Christmas and New Year in Vietnam
Spend the festive period just gone in Vietnam is exactly what I did, and I had a fantastic time! The photo above was my view on Christmas Day – not quite what I woke up to, I had to climb some steep stairs to get up there – and it was exactly what I’d been hoping for when I booked myself onto the trip with Gadventures.
I mainly went to Vietnam for the food. Even the airplane food is gorgeous:
There are a lot more food pics where that came from, be warned…
Back to the trip. We took 10 days to travel from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s amazing how much you can pack in when you need to.
So, after a 14-hour flight from London, Hanoi. We didn’t have much time to get to know the capital on this particular trip, so I’m very proud of myself for getting up to join our 6am walk [I’m a morgenmuffel, aren’t most people?]. Our hotel was in the crazed maze of tiny streets known the Old Quarter, which, is, erm, a lively place. We spent the first evening drinking cheap, cheap glasses of beer (they cost tens of pennies each) at one of those bars that consist of tiny plastic stools placed out into the busy crossroad as far as you dare to put them (tip: stay close to the pavement, it feels like everyone on or in a vehicle wants to end you). Still, it was pretty fun watching just how much more impressively successive cyclists could load their bike racks up with stuff. I swear one guy was kitting out his whole place in one trip to Ikea. I both admired him and worried about his centre of gravity.
(Pic included above to give you an idea of the tininess of the little plastic stools)
So, the next morning, I got myself out of bed with the hope of being gently guided through Hanoi to some yummy beef pho. I was not disappointed! On the way, we walked round the beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake and past people exercising in the main squares. Who knew the conga was cardio?? [They’re being watched over by a statue of Hanoi’s founder]
There was also a dance class going on, people doing facial exercises, t’ai chi… the classes are run by the government and are priced very low to encourage people to get involved. The exercisers were also very welcoming towards us, but I try not to expend too much energy before my breakfast (plus, the morgenmuffelling). There was an energy to the city that I wouldn’t have expected so early in the morning, and the good humour of the people exercising all around us made me wish that was possible in London. Alas, our commutes are too long and the winter sun refuses to rise so early, or so quickly…
After a quick stop at a tea stall for the strongest green tea I’ve ever had, it was pho time. Our guide, the delightful Dee, took us to a roadside place that I’d have looked at longingly, but fearfully, if I’d not been guided.
There was a choice of chicken or beef, but there’s really only one way to do this properly. Cow it was. I’ve had many a gorgeous pho at home thanks to my friend Hoang Anh – and this was just about up there with hers! The broth itself was spicy but also kind of astringent, something I love about Vietnamese food, and you don’t tend to find it in other cuisines. The beef was tender, the herbs and the spring onions were gorgeous, light and fresh, the noodles the perfect consistency… I might have gone a little heavy on the chillies, but I. bloody. loved. it. There’s s much variety in one bowl, it’s a joy to eat. And it was one big bowl! I still think of that beef pho now…
We took our time slurping that goodness UP. Then it was on to egg coffee:
Sounds terrible, tastes like a dream, the dream of 70s creme caramel topped with tasty cappucino froth. NO ONE KNOWS HOW THEY DO IT.
And then with that, we scarpered back to the hotel to grab our rucksacks and jump on the bus to Halong Bay. I’ll leave that for another post, seeing as I’ve managed to spin out a 2-hour walk round Hanoi this long. Didn’t get to know it well, did I…