I gaurantee that you won't have heard of any of these places.
I gaurantee that you won't have heard of any of these places.
After living in Hanoi for 1 year, I felt like I should probably make a few posts listing the “Best Of” for everything in Hanoi. But then I realized that, if I’m honest, I don’t know what the best of everything is. And then I realized that nobody does. It’s a city of 8 million people! In a city this size, anybody who claims to know beyond the shadow of a doubt the best or worst anything is full of it. The truth is that, aside from some street smarts you pick up after spending significant time in a place, you can't really know.
However, after living here for a year, I saw and experienced a lot. I developed a routine. I was a 'regular' at a few places around town. And I will share them with you now. I can’t promise you that they are the best anything in Hanoi, but I can promise you that there will be good food, and good people. And I can further promise you that it will all be REAL.
And besides, do you really want to have the “best” this or that in a new place?
Boston people, can we admit that Mike’s Pastries isn’t actually that great and that we never go there except when we have family in town?
Personally, I’d prefer to catch a glimpse of what life in a place is really like, and that generally doesn’t happen when you take the suggestions of the guidebook as the word of God. Do you know why? Because every other n00b on the plane with you is reading the same goddamn guidebook.
What you want is inside information from a real person—somebody who lives there. And for Hanoi, any local will tell you that half the fun of living here is exploring and finding your own places.
Well, lucky for you, I’m a real person who really did spend upwards of a year living in Hanoi. What follows are a few recommendations. I’ll attach links to the websites or social media accounts if there is any official web presence. Don’t be put off if there is no website though. It still exists.
There isn't any other kind in Vietnam!
There isn't any other kind in Vietnam!
It’s not just authentic—it’s cheap! These are small, hole-in-the-wall places that I have become a regular at. There is no website for any of them. There is not even a name for most of them. It’s just a place you have to know. There will be no English spoken at these places, but most of them only serve one dish so it’s not difficult to get yourself served without any Vietnamese. You will notice that (almost) all of them are in Ba Dinh District – that is where I live(d), so these are the ‘neighborhood’ places. Most locals should agree that the following list is some of the best that Hanoi has to offer. Enjoy!
Address: 264 Doi Can Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Hours: 5pm – 9:30pm (ish)
Fried Rice is ol' reliable for the picky foreigner. I've been guilty of being that foreigner once or twice, so this place was something of a regular here. Fried rice might sound boring, but rest assured that there's a lot more that goes into these dishes than just rice. This spot is particularly great, not only because of the mix of veggies and beef in their thịt bò cơm chiên, but also because of a very special spicy sauce that they serve. Most rice places in Hanoi serve weird Sriracha knock-offs, but this sauce is very different from that. It's hard to explain. You'll just have to try it.
To be clear, this spot is a hole-in-the-wall, as are many of the best restaurants in Hanoi. The level of English is not high in Hanoi, particularly in places like these, but the woman who runs this place randomly speaks great English. That is a true rarity in Vietnam, and a huge bonus for a westerner like me.
Address: 25 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
Hours: All night, every night
The previous fried rice place shuts down around 9:30, with the rest of Hanoi. Northern Vietnam is a very traditional place, and Hanoi's businesses are subject to a strict 11pm curfew. For this reason, places that are open all night are rare in Hanoi. After curfew, there are slim pickin’s. But this place stays open all night long.
This listing is title "fried rice place," but that's not entirely accurate. This place serves a pretty big menu. And the food is good! The pho takes the bronze prize for me. Despite being located in the heart of Tay Ho, Hanoi's expat neighborhood, the folks that run this place don’t speak much English. They are used to dealing foreigners though, and are usually easy to communicate with.
Address: So 2 Kim Ma Thuong, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Hours: 10:30am-1:30pm & 6pm-9pm
I was having a hard time coming up with accurate, concise names for the various types of restaurants on this list. "Rice buffet" is what I came up with for this one. Here, you'll be served your choice of foods to go with a side of white rice. The buffet includes a huge variety of vegetables and meats, which have been prepared in ways that you might not be familiar with. It's good though!
