Different from countless cyclos in Ho Chi Minh City, ones in Hanoi seems to have the unique features that capture my heart right at the first time I was on cyclo tour around Hanoi Old Quarter. Let’s imagine that on a winter afternoon, your cyclo moved slowly passing the ancient streets while the northeastern monsoon was blowing through your hair and chilling your whole body; that would be your fascinating and memorable trip in Hanoi.
In my opinion, Hanoi cyclos are smaller, lower and even simpler than those in Ho Chi Minh City. Most of them are well-arranged with the colorful banners of the roof. Started from the front of Dong Xuan Market, I took a 1-hour cyclo controlled by a veteran driver to explore the Hanoi Old Quarter.
While travelling through some small but noisy streets with names (in Vietnamese) such as mattress, silver, flower, sugar, salt and fish, I felt that this cyclo tour was a slow motion movie which took me back to the former Hanoi capital.
Hanoi looks more beautiful with many colorful and well-decorated streets as if it were ready for the coming festive season. Such an interesting trip as you can observe the immaculately dressed local Hanoians in their daily activities! They gathered in small groups eating on street-side shops, smoking pipe tobacco or enjoying grilled corn.
On some street corners, tourists can see lots of expats sitting on small chairs along the pavements, drinking the famous “bia hoi Hanoi” (local draft beer) or tasting some grilled dishes – specialties of Hanoi Old Quarter. Even in the busy backpacker’s street like Ma May and Ta Hien, the music and sounds seemed to be not as animated as those in Ho Chi Minh City. Some featured dining addresses around the old quarter that tourists cannot miss including Xoi Yen (Yen’s sticky rice) on Nguyen Huu Huan, banh cuon Thanh Van (Thanh Van steamed rolled rice pancake) on Hang Ga, pho so 1 (No. 1 Vietnamese noodles) on Hang Muoi or grilled dishes at 47 Ma May.
To sum up, for those who are newcomers to the capital or regular guests, it’s worth to take chance traveling on cyclo around the old quarter for unforgettable experience. However, remember to bargain and discuss the route with the cyclo driver before starting your cyclo tours in Hanoi.