Hai Duong, a sleeping city with about 200 000 inhabitants 58 km from Hanoi has a few things to offer. One Italian restaurant managed by a german expat, a czech styled microbrewery, Bia Haiduong which is a alternative to Bia Hoi and a copy of Hoan Kiem lake.
Short day trip with pizza and beers
If you live in Hanoi or are on a longer visit you can choose this easy day trip instead of fearing for your life in one of the mini busses driven by fearless suicidal candidates on old and heavily trafficked roads. Take the train to Hai Duong, it will cost you about 40 000 vnd (2 usd) and takes less than 1,5 hour one way, enjoy beautiful landscapes while drinking beer or coffee. Most houses in the city are 2-4 storey high and the atmosphere is relaxing, you wont see any tourists and won’t be bothered by street vendors or traffic jam.
When in Hai Duong walk 10 minutes to the one and only czech styled microbrewery in Hai Duong, Bohemia Excellent at nr 2 Hoang Hoa Tham. The black beer is medium bodied with notes of coffee, the blond beer lighter but in overall an ok lager.
You can see the brewery in the restaurant which seems to have quite a big capacity.
The brewery is divided into one bigger beer hall and the regular VIP rooms if you want to drink heavily but not be seen by anyone else or avoid talking to other people. This is not unique to this brewery, most breweries in Vietnam have VIP rooms where you can hide from the outer world.
After drinking a few beers you should visit the one and only Italian restaurant in Hai Duong which is an oasis for the few hundred expats that resides in Hai Duong (nr 1 Pham Hung). Really nice food (excellent pizzas) and all staff speaks english, which is rare if you come from Hanoi. After that you can take a taxi to the lake which is more or less like a copy of Hoan Kiem lake but is surrounded by small houses and a few restaurants. Walk around here until you are thirsty, then visit one of all places that serves Hai Duongs answer to Bia Hoi, Bia Haiduong and try to find out if it tastes better or worse than Bia Hoi.
HABECO, Hanoi brewing company is producing a lot of their beer in Hai Duong, so maybe its just the name thats different from Bia Hoi Hanoi? A not so important fact because there are plenty of good beers in Vietnam and no need of consuming watery beer with 3% alcohol with a minimum of malt and hops. Anyhow, a visit to Hai Duong is worth its time and its really nice to have the small town feeling and a few beers.