You should know that only one batch of food is made for each meal. So if you want to get lunch, it's better to show up closer to 11 than 1. If you get here late, you'll be eating the scraps. There is zero English spoken here. However, despite being a complete outsider, I was treated with respect by the owners of this establishment. When some rude Vietnamese asshole would ditch me in line during the lunch rush (and I was too tired to do anything about it), the woman would go out of her way to make sure that she served me before him. During my time in Hanoi, I never presumed to be deserving of gestures like this, but I certainly appreciated them.
Address: Ngo 294 Doi Can, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Hours: 7pm to 10pm (ish)
This is one of my regular street food places. And when I say "street food," I mean that this is literally a cart. But it's a cart that is set up in the same spot every night. This spot is a small lot between 294 and 306 Doi Can street. The lot sits at a large opening to an alley called Ngo 294 (Doi Can). The lot turns into a small market place at night. The first booth on your right when you enter the alley is run by a middle-aged (bordering on old) Vietnamese woman who will probably be sitting in a plastic chair. There is a wooden bench in front and there are usually lots of people sitting around. It might not seem sanitary but I’ve never had any issues.
She’ll make you a Banh Mi (a sandwich) or little container of rice with all the trimmings. Personally I like to get the sweet sausage, paté and ruôc (Vietnamese hair-thin pork jerky). I don't know if that sounds good or not, but trust me, it's good. I'm a classically picky eater, and I ate here a few times per week. You can get this food in a small Styrofoam package 'to-go.' Oh, and this woman doesn’t speak English.
Address: Intersection between Ngu Xa and Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Hours: Lunch – 10pm (ish)
There is no address for this one; it’s an intersection. This intersection has a few restaurants and they all serve the same thing: pho cuon a.k.a fried pho. It will be pretty obvious when you get there. People will be working very hard to get you to chose their restaurant over the one right next to it. It's obnoxious, but don’t worry about choosing the wrong one. Once you’re there, you can’t go wrong.
All of these restaurants are known in Hanoi for specializing in this one dish. It's sort of a foodie hotspot, but an obscure one. I don't often see this listed in tourist guides of Hanoi. None of the people working in these restaurants speak much English—it remains as authentic today as ever! This next place, however, has a bit more draw.
Address: Ly Van Phuc Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi A.K.A. Chicken Street
Hours: Lunch – 11pm (ish)
Chicken Street might be the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know why. It just is. When you arrive, you'll have your choice of pretty much every imaginable part of a chicken. There are a surprising amount of options, and it can be the cause of some indecision. Well, I can help you there. Make sure that you order the chicken leg. It is by far the best thing there. Again, I don’t know why. It just is. Get some honey bread on the side, order a few beers, and enjoy!
Notice that this entry says Chicken STREET. Yes, this is an entire street, where every establishment serves the same thing: chicken. Everybody in Hanoi has “their place” on this street that they go to, but after having multiple people bring me to “their place,” I never tasted a huge difference. Also, be forewarned that they don’t speak English.
From burgers to sushi.
From burgers to sushi.
Food in Hanoi breaks down into 2 categories: Vietnamese food and Western food. Pretty much everything in Hanoi breaks into those 2 categories actually (for my purposes). However, I ended up not being able to use “Western Food” as the title here though because this list includes a Japanese restaurant. Non-Vietnamese food is universally more expensive, but it is still cheap by Western standards. These are my favorite places that serve non-Vietnamese food. Most of these places have people on staff that can speak English in this category… but not all of them.
Address: 95 Giang Van Minh, Doi Can, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Eté is as much a bar as it is a restaurant, but the food is so amazing that I decided to list it here as a restaurant. The Eté Burger is perhaps the best thing on the menu. Eté is famous for it, but the Croque Madame is popular amongst French expats living in Hanoi, so that should give it some 'street cred.' However, I'd advise you to steer clear of the tapas though; they are puny.
