E: Streets of Hanoi

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Hanoi is an undeniably beautiful city. Some people may fail to see that initially due to the noise, pollution and litter but having come face to face with those issues everyday at home meant those factors were easily to looked over.

Let me explain why Hanoi is such a great city, firstly and most importantly, crossing the street has never been more fun or dangerous anywhere else in the world. You don’t wait or follow instructions from crossing lights to cross a street in Hanoi, even looking isn’t exactly essential. Just start walking and the oncoming vehicles as if by some magic force, manoeuvre around you. Leaving you feeling a little like Moses.

Another of my favourite aspects of Hanoi is just how much time the locals spend on the street, during walks it wasn’t uncommon to pass people going about their daily business such as cooking, eating and washing themselves on the streets. It’s genuinley nice to see people spending time outdoors even if it’s not too far away from their homes. Get used to the little stools around town as they are your best and only friend when it comes to sitting down in Vietnam and are a standard features of most of the best restaurants for local street-food.

It was interesting to visit the Hoi Chi Min Mausoleum, (for those of you who don’t know what that is like me initially, it’s where the body of Hoi Chi Min (An important Vietnamese political figure) has been preserved and is stored in a glass chamber.) Another interesting cultural thing to see was the planes on display captured from the Americans by the Vietnamese. The number of planes and way they have been arranged indicated the persistence and strength of the people during the vietnam war.

The cafe culture and warm bustling streets make Hanoi one of my favourite places so far. Currently I think it has a tenancy of being overlooked due to the mass tourism funnelled into the bigger city located to the south (Hoi Chi Min City) yet I think in the future, with the right sort of growth, it could attract a lot of attention as a more ‘trendy’ type of destination, it brings so much of the Vietnamese people’s culture to surface and the city feels ‘lived in’ and ‘real’. I have no doubts I’ll be returning to Hanoi relatively soon.

Thanks again to my brilliant pen pals for guiding us almost everywhere! (Minh and Khanh)

 

EAT: Food Adventures in Vietnam

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VIETNAM COFFFEE AGAINVietnamese coffee

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.

Vietnamese Chicken soupWhile 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.

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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.

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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. IMG_0946

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. 

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‘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. 

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‘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.IMG_0706

‘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.

Vietnam fooood

 

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!

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