A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Sunday, March 7, 2010

So Long Hanoi

We only spent two nights in Hanoi, one before and one after our excursion up to Halong Bay. We stayed at the Sunshine Hotel in the Old Quarter a buzzing, boisterous section of the city. We walked the narrow streets, getting to Dong Xuan Market that was just closing. On the way back we passed street vendors selling Thit Jo or dog meat. They say that sandy blond dogs taste the best. Ewww. We didn’t dare it try it, I may be able to munch on Charlotte but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat Lassie.

One night, we finally took a cyclo ride and cruised past the Opera House and Hoan Kiem Lake on our way to a Mexican dinner at Al Fresca.

Street food abounds on every street corner. Vietnam is a serious contender, if not heavyweight, of the world in street-cooked delicacies. Most vendors specialize and offer up only one dish on their menu. In doing so, they keep costs low, operations simple and the food perfecto. Some memorable dishes include: Pho Bo (Beef Noodle), Com Ga (Chicken Rice), Bahn Mi (the famous “everything but the kitchen sink” sandwich). The price is invariably right at about 20,000-30,000 dong ($1-2) and you get to eat in miniature plastic chairs that make you feel like Lily Tomlin.

We didn’t make it to Bia Hoi corner (at Ta Hien and Luong Ngnoc Quyen) where fresh beer is served to revelers to cries of, “Mot, hai, bat…go!” or “One, two, three, cheers!” Apparently a lot of local Vietnamese drink beer when it’s the freshest, which is first thing in the morning when it sounds the least appealing. I suppose, there is always next time.

We did make It to Ly Van Phuc Street or what known as “Chicken Street. Tucked away on a side street is the most tantalizing smell of chicken ever to waft on air.

We were gestured to a plastic table and sat down. As the only westerners as far as we could see, we knew we were in for a treat. However, the menu was a bit challenging. Instead of totally chancing it, we went up to the grill master and pointed out our selection. No chicken feet, please.

The chicken came out on two giant bamboo skewers and there were only three words to describe it. To die for. It was easily the best chicken since tandoori in India. The potatoes were perfectly browned, tastily seasoned, and equally gone in 60 seconds. But Elanore, oh Elanore, came in the form of white baguette bread drenched in honey and grilled with butter. We ordered seconds of everything, and washed it down with some Tiger beer.

The entire evening was fab until we hopped in a taxi (not one of the reputable green & white ones). I thought, how bad could it be? Maybe all these people getting ripped off are whiners or inexperienced travelers. Well, about 10 seconds into the ride the meter had already flipped three times. The ride that was around 36,000 dong ($2) on the way there hovered near 100,000 dong (over $5) on the way back. You know me by now, and I wasn’t going to stand for that.

When we stopped I told Ron to get out of the car, it’s always easier to deal with someone one on one. I calmly explained to the driver that his meter was faulty but out of the kindness of my heart I would pay 50,000 dong. Upon this point, he started yelling that he “didn’t know” why it was so much but we had to pay up. His arm reached back and barred my way out of the cab. I laughed at him and pushed my way past his twig for an arm, throwing the bill in my wake. I mean seriously what was he going to do about it, I outweigh him by at least fifty pounds. The moral of the story: take only the Mai Linh or the Vina Sun cabs while in Vietnam. The reports of unsavory taxi companies are confirmed true

As a final aside, the Vietnamese currency is called “dong”. Although snicker worthy in its own right, it actually makes me think of Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, everyone’s favorite foreign exchange student. Which brings me to one of life’s great mysteries, where in the world is Molly Ringwald?!! No doubt, living in Evanston, Illinois with Jake Ryan and two screaming brats.

Well, that’s all we have to report from Vietnam. We’ll leave you with a view of the rice fields that adorned many of our bus rides through the countryside.


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