Visitor’s Guide To Truc Bach, Hanoi

What do I love most about visiting a city for a second or third time?
The discoveries you make when you’re done with the ‘must-see’ tourist stops. It’s safe to say that during the seven weeks I’ve spent in Hanoi over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the Turtle Tower and I have most definitely seen the Water Puppet Show (now there are two hours I’m never getting back!).

HANOI ESSENTIALSE-sim data planCopy of Lonely Planet VietnamCheck visas requirements: iVisaGetting there: flight (Kayak) / train / bus 12GoAsiaPre-book your Hanoi airport to city transferAccommodation: Booking.com // HostelworldTours: GetYourGuide
Essential reading: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips

I’d heard a few people mention Truc Bach and I’d drunk a beer of the same name (which I presume is brewed there) on multiple occasions. Then I read a post by the lovely Emily of the Wander-Lush blog which inspired me to explore this Hanoi neighbourhood for myself. So…

Where is Truc Bach?

Truc Bach is 3km from central Hanoi and just across the bridge from the enormous West Lake.

Truc Bach generally refers to the lake of the same name. The most iconic site is the static boat owned by Highlands Coffee (Vietnam‘s cafe giant) and surrounded by a fleet of swan pedalos. However, I’d recommend a trip to the neighbourhood on the opposite shore which I’ve pinned on the map.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

The touristy side of Truc Bach Lake

Truc Bach as a neighbourhood is such a contrast to central Hanoi. It feels like you’ve been transported to a different city or country: the crush of scooters and tourists instantly evaporated. Instead, locals sit outside cafes, chatting and showing no particular rush when it comes to doing anything fast.

Related reads: How to spend 3 days in Hanoi, Vietnam and your complete Vietnam itinerary

Photos from my walk around Truc Bach, Hanoi

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi
vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi
vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Cafes of Truc Bach

Cafe culture seems to be a big deal in Truc Bach. As an area with few big attractions, why not sit back and sink some caffeine?

Lang Thang Coffee & More

This was one of the charismatic coffee shops I stumbled across. I’m not sure what the ‘more’ is – I think juice? Find Lang Thang Coffee & More at 8b Lạc Chính.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

65 Truc Bach

As far as I can see, this elegant street art cafe is simply called ’65 Truc Bach’. Find it at 65 Truc Bach – well, where else?

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Bluebird’s Nest

Just off the island of Truc Bach (about a seven-minute walk away), Bluebird’s Nest is the cosiest cafe I’ve been in a while. Just think of all the me-time you could have with this many bookshelves! Find Bluebird’s Nest at 13 Đặng Dung.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

A cosy cafe and a iced latte – what more could you want?

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

A cat in a box? Yep, they’ve got those too!

Getting to Bluebird’s Nest: It’s hidden down an alley. Walk the main street with the school on your left and turn down the tiny side street. You’ll see a sign for the cafe at the end – follow it. Here’s the Maps location.

Other things to do in Truc Bach Hanoi

While drinking coffee is always high on my agenda, there are a few other interesting things to do in sleepy Truc Bach. I would recommend…

Đền Thủy Trung Tiên

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Den Thuy Trung Tien has the most bizarre history. Apparently, a puppy was born with a prophecy written in its fur that someone would soon become king. Emperor Ly Thai To was born in the Year of the Dog therefore people assumed it meant him. SAY WHAT? The mind boggles. Anyway, the temple was built for the puppy in question. Bizarre.
Den Thủy Trung Tiên is based on a tiny island on the lake with a bridge running up to it. Entrance is free and you can spend a few minutes soaking it up (it’s really very small). See its location here.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

This gorgeous pagoda is just a two-minute walk from Den Thuy Trung Tien so visit both at once. Tran Quoc is the bigger and more impressive of the two yet it’s also free to visit. It’s the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi with lake views, tall towers and sunny yellow shrines.

State-Run Foodshop Number 37

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest restaurants in Hanoi. It replicates the wartime era when private businesses were illegal and restaurants weren’t allowed names. Apparently the owner wanted young people today to see what this era was like. It certainly does the job!

State-run Food Shop translates as Cửa Hàng Ăn uống Mậu dịch số 37 so expect to see that on the sign (I was confused about whether I’d arrived in the right place).The menu is huge so you don’t need to worry about actually eating wartime food. My fried spring rolls with noodles and salad were oily, messy and tasty, just like the best Vietnamese food.
Find State-run food Shop 37 at 37 Nam Tràng.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Admire lakeside views 

One of the best bits about visiting Truc Bach was wandering the water’s edge and snapping photos. I’m a little bit obsessed with reflection photos right now as you can probably tell.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

I learnt after visiting that Truc Bach is one of the most polluted areas in Hanoi. Keep a lookout for three-eyed fish 😉
Apparently, the late US senator John McCain crashed into this lake during the Vietnam War and nearly died, then was beaten up by the locals. Between this and mystical puppies, it’s safe to say Truc Bach has some history under its belt!

Hire a swan pedalo

These are docked the other side of the lake beside the Highlands Coffee boat (somewhere around here) but once you’re on a pedalo, you’re free to explore the whole lake. Had I not been alone, I’d have quite liked to do this. Even as the most independent solo traveller, I’d have rather done it with a friend. Who would actually peddle when I was only pretending to peddle? 😉

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Try pho cuon or pho chien phong

No idea what I’m talking about? That’s okay – neither did I until a week ago. Pho cuon is soft rice batter made into spring rolls and filled with beef and coriander. Truc Bach is famous for both this dish and pho chien phong which is deep-fried squares of the same batter served with meat and veg.

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Pho cuon

vietnam, visitor’s guide to truc bach, hanoi

Deep fried pho chien phong

Thanks to Backstreet Academy on a recent food tour, I had a glutinous serving of pho chien phong at Phở Cuốn Hương Mai Restaurant. This is a busy local joint without a whole load of charm but with enough tasty fried food that I didn’t care. Find it at 25 Ngũ Xã.

Getting to Truc Bach

Hop on a Grab scooter for pennies (or in a regular taxi for not much more), wherever you are in the city. It’s around a 15-minute drive from the Old Quarter.

Keyword: Visitor’s Guide To Truc Bach, Hanoi

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