Written by Ruairidh MacDonald
You might have thought that a city-wide lockdown of all cafes, coffee shops, tea houses and frankly all drinking-related establishments might have had a slightly negative impact on our beloved Alley Café of the Month column…but fear not! It’s alive and kicking, as are your opportunities for stumbling on new places to have a drink.
As I hope I have demonstrated over the past few months, there is no single formula for creating a captivating, enjoyable space of beverage bliss. We’ve discovered it in all the corners of Hanoi, from its cramped bo-ho nooks to its sleek minimalist showrooms, from the cluttered leafy verandahs to polished concrete havens. I’ve actually found the local Vietnamese mentality serves best, of seeing all strange novel situations not as uncomfortable disappointments but as sources of at least some cheery delight, some hilarious oddity.
So keep that in mind as I take you through today’s sites: obviously I can’t bring you along to an actual café (unless they’re back open by the time this is published, in which case hooray!), so instead I will give you a brief list of wonderful outdoor spots to chill and enjoy a drink, while of course employing all the necessary social distancing methods. The idea here is that you bring your food, maybe even go old school and prepare a picnic all by yourself, complete with a dorky yet indestructible thermos, red and white chequered picnic rug and clunky homemade sandwiches. Or give up and plastic handful of snacks and drinks from Circle K, your call. Either way, allons-y!
Chill location #1: Fields near Korean Embassy.
This is not a precise address and I don’t think it has one, but google ‘Korean Embassy’ and you will see several fields of grass nearby. Yes that’s right, actual, real grass. In Hanoi. Grass you are in fact allowed to sit on, walk the dog on, lie down on and and make snow angels if there were actually any snow. At this time of the year a couple of the fields are a sea of silver white as the grass flowers (if that’s the right word), so you’ll be sharing the area with many an instagrammer, but there’s one field which is plain green if you want some real serenity.
Chill location #2: Grass under the motorway.
Now I know that sounds like a shady meeting place for some even shadier goings-on, but hear me out. Firstly: more grass, and this time trees! Secondly, what is it: on Google maps it does actually have a name – “Vườn hoa chân cầu Nhật Tân” – but that doesn’t really explain much. It’s basically a surprisingly large area of grass and trees formed by the various onramps and offramps to the Nhat Tan bridge, and the bridge itself. That may not sound terribly restful, but it is surprisingly quiet. It is reasonably far from all the roads and vehicles, leaving you in enough peace to sit in the shady grass and unwind from the world.
Chill location #3: Linh Dam Park.
The previous sites were best for those living around Tay Ho, so this one is for everyone else on the other side of the city. This one is actually an official park (search “Công viên Linh Đàm”), but perhaps because it’s on the road to nowhere it’s somewhat ignored, and has missed out on the hustle and bustle of the surrounding neighbourhood. This is, of course, a great thing. As with the other sites this one has grass to sit down on but also quite dense tree cover in spots, so even on the warmer days on the horizon you should remain comfy.
Check them out, and less us know of any other nice outdoor relaxation spots!