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Vietnam (Day 21) Heartbeat of Hanoi

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is a juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern. To really appreciate this gem, you must put down the map and lose yourself in the alleys! Awesome vibe returning to our favorite city in Vietnam.

Our last day in Hanoi, we decided to take it slow. Got a cab over to the Museum of Ethnology, a museum that focuses on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. The aim of the museum is to preserve cultural heritage and promote socio-cultural diversity. We weren't able to hire a guide, but all the displays of tribal art, artifacts, and everyday objects are well labeled in English.  

This museum was SUPER cool to us, especially since we had just gone trekking through villages of Thai ethnic minority people.  Here we got to learn the history of these people.

Ritual tree of the Thai Thanh Hoa - decorated with light-weight wooden flowers and animals like spiders, birds, water snakes, monkeys, and buffaloes. Other small wooden and plaited bamboo objects also ornament the tree. Multi-colored dyed eggshells are suspended around the central post that symbolizes heaven and earth.

The stilt house of the Black Thai can be recognized by its distinctive turtle-shell shaped roof. Recounting the myth of a turtle that taught people how to build houses, the Thai consider the turtle as their benefactor. They also have the custom of worshipping a turtle shell hung at the top of the sacred column inside the house.

Caitlin became rather popular with a large group of visiting school children as they were excited to take pics and practice their English with her. Molly was feeling rather shy, perhaps overcome by the attention so she mostly hid behind me. She certainly perked up when she saw the cotton candy vendor outside the museum. 

When we were here, there was a sort of event going on where many of the Ethnic minority people had traveled far from their villages to attend and see the museum. We admired their beautiful clothing and even got to try some of the food from the event.

Trying Buffalo Meat from an Ethic Minority Event

The museum has two parts. There's also an outside part with houses showcasing the architecture of ethnic minorities. It's done well with the replication, but we found ourselves missing our hillside villages and home stays.

It began pouring as we were exploring the outer part, so we made our way to the cafe located alongside it. We were ready for some lunch! This cafe supports the training of disadvantaged youth in the hospitality business. We really enjoyed the delicious food and cold beer.

On the way out, we had to stop for cotton-candy. This gave all the waiting taxis time to converge on us - hahahaha. We grabbed one and off we went. I took a pic of it because it wasn't a MaiLinh or VinaSun. And, we had no agreed upon price. Just hopped in. You're worried for us, aren't you? Well, we had a FANTASTIC ride. I really wish I could remember how much we paid for it, but I know it was reasonable BECAUSE I can't remember it. This driver gave us a great tour all the way back to Ma May Street. We had lots of laughs and got some interesting information. We were interested in the different embassies and he drove pointing each one out to us. Did we get "ripped-off" overpaying the fare? Maybe, but we got extra for extra and THIS is the only taxi that I took a picture of the whole trip because of the driver's personality.

Afterwards, we did some street shopping. When we left home, we were so impressed with ourselves only traveling with 4 small carry-ons. We are up to 6 luggage pieces now. 

We wrapped up our last night in Vietnam with a fabulous fancy dinner at Duong's 2. This was a newly opened restaurant when we went and it had caught our attention when we walked by (it's right across from La Siesta) earlier in the day. Attentive staff had come out to greet us and we made reservations on the spot. 

When we arrived at the reservation time, it was closed, but again, attentive staff came out and brought us inside. I'm not sure what time they open, but they kept the "Closed" sign up after we entered and we had the ENTIRE restaurant to ourselves until the near end. Talk about feeling like a VIP. 

Just to be clear, I get nothing in return for ANY content on my blog.  I write this purely for the enjoyment of sharing. With that written, this meal from start to finish was a gastronomical experience that I will never forget. And, it's not just the exceptional food.  The entire staff left us feeling so at ease, like we were family.

I might not order this beer ever again, but it was definitely interesting. Really does taste like bia pho, quite literally.

After we sorted the drinks, we were next given complimentary individual starter plates that included a refreshing fruit drink. 

Lots (and lots) of food followed. I hope you aren't seeing this on an empty belly. 

I would sell my soul to have this fish dish plopped before my eyes again. I may or may not have just drooled on my computer watching this video again. 

Of course, after eating every last bit, we got coffee and dessert. Of course, we did. Now, I don't even like desserts.  Much more of a savory palate kind of person. But, wow, if every dessert tasted like these, I might be turned. 

Now, this was a pricey meal, especially since both kids had EACH order the imported lamb. I know, I know - but it was our last night in Hanoi.

This was the perfect way to end to our time in Hanoi. Stuffed and so satisfied, we walked the long 10 seconds back to La Siesta to relax and pack. Tomorrow is a travel day with an international flight, so calling it an early night. Hanoi, you are our favorite city and we sure are going to miss you. 


  1. That beer looked good as all I found in VN were Pilsner styles, light in colour & flavour.
    Yes the ice mixed with beer made me shudder.
    After trying some '333' or 'Ba Ba Ba' as the locals say I read the serving suggestion on the side...
    Make that 2-3 degrees in Oz!

    1. It's a good thing I like all forms of adult beverages. Can't imagine not being a beer drinker in Asia - that would get expensive, hahahaha. Chilled beer in hot Vietnam! The good life :)