical fillings. Interesting fact: that lady lives above the shop where she cooks, similar to many other sellers. The place is not the cleanest or most beautiful but these crepes definitely deserve your attention, as they quickly became my absolute favourite!
Next, go get some dessert, green sticky rice ice cream from Kem Xoy. This delicious sweet course comprises a base of sticky rice topped with coconut ice cream and fried coconut flakes. This is probably not the lightest way to end your day but it is surely the happiest!
After having eaten your way through Hanoi, visited one cultural attraction and walked throughout the city, feel proud! You can roll back to your homestay/hotel and you will definitely enjoy good night’s sleep with a full belly.
I hope you enjoy your lazy day in Hanoi as much as I did!
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