Although the sprawl of Hanoi makes it time-consuming to reach the countryside proper, a short jaunt to the banks of the Red River will have you feeling like you’ve left the city behind. The best way to explore is by bicycle, so ask at your hotel about hiring a bike for the day, pack your camera and a bottle of water and off you go.
It’s possible to follow the river for quite a distance, but let’s start with a short ride to the descriptively named Bridegroom Field. To start, from Old Quarter, it’s easiest to head north on the dyke road which runs along the east of Hoan Kiem district and is variously named Tran Quang Khai, Tran Nhat Duat then Duong Yen Phu. It’s a busy road, so stick to the right and don’t be disheartened – things get better. You will soon see the Sofitel Plaza Hotel on your left, and at that junction turn right onto Pho An Duong. If you’re staying somewhere other than Old Quarter, the Softel Plaza is a good landmark.
About 100 metres after the turnoff, turn left, continuing on An Duong, then turn right onto Alley (Ngo) 76. Look out for a left turn, through a metal arch – which would have once marked the entrance to a new ward, but now the sign’s missing — onto Ngach 35. This is where it really starts to feel like you’re out of the city as fields start appearing on the right, towards the river, and buildings become scarce.
Hop over a few speed bumps – or just scoot around the edges – and soon you will reach a crossroads. Turn right and follow the road around to the left. At the point where the road bends left it is possible to go straight on, down a narrow path, and have a look if you like, but it runs to a dead end.
Continue on this road for a few kilometres. On the left is housing and on the right are mostly gardens selling trees, with the flats to the river behind. Just before Tet the gardens are full of kumquat trees and quite a sight to behold. Look out for the graveyards on the left as well.
After a bit of bumping along, enjoying the scenery, you will see a sign for the football pitch. Turn right and bump a bit more. Either side of the path are fields of trees and plants, being grown for sale, with small huts here and there. At the end, go under the barrier and down the slope to Bridegroom Field.
I wrote in my post about weddings that brides and grooms have their wedding photos taken before the big day. Well, Bridegroom Field is dedicated to this pursuit, with props set around a field, waiting for a posing happy couple. Among other things, there’s a chair, swing, a gate – complete with heart lock — and a bridge. Being next to the river, there’s also the opportunity for a cute paddling shot.
If you need a break, a couple of cafes are next to the bike park, where you can sit alongside brides in all their finery and enjoy a cha da or can of coke. Or take your own and sit down by the river, watching the photography and the passing boats.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 24th October, 2014.