The beginning of my trip with my mom (Mich) began in Hanoi, Vietnam. Aside from the unusual, cold weather and the bed bugs in the first hostel I stayed at, Hanoi was a great city to visit. Hanoi is a bustling city in Northern Vietnam. Everywhere you look there are different shops, cafes, restaurants, and motorbikes.
One of the first things we did in Hanoi (and my favorite activity in Hanoi) was a food walking tour. We signed up at the last minute for a tour through Hanoi Street Food Tour and it was AMAZING. During our evening tour, we got to try so many foods that we wouldn’t have even known existed otherwise. Most of the places we went to were hole-in-the-wall type places that you might not find without a local guide.
Our tour guide was super cute—her English name is Mango. Mango would tell everyone in the group to stick together like sticky rice as we crossed the motorbike-filled streets of Hanoi. I think her theory behind this was strength in numbers. There are so many cars and motorbikes in Hanoi that you have to be super careful when crossing the road; it is basically like a game of Leap Frog. Not only did Mango bring us to some amazing restaurants, she also gave us some background on the city and pointed out local sights along the way.
Here is a list of all the foods we tried throughout the three-hour tour*:
- Mango Bún Chả: Vermicelli noodles with grilled pork meatballs served over salad, herbs, bean sprouts, and sliced cucumbers (this one was my favorite 🙂 )
- Xâ Xeó: Sticky rice with veggies
- Bánh Cuốn: Rolled rice pancake
- Teã Chanh: Lemon tea (they also call this “student drink” because students are the ones who mainly drink it)
- Variety of Dumplings
- Bánh Gâ: Pillow cake
- Bánh Ngot: Sweet donut
- Nem Cua Bê: Crab spring roll
- Nem Chua Eán: Fermented pork roll
- Bia Hơi: Fresh beer
- Bánh Mì: Vietnamese Sandwich
- Cà Phê Trứng: Egg Coffee (SO delicious)
*I got the names of these from the messy sheet of notes my tour guide made for me, so the spelling may not be 100% accurate.
If you ever find yourself in Hanoi, I would HIGHLY recommend a food walking tour. But, if you don’t have time for a whole tour, I would at least recommend trying some of the foods listed above 🙂
Another favorite part of Hanoi for me was going to see a traditional water puppet show (Múa rối nước). Water puppetry dates back to the 11th century in Vietnam. When the rice paddies would flood, villagers would entertain one another with puppets. Today you can see a traditional water puppet show in small theaters around Hanoi. The puppets are made from wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool of water, with puppeteers controlling the puppets via large bamboo rods behind a hidden screen, making it appear as if the puppets are gliding over the water. During the hour-long performance, you watch a series of different skits that are mainly related to rural Vietnamese life and folklore. There are puppets that look like people, fairies, dragons, lions, fish, etc. As the puppets are dancing through the water, an orchestra plays traditional Vietnamese music off to the side. I wasn’t able to get a good enough video during the performance, but here is a clip from YouTube you can check out.
Finally, an additional activity I enjoyed in Hanoi (and one that I would recommend to any travelers) was a cyclo tour through the Old Quarter. As you can see in the picture below, a cyclo tour is when a man bikes you around in a little cart. My mom and I thought this was a great way to see the busiest part of the city. Since you’re going at a much slower pace in one of these cyclos than if you were in a car, it’s easier to take in everything that’s going on around you.