A couple of years ago, vehicles reminiscent of golf buggies started appearing on the streets of Hanoi. As if the motorbikes, bicycles, cyclos, cars, buses and trucks weren’t enough. But I mustn’t complain, the carts are there in the name of green tourism: Hanoi’s attempt to cut down on the pollution caused by the other forms of transport people were using to explore Old Quarter (um, that’ll be walking and cyclos).
You may detect a hint of cynicism, which is perhaps unfair of me. They have their positives: not only are they environmentally friendly, but they’re also good value if there’s a group of you (certainly cheaper than a cyclo) and allow you to have a look around without having to worry about whether you’re going to get run over by a motorbike or trip over a pot of hot stock. Yes, walking around Old Quarter is great, but it can get tiresome and Hanoi can get repressively hot.
The route takes you around the best known streets in Old Quarter — such as Hang Buom, Hang Bac and Ma May — and around Hoan Kiem lake, and a recorded English commentary on board will fill you in on what you’re seeing.
So to the practicalities. If you want to book onto a tour independently, go to Dong Xuan market. You will see the buggies parked up outside the main entrance on Dong Xuan and there’s a ticket booth alongside. Operating hours are 08:00 to 22:00. Prices are per buggy: 150,000 VND for 30 minutes and 250,000 for an hour — even though the website states it’s 20,000 VND per person. The buggies seat up to seven, although in my opinion that would be a bit of a squeeze, so that works out at just over 20,000 VND for 30 minutes for a full cart.
If you’re on your own or in a couple and don’t want to pay for a full cart you will have to wait and join another group — and given very few people are jumping, literally, on the bandwagon (independently at least — it seems to be popular among tour groups) this could entail a very, very long wait. My advice is to only go to Dong Xuan if you’re prepared to pay for a full buggy. Otherwise try asking at your hotel — some will be able to arrange a pick up for you.
Dong Xuan Tourism
Dong Xuan market (Cau Dong Street)
T: (04) 3928 4755
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 16th April, 2012.