Monday, February 22, 2010

Your interesting title here*

Except for the pictures from the last post, I haven't really explained much about what I've been doing for the last few days that I've been in Hanoi. That's what I'm here to do today!

After I arrived and got settled on Friday night, I set out for food. I asked at the front desk about favorite nearby food stalls (my first night in the city, it was dark, and I have a tendency to get lost - it needed to be nearby!) and was referred to a place next door that makes chicken soup. Chicken soup? I've been eating chicken soup (and pork soup and veggie soup) throughout Thailand and Laos. I wanted something different and decided to take my chances with a place across the street from my hostel serving, well, I have no idea what it was. There were a lot of people eating there, always a good sign, so I just sat at a table and pointed to what everyone else was having. I was served a plate of lettuces and mint, four or five differently shaped fried things, and a bowl with slivers of apple in a more-sweet-than-sour liquid. I also had no idea if there was a particular way I was supposed to eat it, so I just watched and copied what everyone else was doing. It was tasty - and came in at under $2 - but I only recognized that one of the fried things had to have had pork sausage in it. That was kind of it for Friday night. I did try one of the free beers when I got back to the hostel, but that was a mistake. It's free for a reason, I guess, and the reason is that it has a strange vinegar-y taste to it.

Saturday I wanted to get a lay of the land, so I did a walking tour of the Old Quarter. This wasn't a group thing or anything, I was just vaguely following along with a path described by Lonely Planet. That was the day that I took all of the pictures of the markets and such that I already posted. There are way more, though? Have you seen them? I also went to Ngoc Son Temple out in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake; it's the most popular and widely visited temple in Hanoi. (Which, btw, is about to turn 1000 years old as a city. Pretty crazy, huh?) I also had another meal in which I didn't know what I was eating, but I finally went to an official restaurant that night and ordered off of a menu. How strange to know that I was about to eat spring rolls, sticky rice, beef, and vegetables. Where's the mystery in that? :-) On my way back to the hostel, I happened upon a huge crowd of people and went to check it out to see what the fuss was about. I don't know what the occasion was, but there was a man on stage with a pet monkey doing tricks. Pretty random, but it was interesting, at least. That was Saturday in a nutshell. Lots of wandering around, checking out markets and shops and food stalls.

Sunday was more lazy. Maybe as a break from all of the walking I'd done the day before? I did do some walking, but there was no real destination in mind, so it was more of a stroll than anything else. I had a few long, leisurely meals with a book and some
very good Vietnamese coffee. I'm not sure how they make it, but it's served in a tall glass that's only about 1/3 filled with coffee and a small pitcher of hot milk alongside so you can decide how much to add (I add the whole thing). It's kind of chocolate-y for some reason and not like coffee I've had anywhere else before. You can also get weasel coffee, something I'd really like to try! Besides this, I also ran a couple of errands as I needed to buy hair conditioner, toothpaste, q-tips, and gum, and I needed to book a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) for Thursday the 25th. The only tourist-y thing I did was to go to St. Joseph's Cathedral for the 6pm mass. I'd read that the sermon was projected out onto the street and hoards of people would listen from their motorbikes in the street. I'd never heard of something like that before, so I had to see it for myself. Afterwards, I walked in a direction I hadn't walked before to find a place for dinner. I came to the Thien Quang Lake (the name of which I only figured out later after consulting the map) and it was quite pretty. All lit up and magical looking.

Monday, today, I was more productive. Maybe as a break from all of the leisureliness of the day before? Lol. My first goal was a stop at the Chinese embassy so I could get a visa. It was a 25 minute walk to the embassy and a half hour wait in line to find out that visas aren't issued to tourists in Hanoi, only in HCMC. Argh. What's up with all of the visa issues I'm having? Luckily it wasn't a wasted walk as all of my next stops were in the area, too. I went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Ho Chi Minh museum, One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature. After all of that, I was famished so I went to KOTO for lunch. KOTO stands for Know One Teach One and it's a not-for-profit project that helps street kids and other disadvantaged kids learn skills that will one day get them off the streets. It's a very successful program, one that boasts a 100% job placement for graduates and I was eager to contribute to it by having lunch there. Unfortunately, I was fairly underwhelmed with the food which was on the expensive side. It's not that it was bad, it was just kind of meh. Oh well. At least the service was good.

Now I'm back at the hostel where I will read and drink coffee for awhile while I wait for Rhian and Marina to get here. Remember them? I'm really excited to see them and hang out with them again and they arrive in Hanoi today. The plan is that the three of us will head to Halong Bay together and we'll part ways again once I head to HCMC. Who knows, though? Since they'll be heading south in Vietnam and I'll be heading north, maybe we'll meet up again somewhere in the middle.

When I Skyped with my parents yesterday, my father said, "So, Hanoi's a beautiful place, huh?" Well, no, not exactly. It's a large and chaotic city: motorbi
kes everywhere, lots of noise and people. But there are some beautiful parts and there are definitely a lot of interesting things to look at. It's beautiful in a Bangkok way rather than in a Muang Ngoi way.

*Sorry, I just couldn't come up with anything. Suggestions? :-)


  1. Here's my suggestion for a post title... "The British Are Coming." Thanks for the nice long re-cap. Now I need to go look at your pics. Love ya!

  2. Shan for your photo caption.
    Pick anything,anything at all I won't look!

    Love ya!