Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beating the hustle of Ha Noi’s Old Quarter in a 1936 Citroen

a Noi was the last stop on English businessman Colin Embree’s tour of Southeast Asian countries.

Just cruising: The city’s Old Quarter is often graced with this 1936 Citroen Traction Avant car.

He decided to tour the city’s Old Quarter in a 1936-Citroen Traction Avant car and the half-day tour left him with unforgettable memories of Ha Noi and its people.

The car is one of four used to show tourists around Ha Noi.

Like most visitors to Ha Noi, the middle-aged Embree explored the Old Quarter and visited the Van Mieu (Temple of Literature).

He then enjoyed a romantic dinner with Vietnamese foods at the Wild Lotus restaurant, an exquisitely renovated French villa, in Nguyen Du Street.

"I enjoyed learning more about the history of Ha Noi. I saw how people live, eat and work in the Old Quarter. It’s a great experience which I recommend with pleasure."

Embree found the tour on the Ha Noi-based Luxury travel company’s website. He thought touring in the old black car would be much more charming than the usual tours.

The French-made four seater is one of two cars owned by Tran To Oanh, who runs a stone fine arts shop in Hang Bac Street.

She started car service earlier this year. "I bought one from a priest in Hue and the other from a Taiwanese businessman to start a collection of old cars.

"I suggested to my husband last year that we use them to serve tourists, rather than leaving them in a showroom," Oanh said.

"It’s an interesting service to run alongside our fine arts and handicraft business in Ha Noi.

"I knew the Sofitel Metropole hotel had two cars like us. We also rent cars for weddings as a new style for couples."

Labyrinth: A section of Ha Noi’s Old Quarter with its characteristic architecture and narrow streets, popular with tourists.

The cars were restored last year and air conditioning added to make them as comfortable as ordinary cars. Oanh said they were restricted about 50km/h.

"I’m sure the cars will offer new emotions because it’s difficult to find such old cars in Viet Nam and the restoration was expensive," she said.

Seeing an old car around the city surprises many people, especially in the Old Quarter because people expect to see them in museums.

"Tourists will explore Ha Noi’s old traditional streets by seeing people living and shopping in Hang Ngang and Hang Dao streets, as well as the Dong Xuan Market," said Luxury company manager Pham Manh Ha.

Car adds interest

"We offer the service as an alternative. Most foreign tourists will find different ways to tour the city but the old car makes it more interesting."

Tourists can book a half-day tour around Ha Noi in the old car in the afternoon. The driver picks them from their hotel and then winds through old streets and the Dong Xuan Market before stopping at the Temple of Literature.

"Tourists can have many options. Some want to view Long Bien Bridge, which the French built more than a century ago. It usually takes about five hours to tour the main places in Ha Noi," said tour manager Nguyen Cuu Hung.

"We offer a package tour in the old car at US$149 for two, which includes dinner with a set menu Vietnamese meal at an old restaurant. It’s a special tour because tourists get the enjoyment of old style service in a traditional city," he said.

To learn more about this pkg, contact Chuck Kuhn at this blog

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

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