As we've discussed, Hanoi has a curfew for businesses, but in spite of that, Eté will stay open pretty late. However, they are required to close their doors and windows at 11pm. From this point on, Eté does its best to keep a low profile. The music is turned down and people continue about their business at a low volume, as not to attract attention. If the police notice that they are still open for business, the party will be over. So if you want to go for a late-night bite, do your best to arrive before 10:59pm.
Address: No. 18, Lane 50/59/17, Dang Thai Mai Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
Walking into Da Paolo, you'll forget what counrty you're in. You'll be wondering why this random restaurant in the middle of Italy has all Asian servers. Da Paolo is a fancy place—certainly the fanciest place that I have ever bothered to spend my own money at. An Italian expat friend of mine recommended it and after trying it out, I must say, it does not disappoint. Everything on the menu is amazing. I’ve been back.
You'll find this restaurant sitting on the banks of West Lake, deep into Tay Ho, which is where much of Hanoi's "money" lives. This neighborhood has a significant population of westerners and Da Paolo is a haunt for many of them. It's in a gorgeous location too, so give it a try next time you're in Hanoi!
Address 1 (Ba Dinh): 38 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Address 2 (Old Quarter): 22 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
There are number of locations around Hanoi, but the one I always went to was in Ba Dinh. The silver medal goes to their location in the Old Quarter. The expat community always seemed to be pretty split on this place. Some people hate it, criticizing their high prices and the general Western bubble it offers. And then there are people like me who happily and shamelessly frequent the establishment. They knew me by name here. When I leave, sometimes they say “see you tomorrow” with a laugh. So, I'm about to advocate for it.
It’s got A/C. It’s got great coffee. The food is also amazing. It's rare that people manage to get Western food right in Hanoi, so you will appreciate that. It's got reliable wifi, so it's great for doing work. What more could a guy ask for? Order the ‘Bagel Egger’ on the ‘Cheddar Pepper Bagel’. On a side note, they also have locations in Phnom Penh and Vientane. I had Joma in Cambodia too, but it wasn't as good as in Vietnam.
Address: 16 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
I love this place because It’s open all night and it serves pretty much everything you can imagine, from beer to breakfast. Puku is the all-purpose, any time / any place / any thing establishment that every foreigner in Hanoi should know. The food is good. The atmosphere is great. There is comfortable seating both inside and outside. But the wifi, to be totally honest, is sub-par. You'll have to hang around pretty late in the night to get enough bandwidth for the wifi to be very useful.
If you arrive at Puku and then decide that it's not your scene, you'll already be in the middle of Food Street. Food Street, as the name suggests, is a big network of alleyways, packed full of small restaurants, most of which stay open into the wee hours of the night. Puku sits at one of the biggest intersections, surrounded by amazing (and much more authentic) Vietnamese restaurants.
Address: 18 Dien Bien Phu, Đien Bien, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
For the Hanoi hipster (a growing demographic here), The Kafe is heaven. If you want to see just what that brand of hipster looks like, check out The Kafe's Instagram account: @thekafevn. This place has a really cool vibe. It sits near the last major intersection before the Old Quarter begins and normal Hanoi ends.
So this place is cool, but the food is also great. It’s a bit pricey by Vietnamese standards but it’s nice every so often. My favorite thing on the menu is the “slow braised beef ragu & house made herb pasta.” I don't know what they put into marinade they put on this thing, but it HAUNTS me. Check this place out.
Address: 43 Linh Lang, Cong Vi, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
This was a place that I drove by almost everyday for 6 months, and was always intrigued by. It’s just so interesting looking from the outside with it’s delicate Japanese architecture. The fact that it's tucked away down Linh Lang (which is a small alley way off of Dao Tan) gives it some additional mystique. There's actually another location of this restaurant on the other side of the city, but the address provided will lead you to the original.
It took some convincing to get anybody to try it out with me, but once we were there it was great! It’s not too pricey (or at least not as pricey as we were expecting) and the food is amazing. I’m not even a lover of Japanese food, but the Octopus and Asian BBQ combo—who knew! This place broadened my culinary horizons.
