Hanoi by night

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A group of students exploring Hanoi at night take a break by West Lake

Hanoi is reeling from the summer heat and people are trying to escape by heading out to the beaches. But for young students on a tight budget, a night tour around the city is a good alternative.

"Phượt Ä‘êm Hà Ná»™i" or "Exploring Hanoi at night" is becoming a hot topic among young people in the capital, and many students are including it in their summer activities. Some are exhorting their friends on online forums to plan a trip.

"Riding a motorbike through airy and quiet streets under the soft streetlights made me feel really relaxed," Tran Tam Anh, a fourth-year student at the Hanoi University of Economics who has just done a tour with her classmates, says.

"During my four years staying in Hanoi, I've ridden often on Dien Bien Phu, Phan Dinh Phung, and Hoang Dieu streets. But I found that they are quite different at night: very peaceful and charming."

Pham Quang Vinh, a member of her group, adds: "It seems like we were exploring a new city. I could never imagine busy Dien Bien Phu Street will be so quiet. There were no deafening horns, no jams. And we could drive without even focusing on the road."

Anh says she joined the tour by chance.

"My apartment is not well ventilated and I don't have an air-conditioner, so I cannot sleep well on some really hot nights.

ITINERARY

- Depart at 9 p.m. by motorbikes or bicycles
- 9-10 p.m.: Go to night market on Hang Ngang-Hang Dao (at weekends) or drive around Hoan Kiem Lake and the cathedral.
- Midnight: Explore Hoang Dieu, Tran Phu, and Phan Dinh Phung streets
- 1 a.m.: Drive around West Lake and enjoy phở (noodle) on Thanh Nien Road
- 2 a.m.: Explore the area around Xuan Dieu, Nghi Tam streets
- 3 a.m.: Visit the Quang Ba Flower market

That's why I immediately agreed when my classmates asked me to join them on a night tour to enjoy the cool, fresh air."

Hanoi night tours have been popular among young people for a couple of years now. Many say in fact they do it not only on beautiful summer and autumn nights but also on drizzly spring and chilly winter ones.

"We are not looking for just a refreshing breeze but also to refresh our mind and body," Pham Thu, the leader of Anh's group, explains. "So it is not very important that the weather is ideal. When we feel the need to go and refresh ourselves, we go."

Thu says that she and some of her friends have become addicted to the trips that they make them quite often.

Hoan Kiem Lake, the Cathedral, Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu, Quang Trung streets, Long Bien Bridge, or Quang Ba Night market are among the most popular places on their itinerary.

"With just VND100,000 in our pocket, we feel secure enough to take off," Thu says. "The money will be spent on a bowl of phở, bún (noodle), and drinks along the way. Sometimes we would take the food and enjoy it elsewhere."

But to ensure a smooth trip, it is very important to prepare carefully, she says.

"We normally go in a group of eight or 10. Following other groups' experiences, we usually make a clear and detailed plan for the tour in which the "˜Things to remember' are rather long."

Thu remembers one night when she and another girl separated from their group to wander around and take photos. Two young boys suddenly appeared and snatched their camera.

"It is very likely for us to be threatened by robbers when we go in small groups. And I think the best way is to stick to a large group."

THINGS TO REMEMBER

- Carry papers like driving license and registration certificate for your bike
- Don't be too loud since the police may think you are unruly elements
- You have to keep to speed limits even if there is no one else on the road
- It is advisable to stop and get out of the way when you come across an illegal motorbike race
- Bring along a raincoat and warm clothes even if it is a warm summer's night since it may turn quite chilly early in the morning
- Have a spare bottle of petrol since most gas stations close at night
- You should go in large groups that include men to ensure safety. Don't get separated during the trip

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