There is so much to look at in Hanoi. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been suffering from jet lag after having traveled across 8 different time zones, but there is no doubt that I’ve had a certain amount of sensory overload that happened in less then 24 hours after arriving. In a very broad sense, things here seem very familiar yet, of course, so different in many, many ways.
For the next 2 months we now live in the Tay Ho area which is situated on a lake appropriately named, Ho Tay, which is just north of the bustling city center of Hanoi. This neighborhood is less crowed and quieter than the city center. It also appears to be filled with expatriates and foreigners. Most of these foreigners are from all over the world with a high concentration of people from the UK, Australia, and other Asian and European countries. We actually heard a group of people speaking Mexican Spanish yesterday while we had lunch and it made us smile. =)
Our housekeeper set us up for our stay here with an almost-new scooter rental that has plenty of storage under the seat for all our groceries and supplies. We started with exploring our neighborhood – first on foot and then on the scooter. Though it was a challenge at first, it was still quite manageable. Scooters rule the roads here, and driving a car seems absolutely ridiculous and very difficult to maneuver in traffic. Walking can be equally a challenge since the sidewalks stop and start abruptly with over grown grass, rocks, and other not-so-friendly obstacles, leaving you vulnerable to traffic in the roads.
The Tay Ho area is filled with restaurants, bars, coffee houses, specialty shops, and just about anything else you may need. International products can be found in just about every bodega on a street corner. Our first Saturday was spent collecting organic food at a weekly market and organic store very near to our house.
CROSSING THE STREETS IN HANOI
There’s a strange – but understood rule here with crossing a street in Vietnam. When it appears to be no way to cross, somehow, people find a way. Nobody will stop for you, yet everyone will let you cross. It’s almost an energetic game of “Frogger”. There are people texting on their scooters who never look up, yet they avoid hitting and being hit by others. It’s when you don’t “let go” of your notions of what you think it should be, and allow the system to just work, is when there could be trouble. And in most cases, you probably won’t die. =)
PHO FOR EVERYONE
We rode our scooter to the best Pho (pronounced fah) we’ve had so far, and I hope we can find it again. It was a perfect combo of broth, veggies, and spicy/sour flavors. I do, however, find it difficult to understand that when it’s 32° celsius (89° fahrenheit – but feels like 106°) with a humidity level of 90%, that anyone in their right mind would want to sit outside in the sun and eat hot soup. But everyone here does it and loves it. Surprisingly, it was kind of cooling in the end.
MY NEW HABIT
Then it happened. We found our second favorite thing in Vietnam. Yogurt coffee (ca phe sua chua).
OMG. This is stuff dreams are made of. The combination of lightly sweetened yogurt and rich chocolate-y coffee – with the light bitterness of the coffee bouncing off the creamy sweetness of the yogurt – is just heavenly. I am now planning on setting aside 15,000 dong ($.70US) each day for one of these lovely drinks. Normally I only drink coffee in the morning, but when in Vietnam, coffee drinking is an integral part of the entire day and I will be happy to make it an afternoon delight also. I’m sure I will talk more about this in later posts. Thank you Vietnam Gods.
To be continued….