|lots of steps, but a beautiful morning|
|inside the wat at the top|
|and what a gorgeous view of the Mekong as it winds around LP|
We were finally loaded into a different airplane and the flight was simple, but we had to circle for a good 20 minutes before we were finally cleared for landing. Getting through the visa and immigration gates in Hanoi was simple, and we were completely dazzled by the brand new airport. Oh my, it's ENORMOUS, all glass, as big as any airport in New York. Hanoi has changed rapidly and is so much more modern than it was the first time we came in 2005. Construction processes are modernized, everything seems more modern -- big highways, huge buildings, it is just such a different city. Our cab driver was so busy managing calls on at least two cell phones he kept forgetting to press on the accelerator, and while I love to hear Vietnamese spoken it was starting to work my last nerve, though he did have a nice giggle.
Anyway, we finally arrived at the Rising Dragon Palace around 9:45 and got the same room we had last time, on the top floor. We headed out to get a bite to eat at a little place around the corner, Bun Bo Nam Bo, and truly it was the best Vietnamese food either of us has ever had, ever. I just got fried spring rolls, but Marc got this noodle, grilled pork, and fried spring roll soup-thing that was so filled with flavor, every bite was richer and different and tastier than the one before. TOO BAD we completely forgot to take pictures. Marc doesn't drink and I don't drink much, but when we travel I always enjoy the local beer -- and this puzzles people wherever we are. So I ordered a Tiger beer with my dinner and Marc ordered water, and the waitress found this hysterical. She pointed at me and said, "You the man, he the woman," and then when another waitress brought the drinks, she made an elaborate show of giving me the water and Marc the beer, and then swapping them. It was done with a lot of giggling and teasing, and we prefer to think that they are laughing with us.
Our plan for our one full day in Hanoi is to push ourselves and eat at little spots where local people eat. Marc put together a "street food" tour for us -- the best pho here, the best bun cha here, the best bun rieu cua there, the best xoi, etc -- and we decided to make ourselves just get in there and do what we could even if we had no idea what was going on. We decided we'd order one thing at each place and split it, so we could eat at a lot of different places.
|VN coffee without milk, thick and gritty and intense|
|walking to Hoan Kiem Lake|
|Vietnamese but still French if you look -- plus, THE BREAD of course|
|wide streets lined with huge beautiful trees|
After coffee in the neighborhood, we headed out for the best pho in Hanoi, at 13 Lo Duc Street. It was intimidating, for sure, because we didn't know how to order, where to order, where/how to pay, what exactly we were buying, where to sit, or what to do. But we pulled it off.
|So this was the place. We just kind of stood there, held up one finger, gave them some money, |
and then looked to see what others were doing.
|A couple of doors away seemed to be the place to sit, so we found our tiny stools and waited.|
|Pho was created in Hanoi, and this bowl right here must be the exemplar of pho bo -- beef pho.|
OH my, it was without a doubt the best bowl of pho either of us has ever had. This bowl cost
50,000 dong, or $2.33.
|Then we squeezed in some lime, ladeled in some brick red hot sauce, and spooned in some|
seriously hot peppers. Stir, sweat, eat. Moan, groan. The broth was not thin and watery,
it was deep with flavor.
|Stop #1: GREAT success!|
After that we headed out for our second breakfast stop, at Phieu Yeu Cau for a bowl of xoi xeo -- sticky rice with chicken. It came with a layer of polenta draped between the chicken and the sticky rice, and with a side bowl of vinegary pickled cucumber slices. Very very good -- another successful meal. With water, this was 48,000 dong, or $2.26.
|Just so good -- and a traditional fast food breakfast|
|Even though I'm so full, I literally drooled as this picture loaded into the post.|
|Just don't look too closely at your surroundings. Keep your eyes in your bowl|
and everything will be just fine.
After eating bun cha we found another park to sit in and watch the busy goings-on. The streets never stop, ever. We've noticed a big change from our first trip in 2005, and even from our last trip three years ago: the transportation is much better. On our first trip, the air was so very acrid is made our eyes water. Two-stroke engines, and lots of them, equaled bad air. Women wore elbow-length gloves and full face masks to protect their skin. Now the air smells normal, no eye-watering smells anywhere. Beautiful motorcycles everywhere, the occasional bicycle, and lots more cars and airconditioned buses.
But still you see full life passing by on these motorcycles. Beautiful women in gorgeous short dresses and high heels passing by on their motorcycles. Men carrying bathroom fixtures, a dozen cases of bottled drinks, huge stacks of boxes (in fact, one motorcycle upended because the driver put too many boxes on the back). Families of four, two small children sitting between mom and dad. A man drove past dangling a 6-month-old baby in his left arm and steering with his right hand -- no helmets. Young couples, older couples, men in suits, boys in hoodies and flipflops, women with full-face masks and aprons completely covering their bodies, young guys driving and texting, women sitting sidesaddle on the back either in short skirts and heels or jeans and heels. It just never stops.
The fun of getting around Hanoi is crossing the street, and you just have to step off the curb and head across the street, don't stop, don't hesitate, don't step and then step back, keep your eyes where you're going. Traffic is a hive and it all works together and the drivers are watching the pedestrians and somehow it all works. Usually it's fun but once in a while I just get kind of clenched with fear and can't step off the curb. Until I can.
|photo shoot in the middle of the street. seriously.|
|Gorgeous Hoan Kiem Lake near the old quarter, one of our favorite places to sit|
|Takeaway iced coffee, in this handy little bag. Strong VN coffee with|
condensed milk, poured over ice. Very good.