|The iconic Sword Lake on a chilly autumn day. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
What’s up everyone? You’re listening to the Sunday Show with HN and PT. Well, we’re enjoying some final gorgeous autumn days in Hanoi.
PT: Yeah. Just recently, Hanoi was listed among the 12 best places to visit in the fall by American news outlet CNN, so we decided to hop on a one-day trip around the city and really had a blast. I don’t know about you but I literally have muscle-ache just by remembering the trip!
HN: C’mon! It’s not like we ran a marathon or anything. The weather in fall makes it so much easier to experience the city to the fullest. It’s drier and cooler with monsoon season ending, no more scorching summer sun beating down.
PT: Agreed. Out of four seasons in Hanoi, Autumn is the shortest season and because it’s so short it's often said to be the most beautiful. Now, we’d love to take you through our one-day autumn trip that promises to make any first-time visitor fall in love with Hanoi.
HN: Ahh, yeah, if you wake up to a light breeze and the distinct scent of milky flowers, then you’ve been greeted by the perfect combo of Hanoi autumn.
PT: Remember how we started our day?
HN: Having the all-time favorite dish of Hanoi residents for breakfast – Pho!
PT: Yeah, the aroma of Pho cleared my nose right up. There is just something so alluring about the combination of beef marrow bone broth, herbs, ginger, and dried onions.
HN: Pho really is the quintessential dish of Hanoi. In 2007, the word “Pho” even made it to the Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries, and while there are tons of Pho outlets in the city, not all of them suit Hanoians’ taste.
PT: that delicious, fatty bowl of beef soup that warms my soul every time.
|Chef kiss indeed! Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: The main reason Pho is so nice is because of everything else around it, like the chilly air of a windy morning, the rustic smell of the street, the sight of people walking around. Everything.
PT: Oh, ok Mr. Gordon Ramsey. If you know so much about Pho, why was I the one who suggested that awesome Pho restaurant we went to?
HN: Well ok, I can give you points for that one. Even though Pho Ly Quoc Su is a famous restaurant chain in Hanoi, the branch we went to was really the best I have been to.
PT: It was close to the central streets of Hanoi. It was like 1km walk away from Lý Thường Kiệt street, and no more than a 15 minutes bike ride from your house. Plus, a bowl was like a dollar and a half, what a bargain.
HN: A dollar and a half for Phở Tái, without bagel twist. What kind of mad person has Pho without bagel twists? I saw a couple sitting right behind you who ordered with no bagel twists. I was so mad.
PT: For the first time in our life, we got to know more about a favorite place of Hanoian – Pho Ly Quoc Su through a sharing from one of its senior staff.
“Our store has been in business for 6 years. Each restaurant in the Lý Quốc Sư chain has their own recipe for making Pho. Each restaurant’s chef has his own way of thinking about Pho. For example, since most of our customers are patients from the hospital near here, our Pho must suit their taste and health condition.”
HN: You know, I really like what he had to say about their signature Pho. Their noodles and broth are made so that even people in poor health can eat.
PT: Yeah. You can’t usually find a Pho restaurant that suits everyone’s taste since it’s such a delicate dish, but this Pho Ly Quoc Su branch set out to make something so gentle, everyone can eat. That’s definitely a plus in my book.
HN: And it wasn’t just us who thought so. We met two tourists and one of them told us.
“For us, it’s very good, with a lot of different flavors, very fresh too. We liked the spices. I tasted some cinnamon. It’s very good.”
PT: So guys, definitely check out Pho Ly Quoc Su. It’s at 25 Phủ Doãn. But be warned, after 7AM, you may have a hard time finding a seat.
HN: Yeah, the second we left the restaurant, which was like 7:05, the flood gate opened. It was wild to see so many hungry people waiting for a hot bowl of Pho.
PT: And since we managed to leave before too many people came, we had plenty of time to enjoy the next item on the Hanoi-style breakfast menu, the egg coffee.We went to the most famous egg coffee shop in Hanoi —Cafe Giảng. The shop itself doesn’t even look fancy. It’s just a small space inside a lane, but you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
|Cafe Giảng, where you can let your hair down for a while. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: It was like 7:30 when we arrived so the shop wasn’t that busy yet. And that’s also why we had a chance to talk to the shop’s owner – Vũ Khắc Sơn – about his place:
“Giảng cafe was started 1946 by Nguyễn Văn Giảng, a chef at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, historic luxury landmark since 1901. Mr. Giang then created the egg coffee which took shape gradually, to suit the taste of customers, especially women and foreign tourists.”
PT: Amazing right? Can you believe it? This place is 75 years old.
HN: What I’m more amazed by is that it took a chef from the five-star hotel to make such a simple dish.
PT: It’s not a simple dish, you know. Remember what the master said?
