Locals do not know exactly why foreign tourists like visiting the old streets. Some say because they are located in the center of the city, some say because of the 18th and 19th century French architecture. However, there is more to it. Tourists can enjoy things that are available only there. Those things are sidewalk beer and pipe tobacco.
The area is rather small but always jubilant as foreign tourists and sidewalk beer shops appear almost everywhere. Sidewalk beer shops have no tables, just some small chairs for people to sit and place their mugs and enjoy a pipe of tobacco. The pipes, usually made of bamboo or clay, typically consist of a small chamber (the bowl) for the combustion of the tobacco to be smoked and a thin stem (shank) that ends in a mouthpiece (the bit). Pipes can range from the very simple machine-made briar pipe to highly-prized handmade and artful implements created by renowned pipe makers which are often expensive collector’s items.
The buzz created by the harsh tobacco and the icy crisp beer more than offsets the cold of winter in Hanoi. Moreover, while enjoying beer and tobacco on the sidewalk, tourists can discover the daily life of the residents, busy and bustling.
Beer at sidewalk shops is just VND3,000 so it is not a luxury beer with a fragrant flavor but it has its own rustic and simple flavor that tourists cannot find anywhere else. “Traveling is to explore distinct things, different from home, that is why I like sidewalk beer,” said a tourist in Hanoi.
Hanoi is getting colder and colder as winter comes and this is an ideal time to enjoy sidewalk beer together with pipe tobacco. Why not take a tour of the ancient streets and experience these exotic flavors to remember Hanoi forever?