Friday, June 03, 2016

MENU goes East - Hanoi. Heat humidity and a walking street food tour

We woke to a hot humid day. And then it was time for our first Vietnamese breakfast
The menu offers a wide choice
The cheese omelette comes with a crisp roll, butter, strawberry jam and a cream cheese. The plate is artfully decorated with flowers made from sliced vegetables
And then there was the pancake with banana and honey. Light and delicious!
The view from our 9th floor hotel room to the back yards below. Hanoi was a complete contrast to the orderly neatness of Hong Kong
Looking over the rooftops to other hotels in our street, which was called in English Drun Street
The electric connections on every street corner are quite scary. Legal, but are they safe? Scooters carry heavy loads and multiple passengers
Bicycles, street traders and mopeds. You had to watch out for taxis too. Sound familiar?
One of the posh restaurants, serving mainly western food which we couldn't afford, nor wanted to try
A typical old style villa in central Hanoi
Men socialising on the street outside a local temple. The lady on the bike is selling drinks
The temple entrance
Seeking our travel agent for the Ha Long Bay trip down one of these narrow alleys
On-the-street trading and a small street food outlet
In Hong Kong the dogs were so worshipped, pedigreed and manicured, here not so much, but this was clean
Slightly lost, but getting there. Not all the streets are on the map!
A wedding couple outside the Cathedral. The Notre Dame inspired architecture reflects the years of French occupation
It cries out for a good clean
A spectacular bonsai in the cathedral courtyard
A service taking place. It was Sunday and we could hear the choral mass from our hotel room in the afternoon
Where he lived. We didn’t go in, it was a bit red hot. He is revered wherever we went on northern Vietnam
The Ngoc Son Temple on the Hồ Hoàn Kiếm lake ("Lake of the Returned Sword") in the Old Town. People walk around it in the early morning and late evening, when it’s cooler, and do their morning tai chi and other exercises on its bank
Turtle Tower, known to the Vietnamese people at Thap Ruá, was built in 1886 on the same site where a Ta Vong Temple had been built during the 17th or 18th century. Somewhere between the Restored Le Dynasty and the Nguyen Dynasty that temple disappeared. The tower that stands there now was erected on the same site to commemorate Le Loi, a warrior who defeated Chinese invaders in 1425. This tower, though not built in any type of Vietnamese style and built by someone later discovered to be a traitor, still stands in honour of what Le Loi did for the nation and also for the magical turtle that is standing guard over the sword Le Loi used to free his people. This tower has stood for almost 150 years as a symbol of patriotic pride for the people of Hanoi. Though the French placed their own ‘Statue of Liberty’ atop the tower for a time (it was later removed in 1945 when the Tran Trong Kim government regained control of the city from the French), the Vietnamese have always seen this tower as a symbol of the patriotism and unity of the Vietnamese people
Green leaves reflected in the lake
The Flamboyant trees are all in bloom, covered in orange blossoms
Many small fish which look like dark carp are in the lake
There are lots of these 'old' watches for sale. Buyer beware. They say they came from prisoners of war. We don't think so. Good fakes
The very humble entrance to our hotel, which was modern and quite luxurious once you entered the foyer
Early evening, people come out to eat. And, yes, the Western fast food restaurants seem very popular
Crossing this was hell. You wait for a gap in the traffic like this and dash, dodging cars, bikes and other pedestrians. pedestrian crossing lines are a decoration
We begin our Street food tour with Ling
The menu on the wall. 1495 Vietnamese Dong will buy one Rand. There are about 22300 Dong to the US dollar. In practice prices are quoted verbally without the 000
First dish: grilled meatballs, pork, noodles, bamboo shoots and herbs and lettuce. Good flavours, like the addition of the herbs. Not at all hot. You add your own chilli sauce. We didn't get any of the names
Madam making the food
A street barbecue
The outside of the restaurant
Another, not on our itinerary. Everyone intent on eating supper
It rained a bit, but not enough to put up the brolly
Next restaurant
A small menu
Rice pancakes stuffed with mushrooms and topped with crisp shallots and shredded meat. You dip them in the sauce and eat with the herbs. We have to confess that we were not sold on this dish. John because of the mushrooms, Lynne because of the rather slimy texture of the pancakes. But we soldiered on
Our guide Ling Tran. She has her own Facebook page should you wish to book her: Lillian Tran. The tour took about an hour and a half; we went to five places and the food was all included in the price which was US $30 each. She was a great guide, with good English and humour and she responded well to our requests. Two portions of food were offered at each place, after the first two, we asked for only one to share. They seem to eat a lot of food
Madam steaming the pancakes. It is an incredible art making them and she does hundreds an evening
They seem to be stretched over the top of the pan on the right then steamed
A view through a domestic kitchen window. Living spaces are cramped
Sitting on the street waiting for the next" course"
A speciality. A crisp roll stuffed with paté and vegetables. An echo of the French occupation. A Vietnamese “bunny chow”? Served with a fruit tea
Ling with the owner’s cute little girl
She wanted to know everything
A make-up shop
It's a very lively, 'happening' city and the street life goes on till all hours
Off to our final restaurant
For some fresh fruit
A very stately cat, beloved by its owner, a porcelain seller
The iceman cometh
Cell phones are an extension of everyone's hands. We were offered the famous Egg coffee but we declined. It is coffee and condensed milk into which a raw egg is whipped. We were told it tastes just like crème brulée and most tourists love it. We don't like sweet or milky coffee, it was late and coffee keeps us awake
Mangosteens and rambutans (hairy litchi). We didn't get any to eat on the trip or any longan. A pity, as they are very delicious. All the pineapple we had was so sweet and succulent
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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