“Egg coffee is made from egg yolk, sugar, and other supplements, whisked together into cream. The cream is then poured into coffee based on a determined ratio. It’s a simple recipe, but it took years of testing and improving to perfect it.”
PT: See. It’s not simple. The important thing to note here is the ratio of egg cream to coffee. The egg coffee I tasted in other shops either had too much sugar and egg or too much liquid.
HN: Yeah. I couldn’t have imagined that dark coffee could have such a gentle taste. The egg really softened it, only leaving behind a hint of bitterness
PT: The texture of the drink was also soft, like melted cotton candy. Even though I’m a fan of dark coffee, starting my day with one is usually too overwhelming. Egg coffee offers a much gentler feel. It’s like you still have that bitter, moody richness, but it’s topped off with sunlight and rainbows.
HN: Ahh, yes. Let’s listen to a customer all the way from the US.
“It’s good. It has a little bit of that toasted marshmallow taste. It’s got a little bit of that burnt taste, but not bad. It’s really good. It’s a hard thing to describe. It tastes almost like a dessert really. And it’s got a really nice creamy consistency to it.”
PT: Yeah. And again, we have to also talk about the experience of tasting egg coffee. Did you look around the second floor of Giảng Cafe? It was beautiful.
HN: The design of the rooms is reminiscent of old houses in Hanoi, with scraped walls, a red-brick floor, and wooden furniture. I had nothing to complain about. 8/10
PT: You said nothing to complain about. Why 8 out of 10?
HN: 2 points for the fact that we had to leave so early.
PT: Because you said you wanted to walk around Phan Đình Phùng street before it rains! Jeez this person
|Phan Đình Phùng Street - one of the biggest magnets for tourism in fall. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: As I thought, walking along the most romantic street in Hanoi with a full tummy is really the best. Phan Đình Phùng street ticks all the boxes, from the most beautiful tree line to its rich history.
PT: That’s so typical of a romantic to say. Yet, I can not agree more. No matter how many nice pictures have been taken here, the street never gets old. Oh wait, the street is old.
HN: As old as 2 centuries ago. In the 19th century, it was just a trench running along the northern end of Thăng Long Citadel, and also a part of the old Tô Lịch river.
PT: Because the influence of French architecture was so strong, I sometimes forget that there are parts of the street that are deeply Vietnamese.
HN: When you walk along the street, knowing a little about the street’s history makes you appreciate it even more. Did you also know that in the French colonial era, the street was called Boulevard Carnot?
PT: I do now. But I thought Boulevard Carnot was a street in France?
HN: That’s true. The French used the same name for Phan Đình Phùng Street in the 1910s. It was only changed to Phan Đình Phùng after the 1945 August Revolution.
PT: Well, I’m a practical gal. Even though I don’t know much about the history of the street like you, I can still appreciate how well preserved the architecture is, and how well the street was planned so that every store, and every tree blend together. Nothing stands out too much to disrupt the overall landscape.
HN: Have you noticed that most of the people we met were women and wore ao dai?
PT: Yup. It was quite sunny that day actually, the sun rays creep through the morning trees, such an Instagram-worthy moment. And what would you do if you’re surrounded by such dazzling? Perhaps taking some good photos?
HN: Oh yeah many people actually came to take photos alongside the streets. Some were wearing traditional Ao Dai, with nón lá (conical hat) and bouquets of daisy, posing in front of the camera and smiling. What a sight for sore eyes!
|Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
"I want to capture the beauty of Hanoi during autumn, so I came here today to take pictures. Phan Đình Phùng is famous in Hanoi for its antique beauty and line of trees, so I chose it.Everyone has their own opinions, but personally, I like the atmosphere in autumn, from the soft sunshine to the chilly wind. And I think many people share the same thought.”
“It’s a Saturday, so we come to Phan Đình Phùng to take pictures and wander around. Hanoi is a famous city. I came from another district, but I really love the atmosphere inHanoi during autumn. That’s why I chose this time of the year to take pictures"
|Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
PT: Some of the top spots to take pictures are the North Gate or Cửa Bắc Church. Actually, speaking of North Gate, here’s a quiz for you.The North Gate is the only gate of the Thăng Long Citadel. How many gates were there originally?
HN: 4? North, East, South, West, right?
PT: Wrong. There were 5. And bonus for you is one other fun fact, on the wall of Thang Long Citadel, archaeologists found two bullet marks fired by the French colonialists. Remarkable isn’t it?
HN: Yeah. Aside from the North Gate, North Gate Church is also another photogenic spot, and it sits just opposite of the North Gate too.
PT: North Gate Church is one of the two biggest churches in Hanoi. You can definitely see the influence of French architecture when admiring it.
HN: The building also has a familiar beauty of Eastern architecture.