Address: So 3 Ngo 120 Hoang Hoa Tham, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
I want to be clear: this is not what we would call “high quality food,” but it’s in the right ball park. More importantly, it’s dirt cheap for what it is. Cutisun is a little steakhouse for locals who can’t tell the difference. Most of the places I’ve listed are too pricey to go to very often without inducing some serious spending-guilt. It's true that they are pretty much all cheap by Western standards, but by Vietnamese standards they places are for the upper class. But Cutisun is legitimately cheap.
Cutisun is surprisingly nice for the hole-in-the-wall that it is. It doesn't have much of a reputation though. Most of my expat friends found this place the same way I did: driving past it a million times before finally getting curious enough to go inside. As it turned out, the place has a nice vibe. Whether or not they speak English depends mostly on who’s shift you show up during. I give it 60/40 odds.
Have you ever had real Vietnamese coffee?
Have you ever had real Vietnamese coffee?
Hanoi has a pretty vibrant coffee scene. If you’ve never tried Vietnamese coffee you should track it down some time. It’s different, but I’ve yet to find anything in the U.S. that tastes like the real thing. Vietnam’s take on coffee took some getting used to but now it has become my ‘normal’. The amount of coffee shops in Hanoi is off the charts, and almost none of them are chains. Mostly they are family-owned and have unique themes of their own. I am finding new places continuously, but these have been my go-to places during my time here. A lot of them are so interesting that I have gone around the city to photograph them for this post. You’re welcome. Whether or not these places speak English goes on a case by case basis.
Address 1: 8+9 A1 Hoang Cau Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi
Address 2: Van Phuc Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Address 3: 100A Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
This is a Hanoi-only chain of Viet Cong themed coffee shops, and they’re awesome! I’ve listed the addresses of a few of my favorite locations but there are more than that, in nooks and crannies around Hanoi. They are pretty hit or miss with the English skills of their staff, but their wifi is solid. They serve great Vietnamese coffee, but my favorite thing they serve in Ginger tea. This stuff is the real deal, and will literally exfoliate your throat. It's great when you've got the sniffles!
These shops are beautifully decorated. Army green sets the theme, with furnishings that feel like antiques from the 1970s. One the walls, intricate paintings of pink roses are scattered. The Vietnamese are a strong people with an even stronger sense of identity, and Cong Caphe gives a modern spin to a historical national pride. Honestly, it's such a cool shop that I would love to see it open up locations in the U.S., but a Viet Cong themed coffee shop would probably not garner a great reaction from the American public. Too bad.
Address: So 12 Ngo 168 Ven Ho, Ven ho Thụy Khue, Thuy Khue, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
English? Not usually.
This place used to be a lot cooler than it is now. It had a whole upper level that looked out over the lake with the traditional Vietnamese floor seating, but that upper level has since been closed off. It's a shame, but it's still got a great view of West Lake. West Lake is the enormous lake separating Tay Ho from the rest of Hanoi. This café is a great place to enjoy a nice day on the water or watch rough weather move in over the city.
The menu at Hallo is not overly extensive. They pretty much serve the basics in the coffee and tea departments. The coffee is very good though. It’s got big comfortable places to sit, so it's a nice place to come with friends. The wifi is also pretty quick for Vietnam, so it's a nice place to do some work. Order a nice cà phê sữa and enjoy the breeze coming off the lake.
Address: 3/41 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Quan Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Hallo and Cong are both pretty well-known in Hanoi, but this one is pretty under-the-radar. Délice Café is one of my favorite little spots in Hanoi. It usually smells like smoke, but that's an occupational hazard of traveling in the developing world. However, Délice has a patio on the 2nd floor where you can enjoy the fresh air. The patio has an old craggily tree arching over it whose branches are covered in Christmas lights, giving it that cozy ‘Hanoi’ feeling.
So Délice has a great atmosphere out on that patio, and, somehow, it manages to maintain remarkable homeostasis. Even though it’s outside, it stays cooler on hot days and warmer on cold days. It’s always in a weird sweet spot. The coffee is good here but they don’t have a great selection of tea. You can get a coconut to drink here though, which is nice.
