Hanoi nightlife: better than you think
Lots of guide books and travel forums often say Hanoi nightlife is not as interesting as its brother Saigon. And everything has to shut down by midnight. So they usually suggest to save your time and do the parties in Saigon. Actually, you can have a great night out in Hanoi. Especially for young outdoor people. This is not going to suit those who want a calm, charming night to slowly enjoy the night experience. This is more for young backpackers coming from all over the world to party hard in Hanoi.
A corner of Hanoi’s Old Quarter in the night
The first place is probably the beer corner, where you find lots of little plastic chairs outside where you can get BIA Hoi (local freshly brewed beer) for under 10.000 Dong or when none is left 15.000 to 20.000 Dong for normal beer. It is a great atmosphere as you will sit there with other tourists and locals. You get street food as well there. In this area are also some bars with music inside. This is well known for being the “international corner”. I bet you can find the cheapest draft beer in the world here. Hanoi beer, Saigon beer, Larue beer are the 3 most common beer found in Vietnam. That’s where you can experience the most crowded atmosphere of Hanoi’s life.
Alternatively you can also try some “Hanoi draft beer”- “Bia Hơi Hà Nội” places where you’ll see mainly Vietnamese men and very few westerners. Beer there costs a little bit more than the Tạ Hiện corner but worth it. They serve different types of local beer and food. Busy, crowded, full of people and high drinking spirit… that’s the fun part of Hanoi nightlife.
Tạ Hiện corner the beer place
There are plenty of small bars and night clubs for young backpackers and locals in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. As a policy that has been remained since after the war in Hanoi, around midnight all bars and night clubs have to close. You see suddenly chairs disappear, and guests leaving the bars. In the little beer alley though is a place that stays open.
It can get a bit busier when tourists and some locals go there for more drinks. I actually don’t know when they close (it is not official). And if you do not see the pubs open because shutters are closed, there is always one guy outside ushering people inside. And don’t you worry about doing it illegally. They have been doing it this way for years. Local authority understand the need of having fun in the night and I bet they also want that policy to end soon to make Hanoi nightlife more interesting for tourists.
Plenty of night clubs, bars and pubs in the Old Quarter
If you want to party like a local, then the great number of karaoke bars will suit you. Karaoke was introduced to Vietnam for about almost 20 years now and becomes the most popular way of entertainment for youngsters.
Everywhere you go from cities to countryside you will notice that karaoke bars are well available. Vietnamese young people normally like to sing and they go to karaoke bars after the dinner party. Beer is the most common drink there and they drink beer to swallow away the wine they just had for dinner. Often a group of friends will be found the singing. One sings and the rest will dance with beer drifting down their throats.
Songs mostly are in Vietnamese but in the cities’ karaoke bars you’ll find songs in English and even Korean too. The rule in there is: if you are not good at singing then you should be good at drinking. In Vietnam we say:” liking to sing is even better that being good at singing”. So sing on my friends! More beer is coming! As for myself going to these karaoke bars with my friends is only an excuse for me to drink more beer. Sometimes I sing when I’m drunk only. This is the most wanted kind of entertainment as Hanoi nightlife for locals.
Keep calm and Karaoke
The only thing you should be careful when going to those karaoke bars is: you have to make sure it is the “right” karaoke bar. Why? Because some prostitution places disguise as karaoke bars and you surely don’t want to get in trouble to “accidentally” go in there. And those places don’t likely to welcome foreigners anyway.
For many young Vietnamese in Hanoi, especially those who don’t drink a lot, the favorite Hanoi nightlife activity is to strolling around on the scooters. In the night in Hanoi you’ll be seeing couples riding slowly on their scooter for no exact purpose. Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter and The West Lake are these couple’s favorite places. I guess it is fun to watch people from their motorbike don’t you think? If you want to experience Hanoi’s nightlife this way then there are scooter rental shops in Hanoi where you can get one. Or just simple tell you hotel to prepare you one. Just be careful of the traffic in Hanoi. It is less busy, but is never less crazy!
Strolling around on scooter in the night is common among youngsters (pic-ed in...Saigon)
Don’t want to be too adventurous on scooters and wish to try Hanoi nightlife on foot? The night market in Hang Dao and Hang Ngang Street will fit you perfectly. That is where you can stroll around and watch people enjoying their night.
The night market opens at the weekend from Friday to Sunday. Lots of things to see there but I don’t really recommend to buy anything. All stuff comes from China and will break after the first attempt to use. At least it is my experience after purchasing some items there. And the night market is crazily busy so make sure your wallet and the main money stay somewhere safe, recommended in the hotel’s safety box. Pocket picking can be a problem there. And yes avoid the shoe shine boys who will attempt to remove shoes from your feet to shine. Say no to them unless you want to pay hell lot of money to “shine your shoes”.
The night market in Hanoi only opens at the weekend.
Those are a few things for you to enjoy Hanoi nightlife. And again these suit young people and backpackers more. I’ll be having another note about Hanoi nightlife for those who want something quieter, nicer and more elegant.