Hanoi-ed?

Our first day in Hanoi, we had actually been meant to go onto Halong Bay but due to some bad weather our tour was swapped around a little and we went for a bike ride instead of doing that after Ha Long Bay. I didn’t take many photos of this bike tour as I found the roads really very stressful, and by this time I was getting a little fed up with the constant beeping on the roads.

After collecting our bikes we loaded them and ourselves straight onto a boat to cross the river, we would later be coming back across this river over a bridge which was perhaps the most scary part of my cycling in Vientnam. I am not sure if it wasn’t quite as bad as China or if I had become a little less sensitive but I am pleased to report I didn’t end up in tears this time.

On the ride we saw some general neighbourhoods in Hanoi and a community centre, which apparently used to play a really important part of life in Vietnamese society, before finally coming to another temple.

If we were told the relevance of the temple I was probably too stressed by this point to understand it but it was a nice break and it had some really interesting bonsai tree art.

We also got to stop to see some amazing ladies making bamboo wok brushes on the side of the street. They were very friendly and didn’t mind us watching them work and they were incredibly skilful splitting very thin pieces of bamboo with rather large sharp knives. I was afraid for their fingers but they clearly knew what they were doing.

Women making bamboo wok brushes
Look at those knives

Once we were safely off the bikes we had opted to take a food tour, and I am so glad we did. Vietnamese food is now some of my favourite food it is all so fresh and so tasty. We started the tour in a typical street food restaurant with tiny plastic chairs and an open front, after we tried a few dishes we were told that this is actually where President Obama had eaten when he came to Hanoi, there was a picture of him on the wall and we got to try the same dish.

Next we went round some stalls, got to try a variety of it and see some strange looking things for sale as well as much more recognisable things like sticky rice from a banana leaf and dragon fruit.

Our second last stop of the tour we came to a stall where outside we could watch the fresh rice dumplings being made and then were taken inside, essentially into someone’s house to eat it. And let me tell you they were absolutely delicious. They came with fried tofu, which has this bland reputation in the west but if you think it is bland and flavourless you haven’t had it made properly.

Finally, no Vietnamese food tour could be complete without coffee and since we were in Hanoi, the home place of the egg coffee that is exactly where we went next to finish off the night.

The Vietnamese egg coffee is essentially their version of a cappuccino, but as there was not much milk available to them they used what was available which in this case was egg yolk and condensed milk, in other parts of Vietnam they use coconut milk. The egg and condensed milk is mixed thoroughly until the foamy substance you see above is created.

Neither of us are coffee drinkers and we were hoping that the condensed milk would take some of the bitter taste of the coffee away, but unfortunately while the egg mixture on top was delicious the coffee below was strong and bitter and as a result we just ended up eating the top part and giving our coffee to someone else in the group to drink.

The only other thing worth noting that we got up to in Hanoi was getting a massage. Now this was after we got back from Ha Long Bay but I have to say it was the best massage we had on our entire trip in Asia, and that is some stiff competition. It was poring down outside so that possibly added to the atmosphere and the masseuses had magic hands but I think the thing that really made it was after they were finished with your back they put one of these hot beanbag things on your neck while they did the rest of your body. It was heaven.

So when I think back to Hanoi now I think of mad traffic, lovely food, friendly people and the best massage on earth.

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