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Walking tour with Hanoi Flash

by on March 13, 2010

The following is a draft of what I wrote 2 years ago on the merits of having a bunch of high school kids take you around Hanoi.  It was to be part 4 of a 4 part series on Hanoi, back when we thought we could actually pull off such lengthy articles for a travel blog.

Our second day in Hanoi was actually spent in Halong Bay, and when we arrived in our hotel after dinner that night, we received a message that the kids from Hanoi Flash would be meeting us the next day for our city tour. Hanoi Flash is a club of the Hanoi Amsterdam High School that gives tourists a free tour of the city, and in exchange they get to practice their english. They don’t outright ask for a donation, but you can also give them a donation for an orphanage that they’re sponsoring if you want to thank them for the tour.

We got up bright and early for the tour, and found that our first guide, Quang, was already waiting for us. He helped me get a mini baguette and cheese sandwich off a nice Vietnamese lady for about 10000 dong, and we settled in to wait for his partner and senior member of the club, Toan. Quang’s english was a little rough, but I managed to understand him most of the time, and he explained to me that he was a math student in the high school (apparently they start to focus on certain subjects even at that stage) while Toan was an english major, so his english was much better.

Toan finally arrived and as we wanted them to show us the best spots in the city to eat, he suggested a bum ca stall just down the corner. Bun ca is vietnamese pork barbecue eaten with noodles, and is one of the more popular dishes in Vietnam. Unfortunately the store was closed at the time, so we headed off to another side street where we sat down and had some Vietnamese halo halo! Well they called it something else but it was basically Halo-halo, with langka and curiously enough carrots and other vegetables in it.

I’ve forgotten too much to go into any more detail, but I do remember them bringing us around the city to their favorite eating spots, like a hole in the wall beer house where I finally got my hands on some Bia Hoi (I’m not quite sure what the drinking age is in Hanoi but I suspect that I was encouraging underage drinking).  It was in this same beer house that Aissa and I got a taste of what continues to be our favorite fried Tofu.  It sounds and looks  ridiculously simple but we’ve never managed to recapture that taste to this day.  We also visited the American war museum (ie the Vietnam war) and an ancient temple/university.  We ended the hot day of walking around by having a local treat; green bean (aka monggo) flavored popsicles.  They seemed to be popular and I remember thinking how awesome it was that we found another monggo based food item in Hanoi.

Anyone looking to go to Hanoi should definitely take these Hanoi Flash kids up on their free tour (they do ask you to contribute to one of their charities) of the city.  Our friend Toan looks like he’s already graduated high school, but Quang’s still there, and maybe he’ll get to take you around.  They’re not professionals by any means, but if you want a taste of the city from a local perspective, they can’t be beat.

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From → Foreign, Travel

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