Life goes on...
Despite the intrusion of tourists into their neighbourhood, life seems to go on for the people of Old Hanoi. In the narrow, busy streets, locals bustle about. It all adds to the colour and gives the place a genuine quality that many "old quarters" around the world (I'm thinking primarily of Europe here), have lost. Hanoi's Old Quarter is no gentrified upper class dormitory. This place is a pulsing, seething warren of life! Enjoy immersing yourself in other peoples' world for a while.
There is a huge and impressive culture palace in Hanoi located along Tran Hung Dao Street at the French Quarter area, somewhere near to another famous landmark, Quan Su Pagoda. I did not have time to explore the culture palace due to time constraint but managed to take some photos of the exterior.
The budding artists of hanoi
There are stacks of art galleries that will paint you a version of an old master. You can have any of your favourite paintings reproduced in oils for you to take home. Beware the quality of some places is dubious. Look around because some galleries have highly skilled artists that will paint you a very good version of a Monet, Van Gogh etc. There are also some nice galleries that do original works.
Food with your Bia Hoi
To go with your beer have a snack freshly cooked at your stool by one of the many street vendors. They carry around a small pot of burning charcoal and a basket of thinly sliced dried meat and fish. When you ask for something - I had the fish (I think) - they fan up the charcoal and put the meat directly on it for a couple of minutes and serve it with a small bowl of spicy dip.
For getting around the city, it’s fun to take a motorbike taxi (Xe Om or hugging motorbike, you must hug the driver :p ). You can find them everywhere in the streets, a man with his motorbike. You can easily go and stop anywhere you want. Try your best to bargant, it’s about 2.000 vnd/km. Almost drivers can not speak well English, so just show him where you want to go on the map and bargant with your fingers hehe…
Remember to choose the driver with good and clean motorbike (SYM, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki), ask them not driving too fast and don’t forget to wear hamlet or the police will stop you (the driver has the hamlets for you & him too).
It’s easy and fun, believe me!