Nov 26, 2017

Hanoi Travelogue: Bun Rieu, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Cha Ca La Vong, Bun Thang - Checked! (29 Jan 2016)

It was cold in Hanoi in this month of January. Temperature at night went as low as lower tens celcius. I was shivering in my sweater underneath a layer of thick quilt. Sleep did not come easy but it did help that the room at Especen Hotel was cosy.

Waking up in the mornings was equally challenging. Leaving the warmth in bed, walking on the icy cold tiles to bathroom, brushing teeth and showering with icy water as the heater gets its warm up, just to name a few.

Porridge Crowd at Nearby Alley @ Especen Hotel
By 10am, we were ready to explore Hanoi. While we made our way out from Especen Hotel, we saw these locals sitting on the tiny stools, enjoying their bowls of hot porridge.

Hot Porridge, Yes? (VND 40k)
In this chilly morning, a bowl of hot porridge was a welcoming delight. Better still, it came loaded with fried crullers and meat floss! Tanner half and I ordered one to share. In the end, both of us had to fight for the last scoop of this delicious porridge.

Total Damage = VND 40k

Local Sweet Snacks
On the streets of Hanoi, you would see ladies carrying trays of snacks, eyeing for gullible tourists to sell them expensive snacks. Though we were curious, we weren't gullible: 6 pieces of these weren't worth VND 100k.

Total Damage = VND 50k (Guess we were still gullible after all...)

Bun Rieu @ 11 Hang Bac
Semi-loaded with porridge, we continued our quest to look for Bun Rieu, i.e. noodle soup with tomato and crab, which brought us here at 11 Hang Bac. 2 stools and a shallow table top was the simple setup for diners to enjoy Bun Rieu.

Bun Rieu Cha @ 11 Hang Bac (VND 30k)
Bun Rieu is a Northern crab and tomato noodle soup with thin round rice noodles. As literal as the name suggested, the tomato soup base was surprisingly light but tangy. Served with a side of fresh local vegetables, chilies and even salt, you may tweak your Bun Rieu as you would like it. I personally loved the original soup base with their rice noodles. Somehow I found the minced crab meat did not quite blend in with the rest.

Total Damage = VND 30k

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Situated 2.7km from 11 Hang Bac was Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex, which houses Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Museum and the One Pillar Pagoda. Guarded by military honour guards, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the place where Vietnamese pilgrimage come to pay respect to the Revolutionary Leader, Uncle Ho Chi Minh every morning.

We had difficulty locating Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House, Presidential Palace and One Pillar Pagoda within the complex but for those interested to visit, you would need to pay VND 25k entrance fee each for Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House and One Pillar Pagoda.

Lenin Park
As we were exploring on foot, we passed by Lenin Park, which is named in commemoration of Lenin on his 110 birthday. This small triangle botanical garden is the green lung of Hanoi, where the locals exercise, stroll and enjoy its beautiful landscape.

Train Tracks
Out of nowhere, train tracks appeared between two blocks of houses, living in harmony with its nearby resident, motorbikes and passerby.

Cha Ca La Vong @ Cha Ca Thang Long
Traversing busy traffic in Hanoi was no small feat, not to mention over 5km distance covered within half a day on foot. Famished we were, we found Cha Ca Thang Long and ordered their famous Cha Ca La Vong, i.e. turmeric grilled fish. The way Cha Ca La Vong was prepared was simple: tossed in all the greens and fishes and let it sizzled.

Cha Ca La Vong @ Cha Ca Thang Long
La Vong grilled fish is basically grilled hemibagrus (cá Lăng) with dills and oil. For non vegetables eaters, good luck to you! I particularly loved their local greens, especially loved it when it worked only to enhance the overall taste profile of La Vong. Fish meat was unexpected smooth and fresh. I loved the touch of peanuts too.

Total Damage = VND 320k (for 2 sets of Cha Ca La Vong with beers)

Thuan Ly Bun Thang @ 33 Hang Hom
Since we splurged on our lunch in Cha Ca Thang Long, we were back to the street fares for dinner. Bun Thang at Thuan Ly Bun Thang for one.

Bun Thang @ Thuan Ly Bun Thang
Bun Thang is vermicelli soup with chicken, egg and pork, featuring simple yet nutritious soup base. While I found their vermicelli coarse to my liking, I did like their Thang (soup).

Total Damage = VND 60k (2 Bun Thangs)

Thuc Don @ 52 Ly Quoc Su
Tanner half needed more substance after his bowl of Bun Thang. We ended up here at Thuc Don 52 Ly Quoc Su to top up.

Banh Goi @ Thuc Don 52 Ly Quoc Su
Banh Goi aside, I simply couldn't stress enough on my love on local fresh vegetables and their sweet sour dipping sauce. Where have you been all these whiles?

Total Damage = VND 22k


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:

  • Ambiance
    • Random Porridge Stall - 3/5
    • Random Street Snacks - N/A
    • Bun Rieu 11 Hang Bac - 2/5
    • Cha Ca Thang Long - 4/5
    • Thuan Ly Bun Thang - 3/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 2/5
  • Price
    • Random Porridge Stall - 5/5
    • Random Street Snacks - 1/5
    • Bun Rieu 11 Hang Bac - 4/5
    • Cha Ca Thang Long - 3/5
    • Thuan Ly Bun Thang - 4/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
  • Food
    • Random Porridge Stall - 5/5
    • Random Street Snacks - 1/5
    • Bun Rieu 11 Hang Bac - 4/5
    • Cha Ca Thang Long - 3/5
    • Thuan Ly Bun Thang - 4/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
  • Verdict
    • Random Porridge Stall - Best unexpected find!
    • Random Street Snacks - Don't get conned please...
    • Bun Rieu 11 Hang Bac - Try it, you might like it
    • Cha Ca Thang Long - Simply love the fresh and tender fish meat with local vegetables
    • Thuan Ly Bun Thang - Homely fare
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - Totally worth the calories snacking on this
My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • Especen Hotel: Walking distance to Hoan Kiem Lake and local food. Spacious and comfortable room. It could use a fan for ventilation during winters. Do ask for lower floor rooms if you are not a fan of climbing narrow staircases
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex: For fans of history, architecture and religion, you might just spend half a day here easily
  • Lenin Park: If you have the time to kill, this would be a refreshing change to the bustling city of Hanoi


Random Porridge Stall
Ngo Huyen Alley, near Especen Hotel
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: No (Cash only)

Bun Rieu 11 Hang Bac
11 Hàng Bạc, Hanoi, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 6am - 6pm
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: N/A (Cash only)

Cha Ca Thang Long
19 - 21 - 31 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Cửa Đông, Hanoi, Hà Nội Hoàn Kiếm, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 8am - 10pm
Tel: +84 24 3824 5115
Credit Card: Yes

Thuan Ly Bun Thang
33 Hàng Hòm, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: +84 462961827
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su
52 Lý Quốc Sư, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 11am - 10pm (based on Foursquare)
Tel: +84 4 3828 5922
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

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