Address: 26a Ven ho Thuy Khue, Thuy Khue, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
English? A tiny bit.
This is one of Hanoi’s more picturesque and unknown coffee shops. It’s 3 stories tall sits right on the banks of West Lake, a neighbor of Hallo Coffee. Decorated along the lines of Victorian England, the interior feels less like a coffee shop and more like exploring the mansion of somebody’s recently deceased great grandmother. Like a victorian mansion full of video equipment from the late 1980s and early 1990s and old record players.
Unfortunatley, October Coffee doesn’t have A/C. However, they keep it decently cool with their fans and cross-breeze. They have functional wifi and a pretty extensive menu of coffee and some food. It's all great and views/atmosphere combination is even better. This is definitely a place that you'll want to check out if you are in Hanoi.
Address: 66 Hoang Cau Street, Trung Liet, Dong Da District, Hanoi
English? Barely any.
This place might be the coolest and least-well-know place of all of them. It’s easy to miss when you drive by because it's in sort of a random location, along a busy 'in-between' area of a large street, but once you get inside it’s ridiculous. Bamboo shoots line the long pathway in. Once you are inside there is a bar and comfortable seating under dim lights. There is an old spiral staircase that leads you to the upper level which has both and outdoor and indoor section. The indoor section offers traditional floor-seating next to the open tops aquariums full of colorful fish. The glass walls of these aquariums form part of the walls of the lower level. In fact, almost every glass surface you can find on the walls and ceiling has water behind it in some capacity. It’s a very cool place.
The coffee is very good, but their menu extends well beyond just coffee! You can get a bowl of freaking spaghetti here. The wifi is pretty good too, so it's a nice place to hang out. The one downside of Tre is that there is no A/C and it is not well ventilated. For this reason, I'd recommend designating this as your winter hang-out. Yes, Vietnam gets cold in the winter. Or, at least the North of Vietnam. The south stays hot year-round.
Locals only. No gross backpacker bars.
Locals only. No gross backpacker bars.
If you spend any time at all researching Hanoi’s nightlife, then you will undoubtedly read a lot about that area. Yes, it’s historic, and full of hotels/hostels, but it also a shit show. It’s always full of insufferable drunk backpackers. As a local, I almost never went out in the Old Quarter. This list will, instead, focus on the local/expat scene of Hanoi, which is much cooler (I think).
Unless otherwise noted, these places won’t stay open much later than midnight. Not all of these photos are my own (since it’s super inconvenient to bring your camera to a bar). Most of these places employ staff with elementary English skills.
Address: So 100, Ngo 128, Ven Ho, Thụy Khue, Tay Ho District
First, this name is a pun. In Vietnamese, the number 2 is “hai” so Beer2Ku = Beer Haiku. They have 2 locations in Hanoi, but the one I'm choosing to feature on the banks of West Lake on the Ba Dinh (southern) side of the lake. It sits spitting distance from Hallo Coffee (listed above with the rest of the cafés), but it's not close to much else. This side of the lake is pretty reserved for locals, so it's above authentic as western style bars in Hanoi can get.
You should know that this place is outdoors, which means you will be subject to the elements. Beer2Ku will be as nice as the weather on any given night. They serve great dark beer here in pint glasses. The bugs that swarm around the lights in the summer are annoying, but the fall weather is absolutely perfect. Bugs or no bugs, Beer2Ku is still one of my favorite places to drink in Hanoi.
Address: 25 Duong Ven Ho Tay, Tay Ho District
Red River tea room serves the best Sangria in Hanoi... uncontested.
On the far side of West Lake, Red River Tea Room sits at the beginning of Tay Ho's "fun" area. It's neighbors with another bar called Rasta Man, which actually serve you a joint over the counter if you say the right thing. But I'm not here to talk about that place. Red River Tea Room is where it's at.
