HANOI, April 16, 2018 – “A Hanoi cycling tour will let you discover Vietnam’s capital city at your own pace. A local has also shared her tips so that you can see Hanoi through the eyes of its residents”.
Hanoi possesses the charm of a millennium city and a less-than-3-day trip won’t do it justice. However, with a bit of strategy and suggestions of a local, doing a one-day pedal-powered tour is still achievable.
Hanoi is the most beautiful early in the morning when the throng of over 6 million people and 1 million mopeds haven’t woke up yet. Saddle up when you hear a church’s bell rings calling to prayers and ride slowly around Hoan Kiem Lake. The heart of Hanoi in the morning is like a gym with people here and there practice Tai chi, aerobics, or cycling.
When the mist starts to clear off, ride to number 49 Bat Dan Street for a piping hot bowl of pho. This Vietnam’s national dish is best eaten at any time of the day but a pho purist tips that it tastes better in the morning. Take a break with other diners at a small tea stall opposite the eatery. Sipping a cup of hot green tea after breakfast has long been a habit of Hanoians. Take the chance to watch Hanoi’s iconic flower street vendors passing by.
A cup of café trung (egg coffee) is next on your Hanoi cycling tour itinerary. Ride to Nguyen Huu Huan Street make your order down stair and climb up the second floor of Cà phê Giảng. This coffee shop is a bit cramped but it serves the best egg coffee in Hanoi. While you are there, it is tempting to sample other delicacies such as egg bear or egg cocoa, but save your stomach for your next destination.
Hop on your bike and go to O Quan Chuong, the last gate of Thang Long ancient citadel. Take time riding around to discover some small and lesser-known corners of the city. Watch life goes by in the shophouses that lined the streets. When it is time for lunch, look no further than the cold snail noodle soup stall opposite O Quan Chuong. This dish can only be found in Hanoi and nowhere else.
From Hanoi’s St Joseph Cathedral, ride along Hang Trong Street and make your way to number 2 Ba Trieu Street where Kalina café lies. This small but elegant coffee bar is the favorite hanging out the place of the local and sometimes tourists. Indulge in a cup of Vietnamese coffee and see for yourself how Hoan Kiem Lake different from what you see in the morning. Trang Tien ice-cream store is next on your Hanoi cycling tour. This ice-cold treat used to be children’s unaffordable luxury during Vietnam’s subsidy period. The Vietnamese have altered the original recipe a bit to suit the local taste.
Water puppetry, a Vietnamese ancient art dating back to at least the 12th century, is an indispensable part of all Hanoi tours. Staged on a liquid platform, the show features some of the Vietnamese folklores, acted out by lacquered wooden puppets. The puppeteers stand waist-deep in water and control the models by a system of rods and wires under water. Tickets sold out quickly on the weekend so it is best to buy them in advance.
Cha ca, a dish native to Hanoi is an excellent choice for dinner. While the most original flavors can only be found at number 14 Cha Ca Street, Cha Ca Thang Long at number 20 Duong Thanh Street is a better go-to restaurant for tourists. A serving of cha ca here costs $6, quite reasonable for tourists of all pocket sizes.
Continue your cycling tour to Ta Hien street and enjoy Vietnamese beer or bia hoi. Ta Hien is lively at night and the place for both tourists and the local. Ta Hien is where the young or the young at heart hang out. The Vietnamese like to pair some light snack with beer and when you are there, don’t miss chargrilled squids, roasted quails or spicy and sour chicken feet.