Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day 29 - Vietnam: My self-guided food and cultural tour in Hanoi

 I do thrive off of nature. However, there's a certain buzz of a city that energizes me. I could feel it upon arrival in Hanoi, even if the majority of restaurants and shops were shutdown for Tet, Vietnamese New Year.
In my best Project Management achievement to date, I successfully weaved my way through Hanoi, embarking on my own food and cultural tour.

7:00am - Joined the locals exercising at Hoàn Kiếm Lake. 3 loops around the lake gave me ample people watching time, spotting Tai Chi, ballroom dancers, foot volley with a hackey sack, racquetball over a mini net, innovative exercises using a park bench and more.

7:40am - Visited Ngoc Son temple (Temple of Jade), packed with worshippers honoring the New Year. Fruit, chicken, cookies and rice wine vinegar lined the offering table.

8:45am - Breakfast #1 - Pho at 32 Bat Dan Street

10:00am - 2nd Breakfast of Xoi Xeo (rice with mung bean and fried onion) at Quan An Ngon and a freshly squeezed passion fruit and kumquat juice

11:00am - Temple of Literature. Almost every Hanoi citizen & their cousin came to pay respects to the Temple dedicated to Confucius, which houses the first National University in Vietnam. People walked around laying Vietnamese Dong in front of shrines and waving their hands in prayer to bring good fortune to their families.

People queued as if they were waiting for a Pearl Jam concert poster to have calligraphists write New Years wishes in Chinese characters.

Two 12th grade girls waited for their inscriptions to dry and told me their posters said, "Good luck in your studies."

Others crowded the souvenir shops buying knickknacks of all sorts for Good Luck.

As I exited the temple, a girl literally pulled me toward her friends to take a picture with me.

12:45pm - OMG! OMG! I'm bouncing off the walls from my first Vietnamese coffee.

1:15pm - failed attempt for Banh cuon at Gia An 25 Thai Phien St

1:45pm - Visit to Hoa lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) used by North Vietnam for Prisoners of War during Vietnam War.

2:45pm -  Stopped at a roadside restaurant (16 Quang Trung) to try bánh cuốn, steamed rice cake roll filled with ground pork & mushrooms served with sweet fish sauce and ham.

4:00pm - So-so 1 hour foot massage.

5:30pm - Early dinner of Bun cha, barbecued fatty pork (cha) in a sweet and sour sauce served with rice noodles (bun).

6:30pm - Ordered Mien Xao Luon fried eel in a broth with rice noodles (87 Hang Dieu St) but somehow ended up with boring bun ca - clear broth, rice noodles & chicken. Lost in translation. I ended up eating just the broth to save room for dessert.

7:00pm - Ended the food tour with a streetside dessert, Che, at 84 Hang Dieu St. You get to pick between tapioca, grass jelly, mung bean, fruit and coconut cream OR have it all!!

7:30pm - left for the train station for my overnight train to Sapa. I shared my train berth with a mom, Thuy, and two daughters, Thu An (16) and Trang (11) from Hanoi.

NEXT STOP: 3 day hike in Sapa

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