It's mostly indoors, but they have a few stories of amazing balconies where you can sit and enjoy a view over West Lake. There is also an open roof area where people hold parties from time to time. An in addition to this, there is seating at the side-walk level, right on the water. This seating area sort combines with the seating at Rasta Man so you can be at 2 bars at once. It’s pretty quiet, but it's a favorite amongst locals. There’s also a dart board inside, which is nice. The staff here tend to have good enough English to communicate.
Address: 8A Nguyen Khuyen Street, Ba Dinh District
Tucked away next to the train tracks, down an little urban passage way, Ray Quan sits in relative anonymity. It’s so well hidden that I struggle to grasp how it got to be such a fixture in Hanoi. Like, how did anybody even find it in the first place? I don’t know, but it’s there to stay. I’ve never gone there and not ran into to somebody I know. It’s a fixture for locals and expats. It's also the cover image for this section of the guide. It's a fun place to sit when trains are thundering by.
Ray Quan serves beer, Vietnamese food, and a wide array of exotic rice wines. It was here that first tried Gecko wine (vodka made with pieces of gecko). There’s a computer with speakers that is eternally set to YouTube so you can find your jams and rock out. They speak some English and they will do their very best to avoid Hanoi’s curfew, even it means having their 17-year-old staff sit by the window all night with their hand on the volume knob in case they see the cops.
Address: 199 D Nghi Tam, Ba Dinh District
This bar is completely outdoors, with very little shelter, so keep an eye on the weather. They serve food until 10:30pm and it's not terrible. It’s a fun place to go, and it’s always crowded with expats who have sorted themselves into different tables depending on nationality. As an American, I rarely had many of my fellow countrymen to socialize with (because Americans don't go anywhere), so I would usually end up getting drunk with my friends at the English/Irish table.
The big problem with Sidewalk is that it's right on a main road, which makes it a target for the police. So this place gets shut down by the police about half the time. If this happens, it will probably close around midnight, so you still have time for some fun before the fuzz shows up to ruin everything. The staff speaks decent English, and there is lots of space for motorbike parking.
Address: 81 Xuan Dieu, Quang An, Tay Ho District
Operating with no regard to Hanoi’s curfew, Madake [Mah-Dah-Kay] is a late-night place that, on any given night, seems to either crazy or empty. There is no in-between. They often host obscure European DJs and bands who are touring through Asia. These events are fun, but prefer the nights when Madake is completely dead.
Behind Madake, a very long stair case leads you down to a few tables sitting in front of one of Hanoi’s more overgrown, small lakes. There are blankets on the bank of this lake where you can look out over the giant tropical lily pads under the starlight. It’s a peaceful little spot… or not, depending on the night. The staff speaks English and the drink menu is great, so check it out!
Address: 27/52 To Ngọc Van, Tay Ho District
I went here a lot during my time in Hanoi. I had gotten to be pretty good friends with the owner (shout out to DA) because I played at open mic night held here pretty often, and once organized an event that what held here. The open mic is always on Wednesday nights, starting around 9:30pm. It’s a fun group of people that frequents this event. It felt like a little family.
During my more inactive stretches in Hanoi (there have been a few), this would often be the only social thing I did in a given week. But it’s not just for Wednesdays—it’s a cool place and there is something going on here most nights of the week. I actually did New Years Eve 2015 here. It was packed! HRC is also pretty sound proof, so they don’t tend to adhere to Hanoi’s curfew. The staff pretty much all speak English, so come have yourself a night!
Address: 6, 1/62 Au Co, Tay Ho District
Run by a nice Ukrainian lesbian couple, Time Club is a nice, low-key little spot in one of the most upscale parts of Tay Ho. I'm listing it with the rest of Hanoi's nightlife, but they also serve food and coffee starting around brunch time. I would usually just come here for beers because it's a nice place where you can hear yourself think. It's so quiet that it's a good place to go out when you don't feel like "going out."
At Time Club, they put on a lot of little events for this and that. I was always coming here for weird little parties which were never anything less than pleasant. Time Club is pretty family friendly, seems to maintain a real sense of community through the people that are regulars here. Obviously, since it is owned are run by Westerners, English is the primary language spoken at Time Club.
