Dec 14 2011

A Christmas day in Hanoi

Published by at 5:44 pm under Festivals


Despite Christmas not being traditionally celebrated in Vietnam, the Christmas spirit has certainly arrived this year, with decorations proudly lacing many an office and apartment building. I celebrated early on Saturday, as I’ll be in the UK over Christmas this year: Santa hats and decorations were purchased on Hang Ma, Secret Santa (anonymous) gifts were selected and wrapped and a group of us headed to Southgate for what turned out to be a very merry Christmas indeed.

Christmas (and lanterns) on Hang Ma

Christmas (and lanterns) on Hang Ma.

But let’s move forward to the day itself, December 25. If I were staying in Hanoi, what would I do?

Well, Christmas has to start with a lazy morning in bed. I’d pick up some strawberries the day before — they are available to buy on the street at the moment, though they’re expensive at about 90,000 VND per kilo — and some sparkling wine. I’d try not to get juice on the sheets.

To prepare myself for brunch — after all, it’s not going to be an ordinary Hanoi one — I’d jump in a taxi to get to Hoan Kiem lake and go for a gentle walk, with a stop for a drink en route if I have time.

Then: I’d indulge in a Christmas feast. For the best spread in town I’d go to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel (one of the longest hotel names around). Their Christmas brunch buffet comes in at $95++ but, after all, it’s Christmas. Alternatives would be any of the other big hotels, like the Intercontinental or Movenpick, or maybe Southgate, where there’s a three-course brunch for 750,000 VND.

East meets West

East meets West.

After a good few hours of over-indulgence, and no doubt a little bit tipsy, I’d want to keep the party going: last year we went to karaoke late on Christmas Day, thereby introducing a touch of Vietnamese to our otherwise Western day. Try Quan Tom. Otherwise maybe I’d just head into Old Quarter — it’s likely to be busy and there will be Christmas activities going on, although it’s too early for me to tell you what. Of course, I could always just take it easy for a few hours here.

Even the biggest feast wears off, so after karaoke I’d be looking for somewhere to wind down the day over a bite to eat. Puku, Le Pub or Ete would hit the right buttons among Hanoi’s many offerings; then home to bed and the anticipation of a Boxing Day spent doing absolutely nothing.

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