Good Morning Vietnam !
OK – so it’s afternoon actually and we are sat under a cloudy sky by the pool after having a full day yesterday in the hectic city of Hanoi.
Hanoi, meaning ‘City that lies within the Red River’ has a population of around 8 million people, as well as 4 million motorbikes – all which seem to be on the road at the same time. All traffic signs are strictly advisory and it is not uncommon to have five lanes of traffic on the side of the road where there should only be one; all jostling for position and not necessarily all heading in the same direction ! Crossing the road involves taking a deep breath before stepping out into the oncoming traffic and weaving your way across !
The evening we arrived was quite cold and foggy, around 16C, so we chose to stay in the hotel before exploring the city the next day.
We started off by visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who held the positions of both prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and who was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945. No prizes for guessing the architectural influences of the buildings…
Next stop was the History Museum of Vietnam were we took a gallop through 4000 years of Vietnamese history before heading off to the Temple of Literature which started life as a University in 1070 in honour of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Today it serves as an altar, plus a place for students to gather and take 3000 pictures in 200 different poses to celebrate their graduation. It was a great site to see.
On returning to the hotel, we weaved in and out of more traffic and saw that the students were systematically moving around the city in search of more places to pose ! Often in the most unlikely places on street corners or infront of department stores 🙂
Thrown into the mix were a number of brides who had also taken to the streets to have their photos taken, changing in and out of their wedding dresses on the road side in order to get a wider portfolio ! There is just no comparison at home 🙂
Next stop was the hotel’s afternoon tea and chocolate buffet and I can certainly recommend it if you need a quick way to get 4500 calories into you !!
No sooner had we finished our last macaron, it was time for our historical tour of our hotel including its wartime bunker. The bunker was sobering reminder of the countries war-torn past, and was the place where hotel guests (including Joan Baez but unfortunately not the staff….) sheltered during the US Linebacker 2 offensive air operation over Christmas 1972. During the operation 729 B-52s dropped 15,237 tons of ordnance on the city, and another 5,000 tons was dropped by the fighter-bombers. Hanoi claimed that 1,624 civilians had been killed by the bombing.
Following the tour and not being content with a quiet night in with fat stomachs, we ventured out to see a traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet Show, of which Hanoi has the best in the country (or so we are told). The performers are in the water, behind a screen and have a large cast of puppets with which they re-enact scenes from Vietnamese mythology and folk-lore. It is one of the most authentic representations of Vietnamese culture you can see and all set to stirring music !
A light dinner followed and then a stroll through the night market where Sue bought two Louis Vuitton scarves for the remarkable price of £3.57 each ! I am pleased to say that my extensive haggling skills saved us £0.71 per scarf !
It was then a walk back to the hotel through the now (thankfully) pedestrianised streets for some well earned rest. Not bad for one day. Time for some sleep.
Which brings us to today – 12 Nov. As it was our last in Hanoi, we could not leave without a street food tour. So off we went in search of sustenance.
First stop was a tiny coffee shop that served a strong Vietnamese coffee topped with a secret family recipe of whisked egg white, egg yolk and sugar. It was like a liquidised tiramisu and tasted absolutely amazing.
Next up was quail served with a salad of papaya, carrot, lemon balm, corridor, crispy garlic gloves, peanuts and dried beef – all with a dressing broth made of fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and chilli. Delicious !!
We then moved on to our next stop where we had pork belly served with crispy, spicy shallots – all prepared by the lady below. The onions were fab as was the pork.
Next stop was a stall that sold rice wraps filled with minced pork topped with coriander and lemon balm, served with a spicy dipping sauce. The speed with which they were prepared takes the meaning of fast food to a new level !
And just to prove that the French were here, this was followed by a baguette with pulled pork, pate and herbs. Naturally the evening would not be complete without dessert which was fresh fruit and tapioca served in a lovely plastic kids bowl 🙂
We then strolled back to the hotel through the still pedestrianised area which was full of promenading families, kids skipping and blowing bubbles (not at the same time I add…) and zooming around on their scooters and bikes. It felt like a scene from a bygone era.
We are currently finishing off the day in the hotel bar with a martini before an early start tomorrow to our next destination.
Stay tuned for our next update……