5. The Hanoi Old Quarter
The “Hanoi Old Quarter” (Khu Phố Cổ Hà Nội), located right by Hoan Kiem Lake (I’ll just call it “Pho Co”). Pho Co is just fascinating: crowded, noisy, and full of motorbikes, it boasts every kind of restaurant imaginable, from high class gourmet to yucky street stalls, awash with delicious Vietnamese cuisine, and, to take a wild guess, with no less than 12.12 tourists per square meter!
Pho Co overflows with energy — it is packed with street sellers, sidewalk eateries, and shops and stalls selling anything from raw meet and live fish to works of arts and exotic fruit — not to mention enough shoes and clothes to supply half the population of China!
Luckily, my hotel was located smack in the center of this incredible gem of a place. Roaming through the “atmospheric” narrow streets, especially at night, you can shop to your heart’s desire, eat in sidewalk eateries on incredibly tiny plastic chairs and tables, gaze at masses of tourists intermingled with the natives, and, lo and behold, within a range of 100 meters or so I could speak or hear Vietnamese, English, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, German and Japanese, and more — the language freak’s paradise.
No superlatives, no words, no images, can do this place justice — you need the living experience to grasp what Pho Co is really like.