Are you looking for an unusual way to amuse yourself in Hanoi? Try searching for these 10 quintessentially Vietnamese things, and have fun playing “I Spy” while exploring the capital of Vietnam.
1. Can you find traditional egg coffee?
Sometimes it’s hard to find, but if you see cà phê trung written on a shop sign, run in and order yourself a cup. A proper egg coffee can take about twenty minutes to prepare, but this delicious brew is worth the wait. It’s one of my favorite things about Hanoi. Anyone who succeeds at this game of “I Spy” is a true winner.
2. Can you spot someone burning “ghost money”?
This is a custom in many cultures where items or money are burnt in order to send something to loved ones who have passed. It can be seen in Vietnam in the form of men and women burning fake money in the streets for their ancestors.
3. Who can predict the next sudden storm?
Is it getting dark outside? Prepare for the torrential minute and a half downpour before the sun comes back out and dries the puddles faster than you have time to even open your umbrella.
4. Can you find a thịt chó (dog meat) restaurant?
Before I came to Hanoi a friend of mine informed me that I would rarely see dog meat shops or restaurants in Vietnam. I was told that it’s more of a rare tradition than a regular one, but it turns out that dog restaurants aren’t that unusual and you don’t need to know the Vietnamese word to recognize the barbecued animal out front. This might be a macabre game of a “I Spy,” but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for, mostly for the “ick” factor in my case. This is one of those cultural differences that I’ll probably never be completely comfortable with.
5. Who can find a misspelled t-shirt?
The results can be hilarious or just plain confusing.
6. How many song birds can you see?
There is a culture built around caged song birds. You can see these birds all around the city, hanging from awnings and resting on stoops. They chirp and sing in their small cages, where owners meticulously care for them with regular cleaning, feeding, bathing, and even singing sessions or competitions with other song birds. The sounds of the birds bring a bit of nature into the big city.
7. How many short-shorts can you see?
Okay, maybe this one is a bit inappropriate, but it took me by surprise when I first moved here. When the weather gets hot where I’m from in Indiana even the grandmas break out their booty shorts, but in Hanoi where the summers are sweltering only the teens and kids seem able to get away with shorts on a regular basis. Almost all the ladies wear pants or dresses.
8. Who can spot the weirdest thing on a motorbike?
It’s a game among expats throughout Hanoi and Saigon. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen on a motorbike?
9. How many dads with kids can you see?
This is a very endearing aspect of Vietnamese culture. Dads in Hanoi are very involved with their kids and families, and even though I’d considered U.S. dads to also generally be involved with their children, the sheer amount of fathers in Hanoi that can be seen driving their kids to school, playing with their kids in the park, and eating dinner with their little ones has struck me as a little remarkable and very sweet.
10. Can you find this sign?
Confusing tourists throughout Asia, you’ll understand why this sign exists when you find yourself faced with a squat toilet. But don’t knock it, apparently squatting is a much healthier and more natural way to relieve yourself. Although you might not want to try it on a western toilet.