The thing to do.
What we say:
In many countries it’s illegal, but when you’re just talking iced tea and sugar cane juice, drinking on the pavement or in the park is the thing to do. Throughout Hanoi the streets — and parks — are alive with food and drink stalls, waiting for those seeking quick refreshment or those wanting to chew the fat for a few hours with friends: though whether you can manage the latter depends on your propensity for sitting on tiny stalls.
Tra (tea) is most commonly found. Either in its hot form or iced (tra da). It will be poured into a small glass from a teapot or flask and should cost no more than 4,000 VND a glass; more commonly 1,000 – 2,000 VND.
If you’re not a fan of straight green tea — which is usually quite strong and bitter — try tra chanh: lemon iced tea. This comes in a larger glass with lemon, is sweetened with sugar and served over ice. It is delicious and super refreshing on a hot day. The area around St Joseph’s Cathedral is well known for tra chanh — so for a good atmosphere and a great view head over there. Another place in Old Quarter can be found on the corner of Hang Bac and Hang Ngang. Expect to pay around 10,000 VND – possibly more in the tourist areas.
Another refreshing option — don’t tell your dentist — is nuoc mia da, or sugar cane juice. Look out for the old-fashioned looking green mangles which squeeze all the goodness out of the sugar cane and into your glass. It’s a good one to take away as well — it will be served in a sealed plastic bag with a straw, perfect for on the move sipping. Price is similar to tra chanh, at around 10,000 VND.
Most stalls selling any of the above will also have a range of bottled drinks. If you want coffee you will have to try one of the cafes, as it’s not commonly found on the street.
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