This past week I journeyed to the land of the Swiss, the photo below exhibits some tasty food and juice which were consumed in the planning of various adventures around the country of cows and clocks.
When it comes to travelling around Vietnam, there’s little room for any fast food cravings. The number of good quality independent cafes and restaurants selling authentic vietnamese food and coffee creates unparalleled competition for the typical western chains, which is why in fact Hanoi (Vietnam’s capital) is one of the few places untouched by the demonic american coffee chain that is Starbucks. After a couple of drinks and meals you see there’s just no room in the market for brands such as starbucks.
While in Hanoi we met up with some local pen pals I’d met a while ago through twitter (Minh and Khanh). We were so privileged to have had them with us during our time in Hanoi as there was no need to research for the best food spots in town due to their years of living experience.Two places in particular caught my interest during my time in Hanoi, the first was this charming little rooftop bar overlooking Hanoi’s Hoàn Kiếm lake. The entrance located behind a few of the tourist shops on the road. Place your order on the ground floor and after numerous dodgy looking steps passing rooftops and building debris on your path upwards you reach this modest sheltered space out looking the road and lake.
The most enchanting place however was this cafe borrowed away amongst more shops which appeared as if it was located in a living room, after even more dodgy steps up into this dark, well aged building which at first appears abandoned, you eventually pass through a narrow doorway into a room filled with locals perched on miniature plastic stools surrounded by cigarette smoke. All of them embedded within conversation sipping on ‘egg coffee’ and nibbling on sunflower seeds. Let’s just say I felt right at home.
Another great reason to make Vietnam your destination for an eatcation is the price. I didn’t spend more than £5 worth on any food while I was there and most plates averaged out at under 40,000 Vietnamese Dong. It pays to be careful however as like everywhere in the world a clueless tourist can easily get ripped off. For the same plate of food the price can vary from 35,000 (Roughly a pound) to 100,000 Dong depending on who’s buying. The beer pictured above next to the chicken soup actually represents one of my most prized bargaining efforts, that beer came in at 73p not to mention is was a large bottle too!
Aside from the food the local beer is actually really good, I much preferred it over it’s neighbouring more famous Singaporean brand ‘Tiger’. The Sapa locals haven’t yet caught on to the fact tourists know imported beer should be more expensive than local beer so that leaves some lee way for bargaining. When it comes to it you’re only saving a couple of pence yet it can still turn into a fun challenge of just how low you can get the price.
‘Sữa chua dẻo sốt chanh leo,’ the first dish pictured in this post is a delicious blend of some vegetables, crab meat if I’m not mistaken on a bed of glass noodles. It was my personal favourite of all the dishes we tried in Vietnam and cost me just under £1.
To get the true vietnamese Pho experience Minh and Khanh took us to this place that only opens in the morning to get some beef Pho (Phở bò tái chín) it’s a beef noodle soup often had for breakfast probably the most famous of vietnamese food. You can easily get hold of a bowl of Pho in central London.
Bún chả (Pictured above) is a dish consisting of grilled pork with dipping sauce noodles and ours was served with some mint and other vegetables.
‘Bánh mỳ sốt vang’ was another favourite, a sort of beef stew served with a colonial touch of baguette bread. The stew was really flavourful and after finishing this post I’ll be googling recipes I can take back home with me.
‘Bánh đa trộn’ is vietnamese yoghurt which makes the best dessert, I had mine with passionfruit. Could not get enough. I finally have a use other than eating the fruit for my passion fruit plant back home.
‘Giả cầu’ is false dog meat, pork cooked in the style dog is. We actually saw some dog meat being sold in the street, broke my heart a little and not too sure how my pup back home would have felt about me trying the real thing.
Almost all food was eaten on the street front in Hanoi. Thanks again to Minh and Khanh for all the time they spent with us, they really made our trip so much more special!
Saying the last few weeks have consisted of regular ups and downs wouldn’t quite cover it. The last few weeks have been a heavy, energy depleting and demanding test of who I think I am a person and more spiritual bullshit continued… within this recent time period I have undergone the hardest examination weeks of my life, (thanks again to Singapore’s education system for the joy that was), witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes I will ever have the privilege of seeing and shamelessly devoured platefuls of dirt cheap, heavenly, world class foods.
Does the stress I endured during university time equal the enjoyment from travelling afterwards? I think I can just fold that page corner and add it to my binder of all of life’s complications that I cannot, will not and will never be able to solve. Hopefully however in the near future, just like what my hopeless memory has retained of my first year of studying in York, my mind will be vacant of everything but the pictures left behind and the simply the best memories. The only problem being as time stands is, I’m doubtful as to whether I can handle another semester in this strange bubble of a campus.
What to say now about Hong Kong? The alpha+ city which first introduced the world to the concept of east meets west? The city is a loud, vertical, Cantonese speaking mess stuck in the 80’s, that makes it a rather fun mess too. The old housing blocks have aged beautifully into these captivating towers of unevenly shaded decaying paint jobs.
The contrast between the clean business towers and the slums, homes of everyday ‘rats’ caught in this city race cannot be see in any more clarity in the places I’ve been than in Hong Kong. The bustling night markets live up to everything they appear to be in photos and videos I witnessed as a child and the skyline with its gorgeous mountainous backdrop deserves every number 1 position it continues to earn in numerous rankings within prestigious publications.
For a Londoner who now lives in Singapore unfortunately there isn’t much new to experience as Hong Kong. To me HK feels like a mashup of Paris, London, New York and Singapore. Every corner I turned I couldn’t escape the Chanel, Marks and Sparks, Louis Vuitton, Pret a Manger, Apple Store, McDonalds, Starbucks and I could go on. So although not an en-lighting new place for me a pleasant weekend of interesting remotely familiar sights instead. If you’ve never been to the cities listed above Hong Kong is a great place to explore, for me, for now however the weekend was enough. Met up with some friends while I was there and really enjoyed some company and good food, Hong Kong has left me with little questions about the space unfortunately. If I ever visit again I’ll try to look at the place with a fresh pair of eyes.
Keep your eyes peeled on this space, I have a ridiculous amount of posting to catch up on. I’ll schedule the posts for the next few weeks, sorry I haven’t been posting directly which would probably have been the best thing to do but as you can probably imagine I’ve been a bit caught up in living it haha! New posts soon!
Tiramisu Hero is a small place a little out of the way near the Farrer Road and Little India area. Had a good night out with friends and plenty of good food, the only thing missing was a couple of £1 Jaeger bombs here and there but I think I can tolerate that. Passers by should definitely try out the lava cake and get a photograph with the giant cat head (Just go). Walls are illustrated with quirky cats and the toilet mirror even has a moustache on it ready for whole load of instagram pictures.