In May 2014 we set off on our first long-term adventure, 7 months travelling through South East Asia and on to New Zealand. We started that trip by flying straight into Hanoi and it was a hot, crazy, noisy, intense sensory overload, where our love affair with Vietnamese food began. Returning two and a half years later we were intrigued to know if anything had changed.
It’s still crazy, intense, hot and noisy, the food is still sensational and the prices are still incredibly cheap. One thing we noticed was the presence of quite a few cars on the road. It was only ever scooters when we first came. A couple more Western chains opening up here and there, quite a few more tourists, but the essence of the city remains the same. We still love it.
We revisited a few of our favourite food places, some had moved on to bigger locations, some had gone, but we discovered new places that we perhaps wouldn’t have been brave enough to try a few years ago.
The Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) at Pho 10 is still one of the best we’ve ever had, served “Tai” with half-raw beef and a supremely flavourful broth. An extra 5000 dong will get you a plate of tasty deep-fried dumplings. Bun Bo Nam Bo was one of the first places we ever ate at in Hanoi, a small place packed with locals which served the most delicious Bun Bo (beef noodle salad). There are a few more tourists eating there now and the seating extends out the back but the food is still incredible.
We tried a lot more Banh Mi sandwiches this time, the Hanoi version is simpler than its Southern counterpart. A nicely branded, clean looking, roadside Banh Mi joint has opened up called Banh Mi 25. Every time we walked past, it was filled only with other Western tourists so we thought it would be a TripAdvisor recommendation bound to disappoint us, but when we finally tried one it was really, really good.
The BBQ pork and pâté sandwich with vegetables was our choice. A beautiful balance between the salty, savoury meat and pâté, with the fresh vegetables and crispy, fluffy french baguette. The staff are extremely friendly and if you take a seat on a plastic stool next to their stand they will bring you free tea and fruit! We went back there several times and enjoyed often two or three sandwiches at a time.
Hanoi is one of those places that gets under your skin. The people, the noise, the heat, the smells, the traffic, the street food. It could easily overwhelm a first time visitor, but once you get to know it, a part of you will stay there forever.