Friday, August 27, 2010

hanoi, vietnam

Last time I was here, I was with my family and a 15 person caravan taking us around. This time, we are backpacking so we walked from where the bus dropped us off to the hotel. The problem: 30 lb packs on our backs. They told us the hotel is only 5 minutes from where they drop us off. NOT. Try a 30 minute walk in misty rain humidity. Tired and exhausted from the flight, we walked through some insanely intricate streets selling mats, flowers, aluminum, and food. We finally found our hotel in the midst of a crazy ghetto street exploding with street fruits, loud children, and screaming women trying to get me to buy their food.

After we checked in, we decided to walk around and explore the city. We got lost and ran into a stall was selling dog meat in the open! It took Kat by surprise and I immediately pulled out my camera! It's a bit gruesome so i'll save that image for the stronger stomachs.

Later on, we decided on a little cafe for some salted shrimp, BBQ beef, and roasted chicken. Washed it all down with coke and cafe sua da mixed with ice cream, and went off with a slight food coma. No dog meat for us.

Tomorrow, we head to Ha Long Bay. It's POURING rain right now in Hanoi. I hope it stops tomorrow for Ha Long so we can photograph the grottos from the outside!

street pho ga and pho bo
We were running around in the morning grabbing food for the day excursion to Ha Long while Kat stayed at the hotel to watch over bags and check internet. One block away from the hotel, we see this outside food stall with a small alley room to eat. The gates of the alley were green and gorgeous, grabbing my attention. We only had about 15 minutes before the bus came to get us but Tien looked at me, and asked, "how fast can you eat?" I said, "REALLY FAST." We sat down and the bowl of pho appeared within seconds. Yea, it was the best pho ever. EVER.

We gulped down pho with Vietnamese hot sauce. Right then, it started to rain. No, it started to downpour. So we pulled our trusty REI ponchos out (mine is sea green and tien's is magenta) and started the trek back. One of my fondest and best memories of Ha Noi is this run back to the hotel with Tien. It's mentally embedded in my mind because i saw a photograph, except i didn't have a camera to capture it. We were covered in our respective ponchos, running down this empty street at 7 in the morning. I was running ahead of Tien, and I stopped to look back at her, and I saw her running just like me, giggling about the ridiculously useful and fabulously colored ponchos, and the amount of rain being dumped on us. The wholes scene was just beautiful. There were no motorbikes squeezing me out of the street, no women yelling at me to buy their food, and no food smells from random street vendors. Just the empty wet cobblestones, freshly washed with rainwater, and us. It's an image that I will always treasure.

I'll do a separate post for Ha Long Bay because it deserves its own post. We drove back after a day excursion and found a much better hotel in the central part of the city for almost the same price as the last hotel! The people here are amazing. They helped us book tickets to Hue, fed us the most delicious banh mi op la, bacon and cafe sua da.

Our second day in Hanoi was amazing. We went to Hoan Kiem Lake to take pictures, and then had lunch in the circle of death nearby. One of my post fond memories of Hanoi is when we witnessed hookers picking up two Irish guys right in front of us while we were having lunch at a cafe. We were sitting at the cafe bar table that overlooks the circle. Two girls came up and openly flirted with the men 2 feet from us! We sat there staring in shock, and then started to snicker. They ignored us completely, and continued to ask the men for money to buy champagne and to get a room around the corner. One actually got up and handed her money to run off and buy it! We literally witnessed a whole transaction 2 feet from our meal. It was so random, being in the center of a boulevard in front of a fairly nice cafe....but pretty funny for us to witness it!!!

This little girl was the best. Her parents were so loving and she was happily playing with her dad's iphone. We had to take a pic of her. The statue is Ly Thai To, a famous philosopher.

We explored Dong Xuan market at night, which is the night flea market. Millions of belts, tshirts, purses, and street food to be had. I held off from pulling out my camera too much as they are known to be expert pickpocketers here. We walked the whole street, and then stumbled on Yummy, a Vietnamese version of Yogurtland. We tried these amazing jelly balls that explode with watermelon flavoring, and different kinds of mochi with the yogurt. What a perfect way to end a long hot day!

Off to see the rest of the city now; Ha Long post to come when i get all the pics resized!

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