Monday, May 30, 2016

MENU goes East - From Hong Kong to Hanoi. Our first dish of pho

Up an early for our flight to Hanoi on Jetstar - Qantas's budget airline, where the flight sounds cheap but you pay for everything, including your luggage and any food or drink (including water) on the plane
Hong Kong centre has many flyovers so getting around the city is quicker than expected
We discovered that an airport bus, the A11, stopped right outside our hotel. It takes about 1 hour 15 minutes but is much cheaper than the express train. We paid 9 HK dollars (R18) each for the bus, the train costs R160 each. And we got a great view of the city, the bay and the countryside on the way. This is the timetable
It’s a modern and very comfortable bus
We sat in the back for more room, as we had all our luggage with us. Big cases stay in the front
There are lots of these vans in Hong Kong and NO, we don't think they are for transporting grandmothers
An old hilltop mansion on the edge of the city
A final view of Hong Kong as we cross the causeway
And a last view of the bay and the islands with its fast ferries
Nearly there
On board our flight, we had seats in front and could see into the cockpit
Waiting for our car arranged by the hotel. It was very hot and humid. There is no public transport from the airport and we were warned about the airport taxis
Entering Hanoi, crossing the suspension bridge
Election or celebration flags? we never found out which
At reception in the Golden Sun Villa Hotel in the old city. This was listed as one of the best Hanoi hotels on TripAdvisor and was remarkably inexpensive
The first room we were offered, on the 5th floor
had the desk we needed to work on, a mini bar and a good shower room
The room we opted for was the one on the top floor (9th), which is called the panorama suite. We were upgraded at no extra cost
Views of the city almost all the way round and lots of light. The air conditioning was very effective
Looking out at a stormy sky
And at the buildings below. Space is at a premium
We rested and then, at about 5, the storm hit, lovely refreshing rain with thunder and lightning
Time for some supper and we took our hotel 's recommendation to go just one block away
The Pho 10 (it's a chain of restaurants and each one has a different number behind of the name). Pho is the national dish of a rich meat stock, sometimes started years before, which is added to every day and boiled and boiled. Rice noodles and some vegetables are then cooked in the stock. There are many variations
It was busy and you share tables but the turnover is fast. It is very popular with locals and with visitors
On the table are condiments that you add to the Pho according to your own taste. A hot chilli sauce, fiery yellow sliced chillies, lime wedges, vinegar with shallots and garlic, fish sauce in the bottle on the left
The Pho with a raft of fresh coriander and spring onions on top and slices of raw beef cooking in the broth
The menu. We had the top dish. Currently there are about 1500 Vietnamese Dong to R1. So these bowls of Pho cost approximately R36.50 each. They are substantial, you don't need much else
Preparing the Pho. In the background are the huge stock pots and in the front of them (to the left) the meat waiting to be added for the next boil
Yes, we did need that brolly for the walk back to the hotel
We were one road away from St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is 120 years old. The chimes told us the time but very softly. It does rather resemble a mini Notre Dame
The bikes are everywhere. They are the chosen transport in Hanoi and take up most of the pavements and fill the road at all hours. It means that pedestrians have to walk in the gutter or in the road. Not at all pleasant. Crossing the road is indeed taking your life in your own hands. You are told to just walk, they will avoid you. We did not see any accidents, but each road crossing is an adventure, and not a pleasant one
One of the street food "restaurants" which work on the pavement and cook in tiny burners. If the bikes are not taking up the pavement space, the small chairs and tables for all the patrons take the rest
The entrance to our hotel was down a narrow corridor. There was a small neon sign outside, which you have to look for
'Home' to spend the night cool under the air-conditioning. In fact, for two of the nights we stayed, it was cold enough to need a duvet, even with the aircon turned up to as high a temperature as possible
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

MENU Goes East - Hong Kong, Victoria Peak, Dim Sum

Sunday in Hong Kong. We took one of the old trams
and sat on top. They go at a fair clip in their own lines. Its a good way to see Hong Kong
We got off at the Bank of China building
and walked up the hill through the park. It was Sunday and all the domestic workers had a day off and were picnicking
Old bastion walls among the new, modern Hong Kong buildings
We were on our way to the Peak tram
NOT the place to be on a Sunday morning, we discovered 
The queues were epic and it was hot
It took us about an hour to get to the tram, but once you are in the queue... Sunshades were essential
A dragonfly on the fountain wall enchanted. It was one of the few insects we saw
The fairly orderly queue to get on the tram
When you get to the top of the peak, you are guided to the top of the tallest building and then asked to pay a king's ransom to get onto the roof
We went next door down these many levels 
and had a lovely free view of this beautiful modern, clean city
And looking in the other direction you can see Stanley and some of the many islands
One does wonder how high they will go?  We could solve our housing problems with just a few of these blocks of flats
The very strange architecture of the new Peak building
Inside we found the famous Paris Patisserie, Fauchon
and asked to be allowed to take some pictures of all the delights
Luckily we don't have sweet teeth
Although we could have been swayed by these chocolate temptations
However, you need to be rather wealthy
gooey brownies
bottle-cap sized fruit tarts
We took a bus back down to our hotel. It follows this amazing cliff-hugging road
Some of the architecture leaves you stunned
Time for some food; late Sunday afternoon and a tube ride of three stops 
We found the address of one of the best Dim Sum restaurants in Hong Kong on the Web
Small but busy even at 4pm on a Sunday
Usually you have to queue, but we got a table quickly
 The menu with our selection
Prawn dumplings
Steamed beef balls
Shu mai Pork and prawn dumpling
Cha sui Bao Feather light steamed buns with barbecued pork inside
All served with soy sauce and copious amounts of Puer tea. And a little light chilli sauce if that is to your taste
The lotus wrapped rice we ordered was sold out, so we substituted Fried Turnip cakes.  Our bill was HK116 (R208!) Amazing value
Wandering back to the tube we saw this bargain. Three excellent value t-shirts for John for HK50 (R33 each)
The ships in the roads at sunset, with the one remaining junk, now a tourist boat, and one of the old Kowloon ferries
The sunsets from our hotel were lovely, such soft smoky light
and it got softer as the sun sank
till it turns rosy pink as the light dies
Next episode: 
MENU goes East - Hong Kong, Cheung Chau Island
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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