As you are tripping around Hanoi looking for a sweet cultural experience, I have just the place. It’s an ice cream shop and it’s not just for girls.
As you walk down Trang Tien Street from Hoan Kiem Lake on a warm to sweltering hot day you will wonder what the traffic jam ahead is all about. Well, that is where you are heading, Trang Tien Ice cream Shop or Kem Trang Tien on 35 Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi
As you get closer you will see families, students, couples, old people with toddlers all standing around or perched on their motorbikes chatting and eating ice creams flat out to beat the melt-factor. Constant flow of people coming and going, but the crowd never seems to get smaller. You might be just wondering why they don’t they just go in and have a seat . . . it’s because there are none !!
Even though the entrance way looks like bees swarming around a honey pot, don’t be shy, walk in and have a look around. If you are on a motorbike drive in, turn it off and push it to park it, that’s what everyone does and you don’t even need to remove your helmet if you can’t be bothered.
The next big thing in your life is deciding what flavor to buy?? There is a limited selection so just choose from below.
2010 prices for Popsicles or ice creams (Kem) on a stick:
Kem Dau Xanh – Green Bean D5,000 – 22 cents – Sounds kind of awful but yummy, try it, it has a unique texture.
Kem Sua Dua – Coconut Milk D5,000 – 22 cents
Kem Cacoa – Cocoa D5,000 – 22 cents
Kem Com – Young rice D6,000 – 26 cents Try this one !!
Or in a cone you have only one to choose from, so that shouldn’t be too hard:
Kem Oc Que – not so sweet, cinnamon and coconut D7,000 – 31 cents
Box of Ice cream choose: Kem Hop – Box of icecream D35,000 – $1.57
I wouldn’t try making that decision about what flavor at the counter, as the staff are way too busy for some indecisive customer wasting their time and getting in the way of real customers. Her day starts at 8am and finishes at 10pm, its really hot inside, she’s probably a bit tired as continuously busy . . . so don’t mess with her, no questions, just order, pay and be on your way.
Getting served among talented pusher-inners is an art, so while in Rome join the mob and get yourself served ASAP.
In 2007, the then director of Trang Tien Ice Cream (Nguyen Van Hai) was reported saying they sold between 10,000 – 20,000 ice creams a day. Winter can get pretty chilly (6 C or 43 F) and summers are so hot (up to 40+ C or 104+ F), so I can understand massive variation of numbers. Trang Tien is not only sold in their store but to other retailers. When asked in 2007 about future expansion, he said they had no plan to diversify, increase the product range or expand to other branches.
Established over 50 years ago in 1958, this successful business has become an institution amongst Hanoians. Reasonably priced, conveniently located, tasty, fresh and a family tradition that keep the punters coming back in droves.
If you are looking for a more classy ice cream experience there is plenty of choice around town as most cafes offer ice cream. Specialized ice cream parlors do exist. Here you will get aircon, a comfy seat, nice environment, friendly staff and of course . . . a much higher price.
If this sounds like you, you should head to either:
Fanny’s (from France), 51 Lý Thường Kiệt Street, Hanoi.
or to Mondo Gelato (from Italy), just south of Hoan Kiem Lake on 30a Ba Trieu Street.
While in Hanoi, eat some ice cream, just do it !