Vietnam is a fascinating country, so much richer and deeper than I ever realised. There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam all with their own cultures and customs. The main group, the Viet, account for approximately 87% of the population. The remaining 13%, some 8.5 million people, spread out across the country have incredibly interesting and rich cultures that are celebrated at the very interesting Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.
Museumas are a tricky thing when travelling. Everyone always tells you to go to Museums but most of time they are dark and dull spaces. This place is a highlight of Hanoi. The building is filled with information, pictures and displays introducing you to the different ethnic groups and their customs; everything from marriage, to how they raise their children, how they celebrate life and what happens when they die. Once you have explored the inside there is an even larger outdoor space where they have build copies of the traditional houses of many of these ethnic groups which you can enter and take a look around. It is a fantastic spot and one you could easily spend a few hours to a whole day in.
In the garden just between the main museum building and the open air gallery is Baguette & Chocolate. I read about this place before I cam to Hanoi and wanted to visit it. It is an initiative run by the Hoa Sua School for Disadvantaged Youth. Founded in 1994, this initiative recruits about 700 youth from around the country annually and trains them in 11 different programmes around either Hospitality and tourism or Embroidery and tailoring. Students in food and hospitality programmes are trained at a range of venues including several cafes and restaurants across the city. Baguette & Chocolate is one of them.
We take a seat inside on the terrace. It is hot outside but luckily there are several ceiling fans pointed directly at us. The service is incredible. A young lady comes up and asks us very politely what we would like and once we have told her she repeats our order to confirm. We order lunch, a few cold drinks and, of course, a hot chocolate. I figure a place that has the world chocolate in the title must be doing something right with its chocolate related products.
The hot chocolate is presented at the end of our meal. It is a bit watery but has a nice flavour and looks beautiful.
Verdict: A trip to Hanoi should include a few hours visiting the Museum of Ethnology and this spot in the garden makes a perfect rest stop to absorb all the interesting information. The service is great, the food is quite good and I enjoyed the hot chocolate. Plus you are supporting a very worthwhile project. Baguette & Chocolate, Museum of Ethnology, Nguyn Van Huyen st., Hanoi, Vietnam.