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A Foreign Local’s Guide Of Hanoi

Stop “Living Like a Local.” How Cliché Tourist Attractions Led me to Love my Home.

By: Vanessa Ho

A map of Hanoi with food and buildings highlighted
Graphic By: Mia Overbo

“Living like a local” seems like the ultimate travel goal these days. From waking up earlier to learning the local language, we’ve been brainwashed to boycott all the things quintessential to traveling. Think about it: what’s traveling without the cliché touristy things?

I used to hate all the touristy stuff, too. But that was before I realized that doing touristy activities allowed me to appreciate the beauty of my own home.

If you know me in real life, you know how much I love raving about my home, Hanoi. However, I didn’t always like it there. It took moving to an entirely different timezone and experiencing home like a tourist for me to learn to appreciate everything that Hanoi has to offer.

Having gotten pretty good at being a touristy local, here are three musts I do every time I’m back in town.

Coffee on Train Street

Tucked away between the backyards of two rows of clustered, tall, and narrow houses is a small alley known to locals and tourists as the infamous Train Street of Hanoi. The excitement that Train Street offers, and the reason why it has become so popular, is that the alley is so small that, twice a day, visitors are only a couple of inches away from the moving train zipping by.

Sunset on Long Bien Bridge

A new personal favorite “must-see” spot of mine is the sunset on Long Bien Bridge. The bridge, constructed during French colonialism, sits over the Red River and offers visitors the perfect view of both the sunrise and sunset over the city. Aside from architecture reminiscent of the French, the bridge at sunset glows red from cars and motorcycles during the city’s rush hour.

Ta Hien by night

Though Ta Hien Street is relatively new to me, it’s been a fan favorite for many years. Known also as “Beer Street,” Ta Hien Street is the stereotypical picture most people would think of when they think of vibrant Southeast Asian cities. The street, lined with bars, restaurants, and rows upon rows of people sitting and eating on plastic chairs and tables, comes to life every night, regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend.

What I’ve come to realize is that the beauty of traveling like a tourist—and quite frankly, of simply traveling in general—is that you get to escape the banality of everyday life. Even for locals, exploring the city through a tourist’s lens offers a nice change of pace from their usual routine.


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