Friday, August 14, 2009

Hot hot hot Hanoi

Not sure where we ultimately wanted to live we decided to explore a new area every day. First on our list, a suggestion of Ben was the area around Dong Da Lake which is around 10 minutes drive out of the centre in the Dond Da district. We walked around the lake watching small groups of locals playing board games (which I have since found out is Chinese version of chess) and drinking either beer or green tea. We crossed through some smaller streets and saw 5 teenagers on one moto. Impressive. After a few hours walking in the heat we found refuge in a Cinema complex to spend some quality time with our new best friend Air Conditioning. This was on the corner of Pho Lang Ha and Pho Thai Ha Street. The area was quieter but seemed to lack shops, restaurants and the like. We continued on our walk around ho Thanh Cong lake and into a poorer area of town. There were markets of food and simple clothing and the locals didn’t seem used to seeing tourists in the area. They kept staring, in a curious way however more so at Celine. Possibly because of the clothes she was wearing or possibly the fact she was a foreigner. There was a woman cutting up massive slabs of ice into smaller bits. There was meat being cut into saleable portions out in the blistering heat. There were cats in baskets with string around their neck ready for sale. They were thirsty and it was tough to see. The first major culture shock of the trip came when I saw a skinned dog being cut into pieces. It’s skinned face a metre from mine looking straight up at me. I like to think of myself as open minded and adaptable to changing environments but there was some unexpected queasiness which took a little while to control (to Celine’s great amusement, but at least that made her forgive me for showing her the dog in the first place – big mistake -).

I will try dog at some point on this trip but the end result in a dish in a restaurant is much easier to take that what I saw in the market. It’s a different culture and should be nothing dissimilar than seeing a sheep or a cow at the butchers but I think it was the face that got me this time.

We continued on and moved out of the poorer markets to some other markets a little more mainstream. We have found that an area will sell a specific type of good. We were now in the wood furniture area but would come to find specific areas for electronics, phones, shoes, mini-marts, flowers and so on. Quite ingenious the enormity of what can be carried on a moto. We saw cupboards, air conditioning units, and multiple bags of cement among others things being carted around town.

Next suggested stop was Doi Can Street where a number of foreigners live. This is a long street in length in the Ba Dinh district however has been prone to a number of break-ins. This was a small street in width and similar to the old quarter was heaving with people and the hustle and bustle of daily life in Hanoi. There were shops for clothes, restaurants, markets, outside barbers and many more. After walking the street and back we had nearly clocked 10km for the day so felt it was time to retire for the evening.

After a shower to wash off the layers of filth (you really feel quite dirty after a day out) we went to sample the famous Bia Hoi. This is Vietnam’s micro brew beer and oh is it good. It has a Czech origin and we all know those guys know a little about beer. This light easy drinking beer is sold on street corners and is a favourite with the local and tourist alike. It is not hard to know why. I have not had a good old session on the stuff yet but it is fair to say I have knocked my fair share back already. It is a great way to meet the locals and share a story and a laugh. I have met some interesting characters already. There are a number of places in the Old Quarter where you can go and enjoy a glass or ten. It won’t break the budget either with a glass around 2000-3000 Dong. That is about 20 cents a beer so bring 2 bucks and you will be swaying home. A few glasses enjoyed and we called it a night.

Thought of the day: Bia Hoi is awesome. Nothing more needs to be said.

No comments:

Post a Comment