PT: The indoor space is typical of a Christian structure, and the outside is painted a yellow color traditional to French buildings. So where are the Eastern elements you ask?
HN: If you take a closer look, you will find that the overall structure is based on Eastern asymmetric architecture, with a bell tower sitting right behind the main hall and tiling roofs connecting the bell tower to the dome.
PT: When the two of us were out on the street, it wasn’t the Church that attracted the most attention, right?
HN: Yeah, surprisingly enough, it was the flower sellers who inspired the most pictures. People love to pose in front of the daisies, and wild sunflowers sold on the bike of the street vendors. But I wonder if they even bought any flowers.
PT: These flower sellers appear in many songs and poems in which they are said to carry the whole autumn on their bike. We talked to Ms. Nụ, a flower seller.
“In autumn/fall, I sell these lovely small daisies, baby breath flowers, and small sunflowers. They are the flowers of autumn. I also sell roses but they grow all year round. People usually buy small daisies in autumn. Wait a month from now, and you will see big white daisies
|The scent of autumn on one small basket. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: Aside from flowers, yellow, dried leaves also take the spotlight in a photo during fall. Just imagine, a girl wearing ao dai, sitting on the pavement filled with autumn leaves under the golden sunlight peeking through the dracontomelon trees. They make for wonderful photos, don’t they?
PT: After spending the whole morning touring around, we were craving some street food and well, what’s a better way to enjoy street food than literally sitting outside on the pavement, right?
HN: Of course. In Vietnam, you might be familiar with the sight of street hawkers carrying gánh hàng (a meter-long bamboo stick put on their shoulders with two baskets hung at each end), and they carry Hanoian gastronomy that has endured through generations. Yes, we’re talking about cốm, or young rice flakes.
PT: Cốm is a seasonal dish associated with autumn. It looks green, but it’s not dyed green, it’s immature rice kernels roasted over very low heat and pounded in a mortar and pestle until flattened. To enjoy the original taste of cốm, we visited Vong village in Cau Giay district and were greeted by the refreshing smell of young rice from Mrs. Tam’s
|Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: Mrs. Tam’s family is among the 7 households in the village that are still making and selling traditional young rice flakes. She clarified,
“Here’s the rice my family collected from Bac Ninh, Bac Giang. There are no paddy fields left in the village, so I have to buy rice to make cốm. It’s a lot of hard work. In the past, the process was done manually, but now it's getting easier thanks to the use of machines.”
PT: To be honest, the chewy young rice flakes from the village hit different, you know. You even ordered some takeaway, didn’t you?
HN: I mean, who wouldn’t? We recommend you have cốm with bananas or crispy persimmons, as a snack. It’s also a staple in a variety of tasty dishes, including bánh cốm (young rice cake), chả cốm (Vietnamese young rice sausage) and cốm xào (browned young sticky rice).
|A tall cup of bạc sỉu (milk coffee) is the perfect touch for cốm. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
PT: According to Mrs. Tam, many households buy cốm
to offer to deities and ancestors on special occasions.
HN: FYI, you can buy a full plate of young rice flakes of about 100g for about a dollar. And now that we’re talking about it, can we have some later?
PT: You bet. But we’re not done with our yummy seasonal menu yet. The city still has plenty to keep foodies satiated. Other fall delicacies include deep-fried ragworm omelet, steamed bread made from corn flour, and pork rib congee with fried flour toppings.
HN: After a savory lunch, we resumed our journey, immediately heading to the next stop. A word of advice though, try to at least take a quick nap so you don’t get tired for the other half of the day. We still had a lot to do!
|Book fair in Hoan Kiem Lake. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
PT: We were lucky to have our trip in time for the celebration of October 10, marking the 68th anniversary of Hanoi’s Liberation Day, the National Digital Transformation Day, and the traditional day of Vietnam’s publishing, printing and distribution industry.
HN: The 7th Hanoi Book Fair is part of a plan to promote citywide reading culture and was held at the flower garden area of King Ly Thai To Monument on the Sword Lake’s banks, downtown Hanoi after two years being put off due to the pandemic.
PT: Themed “Tradition and Integration”, the book fair was joined by various publishers with thousands of titles, drawing in readers from around the city and localities.Hanoi residentsThanh Ngoc and Ngo Thi Bich Phuong were among the firstcomers.
“Today I went here with my friends, I like reading, so I wanted to check out the fair to see if I can find any suitable titles. These days, I want to understand myself a little bit more, and also to understand others. So I’m looking for books related to science, psychology, self-exploration. Hope I can find some good titles by the end of today’s book fair.”
“I’ve been to several book fairs in Hanoi because I would say I have a kind of passion, a bookworm indeed. Several book fairs I’ve been to in the past, because of the location, only attract Vietnamese people, and Vietnamese readers, but this one, it’s held in Hoan Kiem, outside in an open space. It attracts more attention from foreigners walking by the book fair.”
|All booths are packed with book enthusiasts. Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
HN: The book fair also promoted the use of English books on life skills among children and showcased more than 200 titles from the project “Thang Long, a thousand years of civilization” by the Hanoi Publishing House.
