Tuesday, July 05, 2016

MENU goes East - and comes South West. Last day in Hanoi and home to Cape Town

Then, our last day in hot and steamy Hanoi, where the Monsoon was heralding its arrival. We had our last taste of the street life and street food, the night market and a one in 90 million chance encounter. Then we began the arduous 37 hour trip back home
John spotted some Vietnamese wines in a supermarket we visited, obviously a hangover from the days of being a French colony. This was a red from a blend of unidentified "French" grapes
And white. Interesting that they are planting Sauvignon Blanc in a warm climate. With a brief, interesting, description in English. No idea what they taste like, we didn’t try them. SA Rand against the Vietnamese Dong was punishing when it came to luxury purchases
This superior Red from Dalat looks interesting
While Lynne looked at the shops, John paid a visit to the very French cathedral
Beautiful high, vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows
Vivian, our hotel's very cheerful night receptionist. She was very helpful
We went looking for supper. We did not know what we wanted or where we would find it. As long as it was on the way to the night market
No, perhaps not. We didn't ask if fried lizard was a speciality
Well it rhymes
And we liked the look of what was cooking at the front. It’s called eating with your eyes. We had no idea what the food was
A narrow restaurant with long tables, lots of locals and some tourists
The Bun Bo Nam Bo. Beef noodle salad. It looked rather different from the picture at the front and cost 60,000 Dong - R40. Flaked meat and shallots with bean sprouts and herbs on the ubiquitous soft white noodles. Filling. You had to add fish sauce and chilli to give it some more flavour
Lynne ordered these leaf wrapped items as an extra which turned out to be Gio, a kind of pork sausage. Not bad at all and very cheap at 6000 Dong (R4). Student and back packer food
People eat quickly and then move on. The service was terrible but the food OK. We drank local beer as usual. R13 here but much more elsewhere. The Saigon lager was better than Hanoi or HaLong. You have to barter at local shops selling it. We paid US$2 for 5 on the first day, When john returned another time, they wanted $5 for 6, but he managed to bargain them down to the first price
This is the menu. A Heineken cost 25000 Dong; they tend to leave off the last three noughts and replace them with K. A popular and sensible unsanctioned inflationary move. It is daunting working in hundreds of thousands. It worked out at about R16.50 each
Counting the dosh
It was rubbish collection time and it was very smelly. Everyone drops their trash in the street.It is collected by the most indigent, recycled where possible and the rest deposited on street corners for collection. We passed on quickly, heading for the night market
A shop of gilded Buddhas and another of pottery and banners
We reach the market. Clothing. Most of the purchases were done by locals. We found the goods not very attractive and were quoted crazy prices
Enamelled coconut shells? Chopsticks, joss sticks, paper "money" for offerings, book marks, fridge magnets
We were told to look out for pick pockets
Everybody gazing
A pair of ginger poodles, much loved
The babies are indeed very, very cute. Mum is keeping her cool with her fan
Owl watches
Owl back packs. And Miss Kitty
And lots and lots of T-shirts. Are we in the right country? Thailand?
There are 90 million people in Vietnam, not counting the tourists. And who do we happen to bump into in the market? Another member of the Cape media, Edo Heyns, editor of Wynland magazine, with his wife on their first night. It was our last
"No," said Lynne," it won't do. Too fat tummy, no matter how much you push and pull it across." Pity it was lovely and only R250. And no, we didn't believe it was silk, just good polyester. They are a tiny people in the North
Duh? Sack that translator
Back to our hotel at the height of the evening, crossing the busiest square
Beautifully lit buildings
And the never ending stream of traffic. It is how we will always remember Vietnam
Our car awaits to take us to the airport. The lens fogged up in the heat coming out of the air-conditioned hotel, even at that early hour. Get your hotel to book the car, it goes onto your hotel bill in advance. Taxis are much more expensive. This trip cost us $13 (R193), two dollars cheaper than coming from the airport, which is apparently normal. It takes about 50 minutes to get there. So we left at 6.30 am for our 9.30 flight to Hong Kong. There are no buses or trains to the airport. But Uber is there. We just couldn't access it as we didn't have a local phone sim card
Lovely driving through the almost empty streets this early. People were out exercising, cycling, doing tai chi exercises and practising martial arts in the parks
Over Hanoi's modern bridge across the Red River, aptly named for the red mud it carries
A reminder that Vietnam is still a communist country, although you wouldn’t know it when you’re in the streets
Vietnam Air Force MIG 21 fighters in their hangers at the airport
Waiting for our plane, watching planes take off and land. The airport reminded us very much of the old Cape Town airport, now modernised
Our flight to Hong Kong, just landing
We arrived in Hong Kong about lunch time and had to wait till our flight at 7 pm. So we treated ourselves to some lunch. We had some super prawn dumplings first, then this very spicy Beef Rendang. The meat (brisket) was a little challenging for John, being cooked on the bone with a lot of gristle, but was as tender as can be and the sauce was perfect, exactly what a complex Malaysian Rendang should be. This was the portion for one person, it amply fed both of us, accompanied by a bowl of plain rice
Yes we splurged. It was hot and we were thirsty. Two small Heinekens cost us 90 HK dollars. At two Rand to the HK dollar they cost us R90 each. In Hanoi, we could have bought two six packs of Heineken for that price. Probably the most expensive beers we have ever had
Inside the restaurant
The bill for two dishes and two beers. R422. We enjoyed it. And then came the long wait and the search for somewhere to sit
Check in only started at 5 pm and, when you are boarding the world's largest airliner, the queues are long. But the staff were efficient and the queue moved quite rapidly
Boarding the giant Emirates Airbus A380 for the 7 hour flight to Dubai. After 4 hours wait there, we boarded another plane for the 9 hour flight to Cape Town. We arrived home at 1.30 Sunday afternoon. having begun in Hanoi at 5.30am local time on Saturday morning. 37 hours straight, allowing for time differences. Now you know why we called it an Odyssey
Trying to waste time watching films
We are unable to sleep on planes. We envy anyone who can
Uber brought us home. We worked out that it was less expensive than taking a MyCiti bus to town and then calling Uber from there and, after 37 hours of airports and planes, we were only too happy to take one car all the way home. When we came home, Lynne went straight to bed, John stayed up till 5 pm, reading the Sunday Times and enjoying a Windhoek Draught while letting the adrenaline subside.  We slept till 10 pm, got up, microwaved some chicken soup (it was in the freezer) and we went back to bed at 11 pm. We slept through till 8 the next morning. It took a few days to catch up the sleep debt and stop waking in the middle of the night. But it was worth it. It was a great trip and the time went slowly, so we were able to enjoy every minute
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016

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