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Our own little corner of Hanoi

Although I couldn’t get excited about the prospect of certain local specialities (notably dog), the description of recommended restaurants in the Lonely Planet guide meant that I arrived in Hanoi with fairly high expectations that a) we would eat well, and b) you would get to hear about it.

After a 14 hour overnight bus trip from Hue, our first and only comprehensible thought was: coffee, quickly.  Fortuitously, the excellent Cafe Nang – which serves coffee and Vietnamese tea and that’s it – was located right next to our hotel, so after checking in, we only had to walk a few short steps to order the best coffee we’ve had on our travels to date.  Following this, we tracked down a satisfying breakfast at Gecko Cafe – the standard Vietnamese offering of fresh fruit, omelet, and crunchy baguette.

But from this promising beginning, we somehow lost our mojo and became incapable of sniffing out bloggable food.  We really did try.  I diligently photographed every meal before we dug in, making Colin wait just…a…bit…longer while I tried several different angles.  But even food that exuded potential deliciousness always turned out to be a bit – or a lot – disappointing.  As our time in the city progressed, we desperately tried different strategies, going to slightly more expensive restaurants, or trying out places that other tourists recommended.

All to no avail…no that’s not strictly correct, most of the food was nice, but the problem is that nice isn’t really good enough for this blog.  If I don’t think about a dish after I’ve eaten it, aren’t able to conjure up its specific flavours and textures well after it should have been digested, aren’t compelled to discuss it with Colin, and don’t scheme about how I could eat it again, then it really doesn’t deserve to feature in this blog.

So, a problem: no decent food material for a post on Hanoi (and no, I didn’t feel compelled to attempt dog just so that I would have something to write about).  But I actually don’t have much material on anything in particular because we didn’t do much in Hanoi.  We’ve been travelling for six weeks now, so the drive to see and do everything has waned somewhat.  We’re far more interested in getting a sense of everyday life and talking to the locals than going to yet another museum.  It rained a lot when we were in Hanoi, and we easily filled our time by drinking coffee, chilling out at Gecko Cafe (which we enjoyed for the comfy chairs, ambiance, and affable manager),and wandering the streets of the Old Quarter where we were staying.  Despite the traffic and constant bustle, we felt right at home.  So, because I just can’t bring myself to not blog about a place we’ve liked, this post simply presents several images of our own little corner of Hanoi.

Inside Cafe Nang – you know your not in a tourist cafe when the only seating option is miniature stools and tables

View from our hotel window – tiny apartments just across the street

At Gecko Cafe

At a coffee merchants’, buying chou beans and little stainless steel coffee makers

Streets in the Old Quarter. We found this area of Hanoi so interesting – it absolutely buzzes with energy, tiny shops, narrow streets, constant traffic, outdoor restaurants and stalls.  We loved staying right in the middle of it, even if the noise meant no sleeping in.

Open air fish merchant in the Old Quarter

Open air vegetable shop in the Old Quarter

At New Day restaurant – probably our best meal in Hanoi, or at least mine anyway. Colin was trying to be healthy and ordered chicken and vegetables, and a fruit smoothie. I went for the infinitely more sensible option of Saigon beer, and a spicy tofu, pork mince and shitake mushroom dish. No surprise that my bowl was repeatedly raided.

SE Asia is the best place for fruit juices, shakes and smoothies. Guava juice (left) and a protein shake (mango, pineapple, lime and Japanese silken tofu)

3 Comments

  1. ALAN

    I hope you think of chopper if you decide to try dog. ill tell him. haha

  2. Kerry

    Best coffee you have had? I think there is a predominance of robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) grown in Vietnam – did you get arabica in Hanoi perhaps? But maybe arabica is everywhere – after all, Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world. Pity about the Hanoi food – missing the images and comments. You aren’t getting too foody fussy are you? And surely Colin gave the dog a go?

    • chezmaree

      Best coffee we have had on our holiday so far. I’m pretty sure it was a blend of arabica and robusta that the cafe used – we tried to find out but weren’t able to communicate with the owner. There were little shops all over the place that sold beans – Vietnam produces a very wide range, including civet and weasel coffee. We tried the weasel, and it was pretty good too! We were disappointed about Hanoi food too, but I don’t think we were being too fussy. Basically, if it’s not memorable in any way then there’s no point blogging about it. Dog would have been bloggable, even if it was disgusting…but we were both too squeamish!

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