Today we met up with my friend An. An is from Hanoi but I met her in the US when we were both doing a course together there. That was in 2004 and I haven’t seen her since so it was so nice to see her again and to get a little introduction to Hanoi from a local perspective.
We spent a few hours visiting the Temple of Literature, the first national university in Vietnam. It was build in 1070 and is dedicated to Confucius. An tells us that this is a popular spot today for students studying for exams. She used to come here to ask for strength and wisdom to be able to do well in her studies. In one area of the temple there are 82 carved turtles carrying larges plaques. Each plaque has the names and birthplaces of the graduates engraved into them.
After visiting a range of spots around the area including the Craftlink stores that sell handmade traditional goods from the region, we made our way to Cafe Nhan. Cafe Nhan is one of the oldest, continually running cafe’s in Hanoi. It is quite a large cafe spread over three floors. On the first floor there is an interesting looking room with a giant fish tank , low tables and lots of pillows. Several small groups of teenagers have taken over this space so we continue up to the third floor.
It seems like they have done some decorating since the cafe first opened. Rather than the tiny wooden stools and tables I’m used to sitting on across Hanoi, this place has new tables covered in glass. In our section the tables have a green, yellow and brown checkered tablecloth that doesn’t feel very local but brings a burst of colour to the place. On the wall are some reproductions of famous paintings. The space is filled with locals sitting on large comfy red and green chairs, most talking on their cell phones while enjoying noodles and coffee.
Like many of the hot chocolates I have had in Hanoi my hot chocolate smells like coffee when it is first presented to me. It doesn’t help that both An and Rich have ordered coffee, as has everyone else int eh cafe, so the smell is in the air. But like the other hot chocolates I have had in Hanoi before, the smell quickly passes and I enjoy this one quite a bit. It isn’t as rich and creamy as others I have had here but the company and being able to catch up with An turned it into a really great hot chocolate.
Verdict: Cafe Nhang isn’t as traditional as some other coffee houses in the city, it has a bit of a strange decor but the drinks are good and it s a nice break from the busy streets in the old quarter. Cafe Nhan, 39D Ngo Hang Hanh Nha Tho Area, Hanoi, Vietnam