by Tao Jun, Nguyen Thi Thanh Xuan
HANOI, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- One by one, scooters drove into a store resembling an auto-mechanic shop in the Old Quarters of Hanoi on Wednesday morning.
Not far from the entrance, crowds of Vietnamese were chomping on green ice cream bars and neatly balled ice cream cones while slowly dawdling on the street.
The mechanic-lookalike shop is a drive-through ice cream shop which covers an area of nearly 200 square meters, spacious enough for people to drive their motorcycles in, have a rest and enjoy an ice cream. It is widely believed to be Hanoi's first ice cream parlor.
Trang Tien ice cream, or Kem Trang Tien in Vietnamese, has been an irresistible treat for many generations of Hanoians since it first opened in 1958.
People eating Trang Tien ice cream while standing on the street is an iconic image of the shop and its unique and lengthy culture.
The shop is at 35 Trang Tien Street near the famed Hoan Kiem Lake. The store's humble beginnings saw it only offer four flavors of ice cream popsicles, namely chocolate, young rice, coconut milk and green bean.
The store quickly became popular, however, as its customers loved the taste and the prices were reasonable. It quickly won the hearts of everybody from little kids to elderly people.
Over the years, the store has increased the number of flavors manifold, and now offers chocolate, vanilla, cereal, and coconut milk among many others.
The shop's two counters are dedicated to ice cream bars and ice cream cones. One counter is for lovers of soft serve ice cream and the other for cakes.
Not only Hanoians, people from other cities and provinces, as well as foreigners, also frequent the store on Trang Tien Street.
"I finally made it to try Trang Tien ice cream. It was good, it was cool and refreshing," Nguyen Huu Loc, 19, a university student from central Thanh Hoa province, told Xinhua excitedly.
Starting his university life in September, Loc heard his friends repeatedly talking about "eating Trang Tien ice cream" and placed it on his to-do list. With five friends he eventually took the so-called "ice cream tour."
"We didn't see any signs, but we knew that we were getting close to the shop when we saw the crowds loitering on the street, all eating ice cream. When we entered, the ambience was exciting," Loc said happily while sitting on his motorcycle, waiting for another round of treats from his friends.
The shop was so crowded that buyers had to hold their ice creams aloft to prevent them from hitting other people. Some stood, while others sat on their motorbikes, licking their lips with satisfaction and slowly chitchatting.
According to Loc, one great thing about Trang Tien ice cream is that for its price, it is absolutely delicious. "It's feasible to order every kind of ice cream for around 3 U.S. dollars. That's super nice," he exclaimed.
Bars cost 7,000-8,000 Vietnamese dong (0.3-0.35 U.S. dollars), soft serve ice cream costs 10,000 Vietnamese dong (0.4 U.S. dollars), and cones set back customers a mere 12,000 Vietnamese dong (0.5 U.S. dollars).
The ice cream shop lures a plethora of customers all year round, including in the freezing winter.
"Buyers often queue in a long line from the counters to the street, especially in summer. "
"Sometimes, on hot weekends, our ice creams are sold out in only 10 minutes and people will have to wait another 30 minutes for their treat," said the shop's security guard Nguyen Han Thuy.
Although there are no chairs in the shop, people stand happily and enjoy the cool and delicious flavor melting on their tongues.
"It reminds us of the old days before "Doi moi" (renewal) when Vietnam had yet to open its economy to the world. At that time (Vietnam officially adopted the "Doi moi" policy in 1986), a plain-flavored ice cream, though simple, was one of life's great happinesses," Thuy recalled, smiling.