Vietnam: First night in Hanoi

For the first few days of the trip, Hanoi Guest House was just our pit stop. After Sapa and Halong Bay trips, we finally settled down in Hanoi, at least for a few days. If you followed the post Vietnam: Hanoi First Impression, then you will notice that we were not so adventurous where we did not venture into local food stalls. But for the next two days, we were going to check out the local stalls, ignoring the risk of getting food poisoning.

Upper: Cheerful and helpful boy and girls at Hanoi Guest House.
Lower: Hanoi Guest House's lobby(where we had our breakfasts)

I would say Hanoi Guest House was traveler's heaven. It had everything for budget travelers. As for us, besides local tours, we had used their Internet access and laundry service. The guest house was equipped with wifi. But if you did not bring your laptop, you could use their computers located at the lobby. We also managed to get our dirty clothes(especially from Sapa trekking) washed at reasonable price. However we did not stay in Hanoi Guest House, thus could not comment on the room. Why? It was because we were offered to stay at another hotel. It was good when you paid for a hostel price and stayed in a hotel room, right? But, it was even better when they told me that they were going to give me usd2 off for the room. Could you believe it? We were paying usd16 per night for a hotel room! It was indeed a very good deal.

So we stayed in Phoenix Hotel at the same street for the next two days. There were bigger lobby and bigger breakfast area. And, compare to the limited breakfast selection in Hanoi Guest House(which was good though), they served buffet breakfast which allowed us to have more choices.

The place we stayed was called Old Quarter or "The 36 Old Streets". As the name implies, the town started with 36 streets(of course it has more streets now). These narrow 36 streets had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade and later were named after the commodity traded there. Even now, we could still see some of the original trades on those streets. It was best to stay in Old quarter and stroll through the old streets, and so we did.

This was the usd16 room, simple but clean. We were very satisfied with it. We did not stay long in the room before we decided to hunt for dinner.

We picked Xoi Yen from the list. It was located at the corner of Hang Mam and Nguyen Nuu Huan. It was very difficult to miss the shop as it was a 3 storey shop house with big and multiple signboards. This was also our first dining experience with kinder garden tables and stools.

We had no ideas how to order, so I showed him my notes where I copied two dishes from the internet, Xoi Xeo and Xoi Ngo.

Xoi xeo(7kVND) was a bowl of sticky rice mixed with beans, topped with mung bean paste and fried shallots.

Xoi ngo(15kVND) was a luxury version of xoi yen, topped with braised pork. If the aforementioned xoi was good for vegetarian, then this xoi would be perfect for meat lovers.

After dinner, we walked to Hang Giay St for Vi Lan coffee. This stall was famous among Chinese customers, so it has a Chinese name(好味咖啡). Even though we did not mind, but we were quite surprised to know that the cafe was actually a pavement stall. We ordered iced coffee with milk, one mocha and one weasel(aka civet coffee). The coffee was strong and bittersweet, and cheap at 10kVND/glass. I would say it was the best value Vietnamese coffee that I had in Hanoi. The owner spoke fluent Cantonese, so we had a good chat with him.

Since we had xoi for early dinner, so we headed for our supper. But what had we done in between Vi Lan coffee and supper? I could not remember. Most probably we just walked around, did some shoppings(or window shopping), returned to the hotel, took shower and a nap. This round, we ordered their signature mien xao luon. It was a plate of stir fry glass noodles with bean sprout and egg, topped with crispy baby eel stripes, fried shallots, fresh cucumber and purple perilla leaves, served with a bowl of clear soup. So far, the xoi, coffee and now the mien luon were all very delicious. Good food can comfort my soul. ;) So it was a happy night for me. By the way, most of the local shop owners did not speak English, so it was good to write down the dishes and show them.

We slept quite early that night. Do not forget that we just came back from Halong Bay trip. The next day would be fun as we had rented a motorbike. Stay tune!

Xoi Yen
35b Nguyen Nuu Huan

Vi Lan Cafe 好味咖啡
24, Hang Giay
Remarks: unknown business hours, but open from morning to night

Nha Hang Mien Luon
87 Hang Dieu St
Remarks: unknown business hours, but open from morning to night