don't sit under that kumquat tree
Tet Nguyen Dan literally means the festival of the first day and abbreviated as TET, it is the biggest holiday of the Vietnamese year. They describe it as combination of New Years, Christmas, and every person’s birthday and though it only lasts a few days, many take off a whole week to celebrate. Much like Western Christmas time, the Vietnamese adorn their homes with trees but not the kind we know. They use colorful kumquat trees that are quite expensive by local standards (around $20). Leading up the beginning of the festival, you will see countless people lugging the trees on the backs of bicycles and motorbikes too. It is quite a spectacle and well worth timing your stay in Hanoi around it. It falls between the 19th of January and the 20th of February, but get there early to secure a room and see the preseason festivities!
Lotus season - great view of West Lake and more
Since it's off the beaten Path, I am going to show you the more interesting way to go.
Go up to West Lake Area, follow Xuan Dieu st and turn right when you meet with To Ngoc Van, keep going until you reach the end of this street (which you think it is the end but there is a way there - not paved yet, a dirt road (so far until at the moment I wrote this Aug , 2010, they havent paved this part).
Keep following this small dirt road until you meet a open view of West Lake and a lotus pond on the right hand side. Lotus season are from May to Aug.
Now a little bit information about lotus, if you can, stop at one of the bamboo tent next to lotus ponds to have a tea, it's the best. the tea a placed into a lotus at a certain time in early morning so the tea will absorb all the smell of lotus, this tea then will be taken out of the flower and here we go, lotus tea. Have a drink and smell the fresh air, look at lotus blossom. what can be better for an late afternoon in hanoi?
It's better if you go in the late afternoon when the heat is cooling off and the vendors start to set up their business of the night. Stop at one lady , take a chair and order anything she has to offer (normally is tea, beer, fruits, beef jerky, grilled dried fishes and squids).
In the evening this part of the city is very crowded with couples and young people, but in the afternoon it's much better to have a sunset view and clean air, get away from all the noise of Hanoi.
If you cant go into lotus season, other time in the year is still enjoyable. A lot of people come to fishing in the lake too.
Note that car cant come in, you better have a xe-om driver / rent a bike and explore yourselves/ walk/ or take a taxi until there is no road to go anymore.
Or, you can PM me to get another way that a taxi can take you in.
Beautiful Designer Clothing
If you’re looking for a great designer working out of Hanoi check out Song. Located in the Old District across the street from St. Joseph’s Cathedral, this boutique offers original clothing designs from an Australian designer. Pieces vary in price, I bought a hand-embroidered linen shirt for $75 US. Now, that’s pretty expensive for clothing in Vietnam, but compared to designers in the US and Europe it’s pretty good. And the clothing is well-made and unique. Check it out.
It's a LONG way from San Francisco!
After two transfers in Los Angeles and Seoul, we arrived in Hanoi 20 hours later (a day and a half with the time difference.) We used our United miles and flew on the Korean airlines, Asiana.
Fortunately for us, we arrived in the evening, and after so many hours in the air, we were ready for some sleep! This allowed us to get up early the next morning with minimal jetlag.
with a big smile
this is a good place to go to eating. the staff makes it very comfortable and the food is good
the frices are reasonable and you walk out with a big smile... Stewed Red river fish is my best choice