While staying in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, it wasn’t easy to walk around. Quite often I would head toward Hoan Kiem Lake to buy a sandwich for lunch from Highlands Coffee, a huge local coffee chain. For about $1.25, it was the best lunch I could get considering most food in the area was of questionable quality unless you’re willing to pay the tourist prices.
This particular Highlands Coffee overlooked Hoan Kiem Lake–on nice days, the view was pleasant as I could gaze out over the maddening traffic.
On my first visit to the lake, I walked all the way around and crossed Huc Bridge to the Temple of the Jade Mountain. There isn’t much to the temple, but is one of the nicer temples I came across in Vietnam.
On quite a few nights I walked down to the lake to watch tourists and locals. It is also one of the few places in Hanoi’s Old Quarter that has a sidewalk that isn’t full of motorbikes–people even go jogging around the lake. On one night I watched locals waltz to the sound of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
The one downside to walking around Hoan Kiem Lake is getting approached by groups of college students who have to take a video or photos to prove that they’ve practiced their English for class. Usually this only happens when standing around for more than a minute.
Sometimes it’s a pleasant way to spend a few minutes. The first time it happened, I recalled students in China approaching me in such a manner only to coax me into visiting an art gallery and attempting to sell said art. Fortunately, the students in Hanoi only wanted a photo, video, and, in one case, to give me a Christmas card.