Experiencing Vietnam Through Hanoi’s best street food tour: The nostalgia streak in me will always have Hanoi close to my heart. Hanoi can feel like traveling back in time opening up to a time capsule back to the 1970s.
Motorbikes zipping through ancient streets under neon lights like a video speed loop. Food carts packed to the brim with livestock and crops as local farmers prepare to peddle their produce. A walk through Hanoi’s old quarter, one will see bustling streets and secret alleys lined up with bountiful food fares of all sorts.
From speciality stores, hip coffee joints, heritage houses and local architectures, the old quarter in Hanoi bearing the emblems of Vietnam’s colonial past is a rich visual feast of the country’s past intertwined with her contemporary’s present. But nothing beats embarking on an authentic Hanoi street food tour that provides a more immersive experience to local life in this intriguing city.
Resurgence Of Hanoi’s Street Food Tour As COVID Travel Restrictions Eases Up in Vietnam
Vietnam’s COVID travel restrictions eased up with the recent South East Asia (SEA) Games held in May 2022 where Hanoi hosted over 10,000 athletes and sports delegates. The event, along with reopening of international borders to Vietnam offered a much needed beam of hope where life, like everywhere else has pretty much stood still in the face of the COVID pandemic.
Minh, a young chap in his early 20s heaved a sigh of relief following Vietnam’s reopening. Two years late into the pandemic, Minh is finally back to work as a food guide. Minh’s day starts early as he carefully browses through the clients’ name list that have been separated into small groups, in which he will be put in charge for the day. Minh’s clients come from everywhere in the world from Belgium, France, UK, Australians and Netherlands.
Guided street food tours has always been a popular way for tourists to experience Hanoi’s street food culture. Like any family and especially with two young children, we wanted to know a reliable and best street food tour guide that can give the best possible experience.
Ha Food Tour came highly recommended by La Siesta Trendy, a boutique hotel we were putting up at during our week’s stay in Hanoi. The meticulous pre-planning of a neat system of routes and restaurants will allow us to savour a variety of palatable local food fare from Hanoi’s 6-8 different eateries in 3 hours.
From the different regional versions of Pho, to Banh Mi, Vietnamese egg coffee and Bun Cha, a local dish popularized when Anthony Boudain dined with Obama in Vietnam, the street food walking tour covered 5-7 km as we strolled through secret alleys known only to the locals that are otherwise unheard of and inaccessible to tourists.
An Extraordinary Experience: A Walk Through History And Hanoi’s Street Food Culture
What truly separates an extraordinary food tour experience from the mediocre ones are the thoughtful exchanges and interactions we have had with our food guide that formed a key part of the curated food tour experience.
Sharing the unique history and Vietnam’s culture through the lens of food is the main highlight of Minh’s role. A simple heartwarming bowl of Vietnam’s iconic “Pho” for example, has had its origins steep in history and widely debated since Vietnam’s colonial past to the country’s civil war days. Unique native influences have also resulted in regional differences in how Vietnamese consume Pho.
Through Minh, we learnt how some food vendors have painstakingly whipped up unique secret recipes of their own that stood the test of time and have been serving up delicacies to generations of Vietnamese till this day. The meaningful interactions are conversations that Minh will always be proud and happy to be part of. Not only was he able to learn about different cultures and people from other countries, he got to shared his own in these exchanges as well. Gaining new skills and knowledge while improving his foreign language competency is something he could readily put to good use in his career as a local food guide.
Vietnam COVID Travel Updates: The Walk Towards Normalcy
Vietnam has been spared from high infections and low COVID death rates as a result of rapidly shutting down borders with China and ceasing issue of visas to foreigners in comparison to other South East Asia countries.
However, the devastating impact to Vietnam’s tourism and hospitality sectors remains. According to various independent media reports, the country lost around 7 billion in tourism revenue between from Jan-Feb 2022. While many jobs were lost, there were also those who thrived in times of uncertainties. The sprouting of virtual guided tours delivered through social media livestreams was a result of how people thrived as they devised new ways to get around COVID 19 travel restrictions in a tourism backed economy. It requires tour guides to overcome their innate shyness towards camera and film themselves on locations.
The walk towards normalcy by opening up international borders and relaxing travel restrictions is much more than traveling freely to splurge on that long overdue vacation. For many, it simply means to live fully; securing livelihood again after a long overdue hiatus.