At home in Hanoi

We’ve been in Hanoi for just over a week now. Renting a small flat through AirBnB and really enjoying having some extra space. Trying to feel at home and explore the city without doing too much sightseeing.

The flat is located perfectly between Hoan Kiem lake, the old town and the French Quarter. The old cathedral is just around the corner surrounded by small restaurants and bars, plus an infinite number of local cafes / beer places. Further into the old town it get a little too unbearably crowdy, due to the traffic.

St Joseph's Cathedral
St Joseph’s Cathedral
In the old town you could even get run over by a shop, whilst trying to get to the shops
In the old town you could even get run over by a shop, whilst trying to get to the shops

We’ve done lots of walking around the city and you see some really eclectic buildings and extensions.

Notice the umbrella that's used as a roof on the outside staircase
Notice the umbrella that’s used as a roof on the outside staircase
Did the blue house just settle on top after a flood?
Did the blue house just settle up top after a flood?

Cong Cafe is our favourite for the cool retro interiors and in particular the yoghurt coffee is irresistible (in spite of neither of us being coffee drinkers normally!). The wifi in the flat is not the best so it’s a good place to check emails.

Nick reading up on Lenin (in Vietnamese) at Cong Cafe
Nick reading up on Lenin (in Vietnamese) at Cong Cafe

Nick trying to find the best wifi signal during a particularly patchy skype call to renew our car insurance at home.

West Lake, a short taxi ride from the centre offers some breathing space.

West Lake with the city in the background
West Lake with the city in the background
Tran Quoc Pagoda, on the lake
Tran Quoc Pagoda, on the lake
A flock of evil-looking swans
What! You looking at me?!

One of the few touristy things we’ve done is to go to the Water Puppet Theatre. The show is cute and we learnt the story of the giant turtles supposedly still living in Lake Hoan Kiem although we’ve seen no sign of them.

Narelle, who works with Dong, our AirBnB landlady took us to her favourite Bia Hoi restaurant. It wasn’t somewhere we would ever have found on our own or that we would have considered. The sizzling beef was delicious and we went back again a few days later.

We chose not to have the steamed dog!
We chose not to have the steamed dog!

We’ve now organised our visa and train tickets to China, leaving on 1 May. We’ve still got time to get to know the city better however so far we still prefer Saigon which seems a lot more complex and to have more style. Hanoi seems to operate on two levels, one aspect has some sophistication and the rest occupies one level which is predominantly local.

The weather is mixed at the moment with some rain and thunderstorms after a couple of really hot days. We are hoping for sunshine next weekend as we are going to Halong Bay for a couple of days…


  1. Kate says:

    What is hanging from the trees in picture 2 or are they part of the trees? What did you eat second time around at same restaurant? Great to see you two on the road. x

    • Hi Kate
      So nice to hear from you. It’s a banyan tree and those ‘strings’ are the roots. I think they normally reach the ground to get water but here they have been cut so you can walk underneath.
      We had the grilled beef with black pepper sauce. It comes out sizzling and many restaurants serve more pork and chicken dishes so we were boring and had the same as the first time. And some really fresh tofu in tomato sauce.
      We just came back from a street food tour which is a very popular thing to do and again we went to places that we wouldn’t have considered before so we’ll go back and check some of those out again…
      Take care and hello to the kiddies
      Malene and Nick

  2. Sandra says:

    Goooooood morning vietnaaaaaaam! (Sorry just couldn’t resist! ) – wonderful diary and photos which allow us poor souls … To enjoy your trip with you!… Thank you for your commitment in sharing comments and pictures. So very impressed! Please have a few nems, phos, and spring rolls for me pleeeeease! Loooove Vietnamese food! As for the steamed dog? Oh god, I fell off my chair when I read the menu! Well at least they warned you… Hopefully China follows the same disclosure rule!!!!! Big hugs to you both from London! X sandra

    • Hi Sandra
      Great to hear from you again. Took a photo of spring rolls especially for you that we will post in the next blog soon. A portion of really yummy spring rolls (2) is 33 pence or 27 pence for portion of pillow cakes. Mind you that’s sitting on tiny plastic chairs in a little street side restaurant. If you want proper chairs & table you pay more ;-).
      Big kiss
      Malene and Nick

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