Hanoi Stories and Tips

Things to Do in Hanoi -- A Shortlist, Part Two

Cathedral Photo, Hanoi, Vietnam

Things To Do in Hanoi – A Short List, Part Two
By Hun Ohm

Look, we know. Any short list with a "part two" is kind of a contradiction, right? But so it is with the options in Hanoi. Here’s the rest of the best:

Ipa-Nima Shop (2 locations -- 59G Pho Hai Ba Trung & 17 Nha Tho)
This store was created by Christina Yu, who gave up life as a lawyer in Hong Kong to live in Hanoi as a fashion designer. Her bags are sold in the U.S. and Europe for hundreds of dollars and are often featured in Vogue, In Style, and many other fashion magazines. They are fun, funky, sparkly, leathery, fringed, feathered, quilted, and much more. You can get her locally made bags here for a fraction of the price overseas and 100% of the quality. If you love bags and fashion, you must stop here for a browse (and possible purchase).

Man Eats Dog
One of our guides in Halong Bay gave us some details on the ins and outs of the dog meat industry. Apparently, 6-month-old dogs are the cut of choice, though even old curs can have their day on the table (she advised us not to worry about the tough chew, as green papaya can solve anything!) Among her many theories, she had one as to why there are not too many stray dogs on the streets of Hanoi (unlike Thailand) -- consumer demand. She may be right; we only saw well-kept pets in town. She also let us in on her big business idea: have the strays from Thailand shipped over to Vietnam where there is a constant market for fresh meat in the second half of each lunar month. We're not sure how the Thais would feel about this joint venture.

After strolling through the local market in the Old Quarter several times, we came across a small stand that sold freshly roasted puppy dog. We wouldn't have known this except for the fact that they had the severed heads placed on display as well, with the snout skin pulled back so that we could see the fangs. A bit disturbing, though at the time we had still been considering at least checking out dog meat alley (a.k.a. Pho Nghi Tam, which is 10km north of central Hanoi), a street with 60-some-odd dog meat restaurants. We never did make it to that street so can’t vouch for it, but if you have any interest, it’s there. As they say, when in Hanoi...

Walk down Hang Manh/Pluck a Dan Bau
If you have the time and a soft spot for street wandering, make your way to a street named Hang Manh (a few streets west of the northern tip of Hoan Kiem Lake). Down the road, you will come across various antique shops -- good for browsing, not so good for the pocketbook. Keep going, and you will hit a few music shops that house both traditional and Western instruments. We particularly liked the Vietnam Musical Instruments Shop (16A Hang Manh), which displayed some interesting pieces. Indeed, we purchased a wonderful dan bau (a traditional monochord which can produce, among other things, tones that echo Ry Cooder’s "Paris, Texas" soundtrack). The total cost (including shipping) was approximately $90, and it arrived in the States intact. The manager was friendly and happy to let you test out the store’s wares.

Stroll the Shore
Hoan Kiem Lake is a little lake just south of the Old Quarter with a nice big path running along side it. Consider taking a leisurely walk around (30-45 minutes depending on your pace) to recover some serenity within the cityscape. In the early mornings, locals exercise around the shore; you might join them. However, if you’re not up to the early start, check the lake out later in the day. Start in the late afternoon, heading south down the western shore. Slow and easy should be the pace. If you need refreshment, bravely cross the street to sample some decent ice cream at Fanny Ice Cream (48 Pho Le Thai To). Continue going around the southern tip of the lake and turn back north. Try to snag one of the benches on the eastern shore to watch the sun begin to set over the water. Feel the heat leave the air. See Thap Rua (Tortoise Tower) in the middle of the lake? Good. Now say farewell to Hanoi.

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