Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MENU goes East - Day and Night in steamy Hanoi

Lynne decided to sample the Vietnamese breakfast. Quite similar to what we had eaten the night before. Those mushroom and onion rice pancakes, and some Pho with noodles and fried soya nuggets. Extremely filling
John stayed with the omelette, but lost the rather stringy indigestible cheese filling. The fruits came as an appetiser every morning, good dragon fruit, crisp slices of different melon varieties, but not always with much taste. The fruit juices were superb, especially the mango and the passion fruit. They tasted freshly squeezed and not too sweet, so we suspect (thankfully) that they had no added sugar
Our charming and very helpful waitress, Mie, who always said after we ordered, "Any more? You must have more". We could not! It seems the Vietnamese either eat more than we think (it doesn't show in the North, they are all very slender) or they expect us to. John's brother tells us that in the South they have adopted Western food and are getting much fatter
The very tidy and clean dining room. The chef, whom we could see in her outside kitchen was young, but very professional. And the food came quickly
The restaurant is next to reception
We had read our one book each and discovered that Hanoi has a book exchange, which was half an hour away from the hotel. We thought we would walk, but our receptionist said it was too far in the heat and we should take a taxi. It cost only $3US and we were delivered to the door. We gave them our books and bought two more. It was very reasonable, should you run out of reading matter in Hanoi
We discovered a cooking school in the same courtyard and Lynne asked what the prices were. Rather too high for our travel budget, but worth looking at if you are in Hanoi
The inside of the cooking school was impressive, albeit on a small scale. They also appear to do catering
Tempting smells from a street barbecue, but we had eaten well at breakfast. We were never hungry at midday because of the heat and only ate twice a day. We did drink lots and lots of bottled water
A local restaurant in the street of the book exchange looked very tempting, so we went in for a look at it and the menu. It serves fusion Vietnamese/French food. The prices looked average (1520 Dong to R1), but the wines were exorbitant
We think they were waiting for the lunch time crowd
The lunch menu. Salads were R82; Starters R88; Duck main R180 and a special of Grilled Prawns with a Ha Long seafood emulsion R167, so average fine dining Cape Town prices. We thought it a bit far from our hotel, but considered it for a special evening
And then we saw the Drinks menu. Entry level bottle R560 for wines: French, Spanish, Italian Australian, Chilean, Argentina, South African (Obiqua). Glen Carlou Chardonnay and Fleur du Cap Sauvignon Blanc only R822 and if you fancied some Dom Perignon R9530. So we decided not to stay. This is why most people drink beer in Vietnam (R32)
 Outside eating, but it was too hot on this day
Perhaps lunch on the terrace in the cool season
Street vendors passing the time while waiting for customers
Why did ......?
You can almost see steam rising off the lake
Central city living, some of the houses are very posh indeed, others not so much
The lake was filled with these grey ghostly carp
Hanoi lakeside apartments with a restaurant below
Gasping for food? or air?
Flamboyant trees overhang the lake
Faded glory, with newish neighbours behind
Had crabs had come to feed on the vegetables? But it seems they did not live long. Or is this someone's discarded supper?
Not sure if this is a moth eaten chicken or even a relative of a turkey? The chicks don't look familiar
Shacks squeezed in on top of a roof
Another of these strange fowl. John thought they might be fighting birds
A raft of papyrus
Luxury apartments with the lake on both sides
An ornamental chicken with his harem
This doesn't look recent
Island in the lake with temple
Street market for the tourists at the lakeside
Nice fruit for sale? Or are they temple offerings?
Lots of haggling going on
Temple offerings and good luck charms
A drinks restaurant by the lake
Turtles for sale
Distressingly, this one was tied and could not walk away
The pagoda
We learnt a good lesson, as it kept happening to us. We got there at 11.30. They close then till 2.30. It appears to be the same for all the tourist sites
So we looked at the lake and the lotus wall,
the dragons on the roof
and the firmly closed gate
Mango trees are everywhere, but these were not yet ripe
John spotted this sunken boat which was obviously serving as something else, so he went to look. Lynne sat under a tree relaxing, it was over 40 degrees and midday
The lakeside promenade
A Tree of Heaven
Getting closer
It's a public swimming pool moored in the lake! Good recycling venture
The pagoda from across the lake, still closed
We decided to start walking back to the hotel. The lunchtime crowd was out and on the road. Masks seem necessary and raincoats. We made it safely across this road and then we spotted our next destination
An oasis of calm and cool, with lotus flowers floating in water
And sight of the special of the day delighted us! They were featuring South African wines from Vinum
Yes we admit it, we had taken refuge from the heat, humidity and haze in the oh-so-comfortable and coool Sofitel Hotel bar
Two ice cold Tiger beers arrive in ice cold glasses. With free nibbles. Sigh, luxury is worth paying for sometimes
A second for John. The first didn't touch sides. It was expensive in dollars, but so worth it. We took a taxi back to our hotel
Later that day we ventured out to Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the restored Sword) nearest our hotel to see the bridge to the island there, where there is another temple
Sketch artists outside
Another beautiful flowering tree
The entrance
The famous turtle tower. Legend has it that it was the golden turtle who returned the emperor's sword
Lakeside art at the temple gate
A shrine
Inscriptions in old Vietnamese characters. Modern Vietnam uses the Roman alphabet
All the explanation you need. The Vietnamese do not appear to have realised that tourists cannot read Viet
Off through the streets to find dinner
One of the top ten restaurants in Hanoi and it only ever serves one dish
Ours is about to arrive, so the waiter lights the burner
The accompaniments are fierce yellow chilli, mixed herbs, shredded spring onions, peanuts, soft boiled noodles and fish sauce
Lynne looking hot and a bit sceptical. But we did enjoy it
It’s a local soft fish called mud fish (were those what we saw in the polluted lake?) coated in a thin, spiced coating which the waiter begins to refry at the table
He then adds (alarmingly) huge quantities of fresh dill and baby leeks (or spring onions, we couldn't tell which. They tasted of sweet leek but had the burp effect of raw onion). When they have been stir fried and rendered down a lot, you help yourself to the fish and veg and add some or all of the accompaniments
The menu explanation
The bill came to a reasonable R210. It was great to sit in air conditioning to eat
And just down the street, another family business - topping and tailing and bundling up those spring onions
The beautiful symbol of Vietnam, the lotus flower
All the coffee in Vietnam is flavoured. Usually with vanilla or chocolate. But we didnt fancy this one at all. We prefer ours without anything but a coffee flavour
Late night street life, this is what the residents of Hanoi do on a hot evening in May
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016

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