Scooters zoom past you and cars don’t wait either. A ‘beep’ or ‘toot’ from a horn is not a sign of aggression, but a warning that they are coming and you should move out of their way. There is no other option. If you’re game enough to cross the road my tip is to walk with confidence, don’t hesitate and walk in a straight line. Street vendors call for your attention, all with a trained eye to identify the wandering tourist. Exploring the city with a Hanoi tour guide is an exhilarating experience and tours from Hanoi will carry on the next leg of your Vietnam adventure, effortlessly.
However, amid the exciting hustle and bustle of everyday Vietnamese life you will find a relative calm when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Why? The Vietnamese cooking culture is all about simplicity and freshness. Every morning women make their way to their local markets and buy fresh herbs, vegetables, bread, spices, fish and meat. Even their beer is fresh – Bia Hoi has a one day shelf life and is brewed each morning. They then take their food shop back to their homes and cook for their families. In major cities, their home front commonly doubles as a restaurant.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by choice, sometimes a food tour is the best way to get the most out of the local cuisine. I joined a Food On Foot Tour, in Hanoi. A local guide showed me the city’s hidden treasures. It was one of the best experiences on my trip through South East Asia.
We’re led through windy lanes and hidden streets, and sampled some of the capital’s most renowned dishes. We sampled Vietnam’s national dish Pho (pronounced ‘fur’) at a special place in Hanoi where the broth has been brewed for 12 hours. We ate delicious fish dishes, pork rolls and fresh rice paper rolls. For dessert we slurped down coconut coffee, drizzled fresh fruit with condensed milk, and enjoyed an egg coffee (raw egg yolks whipped with fresh brewed coffee and sugar. It sounds gross, but you have to try it). A lot of these dishes are unique to Hanoi. Thinking about it now, I am seriously drooling over my keyboard.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
If you are looking for landscapes that are going to blow your mind, Halong Bay is your next destination with Halong Bay tours from Hanoi leaving daily. Halong Bay is a heritage listed area, just four hours drive from Hanoi and it is just as magnificent in the off-season as it is during its tourist peak.
During a cruise, each day you venture to a new and exciting bay, and you’re given a kayak or canoe to explore floating villages, caves and isolated inlets. It’s a chance to get your blood pumping and work off all that amazing local food you’ve been feasting on. Halong Bay is home to some seriously endangered animals, and we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the endangered golden headed langur, a monkey that only lives in Vietnam and in one region of China. In the afternoons, snuggle up with blankets at the top of the boat and drink fresh ginger tea while drinking in the stunning view of misty mountains and glassy water, as day drifts off to night.
Another must-do is a Vietnamese cooking class. We did ours on board a ‘junk’ (traditional boat). It’s a practical souvenir we use weekly, and the perfect way to incorporate more healthy fresh food into our everyday cooking.
Alicia Lagourcette is a budding producer, food-lover, and fanatic traveller.
She has a background in television which has taken her right across Australia and overseas.
She has a passion for photography and hopes to document every corner of the globe.
You can follow her on her Instagram @alicialag or on Facebook.