Address: 73A Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung District
Cama ATK was Vietnam’s first gay bar. "Gay bar" means something a little different here though than it does in the U.S. In Vietnam, a gay bar is nothing more than an openly ‘gay-friendly’ establishment. If you go there don’t expect any shirtless men whirling their shirts in the air. It’s actually a pretty classy place.
It’s a modestly sized place, but it's up-scale, with a pricey drinks menu. Cama ATK hosts a pretty cool events schedule too! There are always cool bands, DJs, and organization holding interesting shin-digs here. However, if you arrive on a night with no event scheduled, they also have a Foosball table, which is a big plus. Oh, and their staff pretty much always are able to speak English.
Address: 264 Au Co, Nhat Tan, Tay Ho District
I said that I wasn't going to include anything from Hanoi's dirty backpacker scene in this guide, but this one is on the border. Eden is mostly filled with Hanoian locals because it is literally in the middle of the jungle. Getting to Eden takes some navigational expertise. And once you get to the dark, rural road that leads you out to the gates of Eden, it takes some balls. It really feels like you're driving off into the jungle in the middle of the night. The first time come here, it should set off some alarm bells on the trip over.
The gates to Eden will open, and you will enter an alternative reality. This is a full-fledged club out there in the rice paddies. They have DJs that play to crowds full of rebellious Vietnamese youth and Western party animals. This place can get pretty hippie later into the night. You'll see dudes with glow sticks and hula hoops dancing their faces off, most of whom are drunk, high, and rolling simultaneously. Things can get a little weird here, but it's definitely worth a visit at least once. And don't show up on a week night. It won't be open.
In Hanoi, there are “foreigner places” and there are “Vietnamese places”. Most “foreigner places” are half, if not mostly Vietnamese people anyways, but that doesn't make your experience authentic. If you want to have the REAL Vietnam drinking experience, you have to go to Bia Hoi.
A "Bia Hoi" is where you will sit on tiny plastic stools and drink watered down beer by the gallon with other Vietnamese men. Some times you can order the Vietnamese equivalent of bar food, which is nice to off-set the staggering amounts of beer you will be drinking. BEER BEER BEER! It never stops at a Bia Hoi. The Vietnamese can DRINK! At 5,000 VND (23 cents) per beer, it’s hard to beat the affordability factor here, but the tiny stools get old fast for a big guy like me. Don’t count on them speaking English.
Just a few more things...
Just a few more things...
Here's one last thing I love that didn't quite fall into any of the last few categories. Sugarcane is not unique to Hanoi, but for me it was an integral part of the Hanoi experience. It’s a seasonal (summer) thing, and it generally comes in 2 forms…
You’ll see it on the side of the road everywhere and it is really good. It’s cold and sweet, which is just what the doctor ordered in the Hanoi heat. Get a glass and sip it down in the shade. It should cost you about 8,000 VND (37 cents).
You’ll see these less frequently but they can be found for outrageously low prices. You’ll pay 20,000 VND (92 cents) for a bag full of them. Using your molars, you bite down on them and chew them to squeeze all the sweet juice out. When the flavor is gone you spit it back out.
Hanoi is an awesome place to live, and there are never a shortage of things to do or places to go. This might seem like a lot of information, but it's just a drop in the bucket that is Hanoi. It's a vibrant, busy city with a million things going on at once. There are lots of other tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés, and bars that you're sure to love. The best way to form a genuinely meaningful connection with Hanoi is to find a place that is truly your own—a place that nobody told you to go to, a place that you found on your own. So check out a few of these places and then start wandering!
If you want to learn more about Hanoi, you should check out my other 2 guides to this city. It's an awesome place to visit and an even better place to call your home. These articles will help you...
And if you still have any questions you'd like to ask, don't hesitate to get in touch with me! I love gushing about Hanoi and helping others find their place there, so I don't mind answering a few emails. So hit me up! It won't be weird.