Battle of the Capitals: Tokyo vs Hanoi
The thriving metropolitan heart of Japan, Tokyo is famous for its stunning population density, technological marvels and quirky urban street fashions. Hanoi, Vietnam is a city best experienced by getting lost along cobbled back lanes filled with street vendors before taking a mad-cap scooter ride to the Old Quarter for dinner.
You’ll soon notice that Hanoi’s scooter-laden traffic parts politely around you and crossing the road can become an activity in itself. Take a walk through the Old Quarter towards the mythical Hoan Kiem Lake – a stroll studded with pagodas, artisan stores and charming colonial shop houses. The World Heritage-listed Imperial Citadel is nearby, and another 30 minute walk will get you to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Tokyo: for a blend of modern wonders and traditional gems.
Hanoi: for street strolling, ancient buildings and an old-world sensation.
Hang Gai ‘Silk Street’ is a must on a Hanoi shopping list whether you’re hunting for high-end silk ware or arty trinkets. Sate your appetite for browsing at the Old Quarter’s Weekend Night Market, rich in atmosphere if not quality, or scoop some wholesale bargains at Dong Xuan Market, which offers four floors of goods including produce, pets, fashion and handbags.
Tokyo: for cutting edge fashion.
Hanoi: for markets and back street bargains.
Eating and Drinking
Experience an unforgettable Tokyo dining experience at Robot Restaurant, which will dazzle you with its show if not its food. For a more authentic experience, breakfast on fantastically fresh sashimi at the Tsukiji Fish Market, or head to Hidemi Sugino for a morning tea to die for; patisseries are another area of expertise for the Japanese.
On most streets in Hanoi you will find a Banh My (spelt mi everywhere else) stand, and these crusty pork pate and pickle baguettes are a tasty and inexpensive bite at anytime of the day. Pho is available almost as easily, soup noodle bowls that are rich with assorted beef cuts, bean shoots and leafy greens which you add yourself.
Other iconic fare includes Hanoi’s signature dish Bun Cha, or grilled pork in broth, served with rice noodles and fresh greens, as well as egg-milk coffee, an indulgent mix of condensed milk and egg yolk atop a Vietnamese coffee shot.
Tokyo: for Japan's world-famous flavours and unique dining experiences.
Hanoi: for fresh and tasty local dishes and inexpensive street food.
Dating back to the 11th century, the first water puppet performances were held by Vietnamese villagers in flooded rice paddies. Hanoi is considered the ancestral home of water puppetry, and the shows at the Thang Long Theatre depict legends and folk tales, just for an extra dose of culture. A great way to experience the sights of Hanoi is via rickshaw; there’s nothing like being carted through the chaotic streets by a local who knows all the good spots to eat.
Tokyo: for sumo and city styling.
Hanoi: for traditional puppets and local insight.
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