Hop over the train tracks, skirt around the adjacent lake, and head down a rabbit warren of alleyways to find this hole-in-the-wall hideaway.
It was well-hidden, youth-run and resourcefully-decorated places like this that inspired Hanoi Hideaway in the first place. Căng Tin 109 (Canteen 109) is simple, scruffy, friendly and intimate, with loyal customers and hip serving staff. A fair distance from the Old Quarter means you’re a world away from the chaos: this quiet neighborhood affords a glimpse of what central Hanoi was like decades ago. “Forget the Old Quarter. This is the real Hà Nội xưa,” a resident once told us. You could translate Hà Nội xưa as “Hanoi of the good old days” and exploring this charming little corner of the city is one of the reasons to sniff out Cang Tin.
The cafe rests in the shade of some ancient trees, one of which stands next to a stone marker with Chinese characters that read ‘dismount (the) horse’. Was this a sacred tree by which travelers were obliged to dismount before continuing their journey? Or perhaps this was the tree to which one would tie their horse before going into the communal house nearby. Whatever the reason, this tree still stands tenaciously in the middle of the road to the amusing annoyance of passing car drivers. The aforementioned communal house, Đình Làng Trung Tự, is worth exploring if you’re lucky enough to come when it isn’t locked. Otherwise just peer in from the gate. Just a short walk away is Kim Liên Pagoda, the southern branch of the sacred quartet of defensive pagodas erected centuries ago to defend the city from malicious spiritual forces. You’re probably more familiar with Kim Liên’s northern ally: Trần Quốc Pagoda on West Lake.
Back to Cang Tin, the menu is cheap and traditional, with a solid nâu đá (Vietnamese coffee with milk) and a deliciously sharp me đá (iced tamarind). Other drinks include lemongrass infused lime juice and salted apricot juice. Don’t worry if you find yourself here with nothing to do after exploring outside. Along with a weird little library of books, there are also some communal guitars because, you know, everyone here is a musician.
Address: See above!