Liz and Chris Take a Trip

Home Sweet Home Hanoi (for a Month)

It’s the first of the month, and we just got the keys to our apartment in Hanoi. Yes, an apartment! More specifically, a 50-square-meter studio which we’re renting for the month of November. This is our first “long-term” stay since we started traveling six months ago, and I’m so excited about staying put for a bit. Traveling and seeing new places has been a fantastic experience, but it’ll also be nice to unpack our backpacks and have a place to call “home,” even for just a short while.


There are three units in this building, we’re on the fourth floor with the common area top floor above us.

Our apartment is on the top floor of a narrow building overlooking Hang Dao street, a bustling one-way street lined with shops, food stands and restaurants. The street is constantly bursting with people, motorbikes, and, of course, those good ol’ plastic stools and chairs that make up random spots to eat, drink and smoke tobacco out of huge pipes. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the weekend night market sets up on our street and merchants sell everything and anything: clothes, shoes, toys, french pastries, phone accessories, cute battery packs, track suit sets, hair extensions, mosquito zappers, brooms, even sushi.


Busy Hang Dhao street on a typical night. Lots of shops and motorbike/foot traffic.


On Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, our street shuts down and the weekend night market takes over. From our balcony, we can watch the set up and tear down of all the tents.

Our apartment comes with ceiling-to-floor windows, French doors, and a balcony larger than our Hong Kong airbnb! The balcony clinched the deal for us – it’s a perfect perch for people-watching at any time of day. We also have a kitchen area, closet, aircon, TV, a “tea table,” patio furniture, wine rack and a miniature-sized fridge set up in a space built for a standard fridge (can’t stop giggling at that). We’re in a full service rental so pretty much everything – furniture, dishes, water, cable and Internet – is included; the only utility we have to pay for is electricity. To make the place feel more like ours, we went out and bought new bed sheets, an extra pillow, a fan and a new frying pan (for eggs in the morning). For decor, we bought a bottle of Hanoi Vodka and a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon to put on the Hobbit fridge.

(Our apartment also comes with the benefit/drawback – depends how you see it – of being in close proximity to a loudspeaker used by the government to broadcast nationalistic songs and messages. The speakers are scattered all over Hanoi and blast  blaring propaganda. We were made aware of the loudspeaker at 6am our first night sleeping the apartment, suddenly unable to keep sleeping. We jokingly call it the CommiClock or the PropagandAlarm, and I guess our new wake up time going forward will be 6am!)


Chris wearing his Burmese longyi (man skirt) from Myanmar.




Our hobbit fridge in a standard fridge space. Plus a wine rack


It’d be a stretch to say we’re “living” in Hanoi, but it’s fair to say that we’re taking our time to get to know the city, something we likely wouldn’t choose to do if we only had limited vacation time. Our neighborhood is a block north of Hoan Kiem Lake, a pretty lake where people go to do their daily tai chi and exercises, usually early in the morning during the cooler hours of the day. It’s a lot of fun to watch and occasionally join in. There’s also a rare, white, soft-shelled turtle that lives in the lake. It’s one of maybe two or three of its kind IN THE WORLD. Chris and I were lucky to see the turtle once the first time we were in Hanoi; apparently, the turtle’s full head surface appearances are pretty rare.


Hoan Kiem Lake


Early morning exercisers at the lake.

Everyone stopped exercising to watch the turtle. Apparently it's pretty rare to see it surface.

Everyone stopped exercising to watch the turtle. Apparently it’s pretty rare to see it surface.

With regard to food, we’ve only started to explore the restaurants and food stalls nearby. We’re familiar with some restaurants south and west of the lake since we stayed on those sides previously. In our new neighborhood up north, we’ve got a few favorites, so far, within a 2-block radius of our apartment (more to come, I’m sure):


Socola (chocolate) and matcha buns from King Roti, just around the corner.


Street side doner kebab for 30,000 dong (about $1.30). Not traditional Vietnamese food, but it goes well with bia hoi! Plus the guy who makes it (at the food stand in the corner of this picture) really stuffs an equal share of meat and fresh veggies in it. Super good.


Banh mi hoi an has an amazing Hoi An Special which has chicken, beef, pork, pate and lots of veggies smashed into a toasty baguette.


Sticky rice flavored popsicle for 6,500 dong ($0.30). I’d say that sticky rice could do well in the U.S. except for all the carb and sugar hating.


Opposite our apartment entrance, right across the street, is a couple that makes pate banh mi with spaghetti sauce and veggies inside. Tastes almost like a meatball sandwich (without the meatballs). They also serve spaghetti in a plastic cup. Everything is to go, so we ate our dinner back “at home.” Spaghetti is 15,000 dong ($0.65) and pate banh mi is 10,000 dong ($0.45).


Two blocks away is Pho Suoung, a TripAdvisor find that turned out to be pretty good. Here is pho tai for 45,000 dong (a little expensive for pho, but worth it). Tender meat, flavorful broth. I like how finely they chop the green onion; Chris likes the garlic sauce they provide on the side.

While we are stationary and are doing less go-go-go travel, we’re looking forward to exploring Hanoi and its outskirts, doing language exchange meet-ups, and most imminently, catching up with Aaron as he comes to visit! Aaron will be in town for six days. Our plans are fairly loose other than a set Ha Long Bay cruise we’ll do Nov 4-5. I hope the weather cooperates and provides nice cool temps with clear skies and sun. (It’s been chilly and rainy in Hanoi recently w/ temps in the low 60s!)

CommiClock will go off in about 5 hours, so signing off for now. We’re looking forward to catching up on blogs and photo albums while we’re in Hanoi, so definitely more to come!