Hanoi, still in Oct 12 – 14, 2009
Flag pole in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum
We didn’t have much else to do in our Hanoi agenda. The great thing about it is that we could just roam about, practice our street-crossing skill, and unexpectedly popped up in areas with interesting shops and just things to see.
Things you have to be aware of – The Crazy Traffic
For some unknown reason, at least to me, the streets of Hanoi are packed with motorcycles, which go really fast and do not stop just for letting you cross the street peacefully, or for anything for that matter. I even saw some motorcycles that didn’t stop when red light was on. If you think the zebra cross is a safe place to cross the streets, well, you’re wrong.
Turns out, we weren’t the only ones who were challenged with crossing the street. When we looked up the Wikitravel about Vietnam, the author had written tips about crossing the street in this country! The next days, we applied the tips, and it worked! And we became more and more experts on this by the time we got to Ho Chi Minh City several days after. So, what you have to do is just walk slowly but sure. The motorcycles will not reduce the speed, but they will avoid you by moving their steers in sudden movement and go behind you. Awesome! And still, scary…
Us, crossing the street,
but this is not even close to the worst kind of traffic
that we found there
Ironically, they wear these cute helmets along with their driving attitude. Look!
We saw sooo many motorcycle riders wore this playful kind of helmet that’s, I bet, inspired by your regular baseball caps. This wouldn’t pass the safety standard in most countries, I think. But wouldn’t they make such fashioney attributes? ^_^
Electric Wires & Narrow Buildings
I didn’t notice this until Mumun pointed out the electricity wires jumbled above, up in the air, everywhere in the city. They look pretty dangerous, but are they? * shrug shoulders *
Even though Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, it is pretty low profile.. It’s nowhere near being a metropolitan city. No skyscrapers whatsoever. Buildings are probably less than 10 floors high, and narrow, too.
A disaster for those who have tummy aches…
The weather was very windy. It drizzled quite a lot. We packed some variety of clothes but the ones more often seen in our pictures are our jackets.. haha. The windy weather and the cold were very upsetting to me. Why? Because they worsened my digestion problem… For some reason, I was having diarrhea, and the public toilets in Hanoi.. oh Lord.. me no likey.. me cannot stand.. Some didn’t have doors! Some didn’t have the proper water system..
FOOD & DRINK
DAO FU – Not a good first impression
In my travels, I always try to have a bite or more of the local food. The very first thing we did after checking in at our hotel, was to find lunch. Because we didn’t really know where to look, we just grabbed whatever looked interesting near the hotel. And we chose to eat at this simple diner in a narrow street, about 3 minutes walk from the hotel. The menu that we ordered called ‘dao fu’, which I think translated to ‘tofu’.
This is us eating dao fu and its 2 kinds of sauce (our conversations are mostly in Indonesian here).
Nope, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but nice to know. No offense to the Vietnamese, we still don’t get why others seemed to really enjoy the same menu. Well, the tofu was okay because it’s plain, so was the vermicelli rice. One of the sauces was unacceptable, it tasted like rotten fish to us, but the other sauce (the orangey one) was, well, just okay. I guess we’re just not used to the taste. People might have the similar reactions to our local food, who knows.
KFC - A matter of life and death
There was an hour gap between buying the Water Puppets ticket and the show time, which started at 3.30 p.m. And because we didn’t have a proper lunch, we decided to have everybody’s favorite: KFC chicken. Hahaha… so very not Vietnamese, but what the heck, hungry tummies needed to be filled.
The KFC was only about 10 minutes walk from the Water Puppet theater (5 minutes of real walking + 5 minutes of crossing the chaotic streets). Gosh, that’s probably the first time I had to risk my life for a meal.
Quan An Ngonh
I’m so grateful that I have a friend who’s been residing in Hanoi a few years. His name is Anton, Mumun and I’ve known him since college. He lives there with his wife now.
So, the first night we were in Hanoi, we contacted Anton. He picked us up at our hotel, along with his Indonesian friend, Aci. Dinner was on him, yay, at this cozy foodcourt-like place called Quan An Ngon on Phan Boi Chau street.
There are so many kinds of Vietnamese food to choose from, and judging from the visitors, the place seems to be quite popular among foreign tourists.
On all 3 nights we were in Hanoi, we always had dinner at Quan An Ngon. We almost never repeated a menu and there were still many options left, and the ones we had were all dee-lee-cious!
We had our first pho there. Pho is simply Vietnamese noodles, very much like Chinese noodles, but I think they taste slightly more plain and with more vinegar taste than Chinese food.
Ask for Pho Ga if you want chicken brisket noodles, Pho Bo for beef brisket noodles, and there’s also the one with pork, but I forgot what it’s called. Don’t get offended if the waiters laugh at the way you pronounce the words, maybe you do sound funny, and in Chinese rooted languages, the very slight difference in intonation can make totally different meanings to the words. So, who knows what we’d be saying when what we mean is something else. I know this as a general knowledge, and a waitress did laugh at my pronunciation and corrected it.
Anyway, our favorite beverage was called Che. It’s sweet, it consisted of.. honestly I forgot, but we ordered it again and again. Slurp!
NINETEEN 11 CAFÉ
After our dinner in Quan An Ngon for the first time, Anton took us for a sip of coffee at Nineteen 11 Café, a nicely lit outdoor café, located at the side of Hanoi Opera House.
Since coffee often makes my heart beat faster and results in fatigue, I just had hot chocolate instead. Turns out, the combination of milky chocolate and the cold from the blowing wind that night made my stomach turns the next day. Not good.
There’s this franchise Vietnamese restaurant that we knew in Jakarta called Pho 24. I personally had never tasted it, and I think neither had Renny and Mumun. So we gave it a try at its original country.
I had a portion of pho ga, a portion of shrimp roll, and a glass of Lipton tea. All rounded up to VND 70,000. For me, the pho ga tasted was quite the same with the one we had in Quan An Ngon. But then again, I’m not really picky when it comes to food taste.
A non coffee drinker who’s befriended with a lot of coffee drinkers, like me in this case, heard a lot about how good Vietnamese coffee is. Mumun was looking forward to have a sip and more of this famous coffee. She ordered coffee each time we sat for some meals or just waiting for things. I finally got curious and had one for myself. And yes, I must say, I liked it, and surprisingly I did not get fatigue and my heart beat normally.
Having had this experience, I thought maybe something in my body has worked something out that now I can drink coffee with no fuss afterwards, whatever the medical explanation would be. So, when I later got back to Jakarta, I had a cup of latte, or was it mocha latte, in some coffee shop (Starbucks, Coffee Beans, and places like that, all the same to me). And guess what. The heart beat fast and fatigue came. So weird.
NIGHT TRAIN TO HUE
On the third night, we packed our bags, got a cab, went and had our last dinner in Quan An Ngon with our backpacks ready beside our chairs, and then went straight to the train station for our 10 p.m. train to Hue, Central Vietnam. Bye bye Hanoi. I will come back for my postponed Halong Bay experience.
Oh I cannot wait to tell you all about Hue. That'll be next!