The expat bar scene can be fun, for a while. But the same haunts every weekend get boring eventually, and you start to wonder if all those hours spent on a barstool could be full of so much more. I get it, you still want to drink. And lucky for you, Hanoi is a bring-your-own-beverage kind of city.
There’s romance and adventure out there, if you’re willing to go looking for it. So give your usual haunts a miss one Friday night and go outside instead. Here are a few spots in Hanoi to chill with a bag full of beers when the bia hoi just isn’t doing it for you anymore.
Nhat Tan Bridge
What better place to have a beverage with your favourite partner-in-crime than the Friendship Bridge? Built by the Japanese and officially opened for business in early 2015, it’s Vietnam’s largest cable suspension bridge. This eight-lane beast is formidable to cross, and boasts epic views of the Red River and the city skyline. Along both sides you’ll find couples canoodling and teenagers posing for selfies; park somewhere near the middle, away from the crowds, and peer over the railing.
There’s a wide chunk of cement where you can perch on the other side, if you’re willing to risk the view. (It’s worth it.) At night, the river far below is pitch black and a bit terrifying Crack open a cold one and take in the twinkling skyline, the rhythm of traffic behind you and the steady winds creating the perfect backdrop for some cinematic heart-to-hearts with your friends, or an invigorating first beer to kick off an adventurous night.
Truc Bach Swan Boats
Called affectionately the ‘Swan Boat Regatta’, this is a more active option for your BYOB needs. Cycle your massive swan (with decidedly chicken-esque features) out into the middle of Truch Bach Lake, beer in hand, and tell yourself it’s good for you, because technically, it’s exercise. (Bonus exercise can be achieved if one of the boats in your fleet breaks down, and you have to tow them back to shore like we did.)
It’s only VND80,000 for an hour on a two-person swan, so for the price of one cocktail and 30 stagnant minutes on a bar stool, you can work up a sweat and a blood-alcohol level. A steal of a deal, I’d say.
West Lake’s Steps
Oh, West Lake, Hanoi’s largest body of water, how we love to drink next to you. Riding around the lake road, you’ll find many spots to crack open a brew, but my favourite are the wide steps that lead straight down into the water.
This one’s easy — you don’t even have to bring your own beverages. Savvy tea ladies are happy to provide you with a bamboo mat and a Bia Ha Noi. Some might even cook up some fried pork fingers for you, too.
Laying on the steps, listening to the waves, and giggling with your drinking buddies about the weekend’s shenanigans — there aren’t many better ways to spend an evening.
The Ferris Wheel at Ho Tay Water Park
A 360-degree view of the city? Check. Eerily empty carnival grounds at dusk? Check. Beer in the backpack? Check check check. Get there around sunset for breathtaking scenery, or right before a storm rolls in over West Lake. It only costs VND20,000 to get into the park, and another VND30,000 for a Ferris wheel ride.
You can make a day of it if you prefer, but when we went around 7pm, there was no one else in sight. It’s kind of like your own personal theme park. The Ferris wheel is massive, and instead of the bench seats you’d expect, little caged-in pods hang from the wheel, gently swaying along as they pull you up into the sky. You could feasibly fit four people in one, and an entire revolution takes about five minutes. Who can drink the most beers before you reach the ground again? Find out, then hit the rollercoaster.