Seven Surprising First Impressions of Hanoi – Part Four

 5. It’s not that busy. Except for the Old Quarter, which is really busy.

The Old Quarter is how you might imagine Hanoi to be – narrow streets, motorcycles filling the narrow roads, parked motorcycles filling the narrow pavements… and as for a Friday or Saturday night, when streets are pedestrianised and the night market is on! Wow! But the rest of Hanoi – whilst the roads are obviously full – is so much less hectic.

Near Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

6. There’s a lot of veggie food

Perhaps this one surprised Selena more than me, but there are a lot of veggie restaurants. That there are a lot of restaurants full stop probably helps, but I can think of two within a block of our current place, and one or two more round our old place.

One reason for this is the local Buddhist tradition of not eating meat on the 1st or 15th days of the lunar month. Another might be the growing multiculturalism here in Hanoi – several Indian restaurants, such as the excellent Namaste, have extensive vegetarian menus, and most Western restaurants provide at least one or two veggie options (Daluva in Tay Ho, whilst a little more expensive than some places, has a great range of veggie breakfast options)

Other restaurants often have some veggie options – but beware fish sauce (especially on salads and with rolls), and chicken or beef stock in soups!

Vegetarian Rolls

7. There’s a lot of cats and dogs

Obviously a misconception on my part, but I’d assumed, for whatever reason, that I’d see more cats and dogs on spits than on streets. I’ve seen plenty of dogs on spits (but not cats), and I’ve seen cats and dogs in cages (although they looked too cute to be for food), but I’ve not seen a single cat on a spit – I’m sure I will, before leaving, but I’m glad not to have done so yet. Meanwhile there have been several cats in shops, and dogs on leads, or in bags, or in one of the many dog groomers.

It’s possibly because we live in a more central, cosmopolitan part of Hanoi of course – and we’ve been warned to keep our cats in. Not that I think eating pig is any different from eating cat or dog, but my concern would be for the welfare of the animal, and whether it had been farmed or just kidnapped. After all, there are enough horror stories of cats and dogs being smuggled in from China.


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