PT: The publisher later launched a four-book series “Dynasties in Thang Long”, including the Ly Dynasty, Tran Dynasty, Le Dynasty, and the Mac - Le Trung Hung period, spaning from the 11th century to 18th century. A visitor from Germany arrived in Hanoi the day before and was exploring the book fair.
“I’m from Germany. So I came here to go backpacking for a while. Actually I didn’t know a lot about the book fair, I was just wandering around. I’ve liked it so far, it's very interesting. I looked around a few stalls and they told me about some books, very very interesting. I found a few in English right there but not many I can actually read.”
HN: Throughout the afternoon, I had to literally restrain myself from buying more because I already bought a few the previous day, some good Haruki Murakami’s books, plus I’ve still got a whole lot of books at home I haven’t even touched.
PT: Oh yeah that was your 2nd day there at the book fair, right?
HN: Yup. Anyway, we then went for some famous Trang Tien ice cream nearby to distract me a little bit.
PT: On the weekend, the street is closed to vehicles, and only walking is allowed. If you’re a little worn out, a Trang Tien ice cream is here to save the day, believe me!
HN: Did you know that the first ice cream was actually brought to Vietnam and offered at the Grand Hotel here in Hoan Kiem District? At that time, not everyone could afford it. It was not until 1958 that ice cream was introduced to the public at 35 Trang Tien Street, after which the ice-cream brand was named.
|Tràng Tiền ice-cream with "flavours that transcend time". Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV
: To date, Trang Tien offers basic types of ice cream like fresh ice-cream, popsicle, cone ice-cream and mochi in a variety of flavors, including the most autumn-ish flavor: young rice flakes! Highly recommend that one!
HN: We bought 2 cones, each 63 cents, then continued to amble around the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Talking about the Old Quarter, it’s actually a really cool neighborhood, home to a mix of Vietnamese architecture, green spaces, and fresh-as-it-gets street food.
PT: If you’re tired and can’t stand walking anymore, you can chill out on the bank of Sword Lake. It’s an ideal hangout spot for Hanoians, especially during golden hour.
HN: I gotta say that the breezy weather and the vibrant yet serene atmosphere around the lake really brings the best out in me. We literally spent hours just chit-chatting!
PT: Oh yeah we almost forgot about our next stop. Luckily, some random loud music played out of nowhere to let us know, “Well, stop chit-chatting already, it’s time to dance the night away!”
HN: Yamaha Grande Festa by Yamaha took place at Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc square in Hoan Kiem. The event featured Dutch DJ Don Diablo, credited as one of the founders of the Future House movement, together with A-list Vietnamese artists like Isaac, Truc Nhan, and Amee.
The night is still young. Get ready to move your body!
Photo: Yamaha Motor Vietnam Facebook fanpage
PT: When attending a public concert like this, don’t forget to find yourself a proper parking spot if you take your own vehicle. We just parked randomly somewhere around it, and later couldn’t even find our motorbikes.
HN: Yeah I remember we had to crawl in and out of the audience area multiple times, searching for our bikes. It was a bit embarrassing I must say! You know the kind of feeling when people stare at you and be like, “what kind of a weirdo would park in the middle of the audience area?”
PT: Embarrassing moments aside, the night was perfect for all the ravers out there. And usually, there are music concerts at the weekend held in major spots in Hanoi, so if you want to party it up till you can’t even feel your legs anymore, stay tuned for more updates on vovworld.vn.
HN: After all, it was such a great day, don’t you think?
PT: Absolutely! Tiring, yes, but do I regret taking the trip? No. Never.
HN: Same here. We got the chance to enjoy all the quintessential Hanoian cuisine, Pho, Egg coffee, Trang Tien ice cream and cốm especially. We toured around all the hot spots where people often go to chill out: Phan Dinh Phung street, the walking street on the side of the Sword Lake. I mean, to experience all these things in Hanoi on an autumn day and capture its beauty is such a wholesome journey for me.
PT: Ancient and modern, peaceful and vibrant, the city has it all. We hope our little trip helps, and hope you make it to Hanoi during autumn. Beware though, you may fall for the city before you know it!
HN: Here’s Vietnamese rapper Hà Lê with his remake of late musician Trinh Cong Son’s “Miss the Autumn days in Hanoi”, a song that has beautifully captured the essence of Hanoi. To the rapper, Hanoi is like a lover, he falls in love with it, they make an unspoken promise, and the autumn days in Hanoi are there to remind him of their promise to never fall out of love.
|Photo: Hung Nguyen/VOV