The Original Taste Of Hoi An

We went on a food tour today.  There were lots of reasons it should have been a complete and utter disaster.

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Rose apple.  More like a pear than like an apple.  Except it isn’t nearly as good as either a pear or an apple, even when you dip it in salt and chili.  But, it is a pretty fruit.

We can start with the fact that it cost nearly $70 per person.  In Vietnam.  Where we can eat very, very well on a couple of dollars per person per meal.

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Making banh xeo at the market.

And, let’s also start with the fact that we were picked up at 7:10 am.  (No, that is not a typo).  It takes something extra special for Robert and I to roll out of bed that early these days.

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Pretty pink fish on a pretty green plate at the market.

Then, let’s move on to the fact that we tried approximately 40 different things.  Seriously — approximately 40 different foods and beverages (including alcohol) before noon.  I honestly didn’t think that was possible without profusely vomiting later in the day.  Turns out it is not only possible, but fun.  (Our host Neville did question what Robert’s mom would say if she knew Robert was drinking beer at 9 in the morning.  Robert pointed out it was after noon in Chicago….).

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From the top left.  Morning glory, eggplant, cao lau, and mi quang.

 

Add in the fact that approximately half of the tastings were conducted in a tasting room instead of in a market or on the street.  How weird is that?

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Some of the best banh xeo ever.

And, finally, take into account the fact that half of the tour was conducted by an Australian man who was “60 + eleven years old” and who had lived in Vietnam for less than a decade.

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Can you guess what this is?  Ice cream pops.  The purple taro was fantastic.  (No, I’m not pulling your leg).  We also had coconut and coffee flavors.  Neville asked what my mom would say if she knew I had ice cream for breakfast and I responded she would say “yep, that is my daughter.”)

Yeah, it totally should not have worked at all.  And, yet, the Original Taste of Hoi An ultimately turned into one of the best food tours we have ever taken.  The food was amazing — some of it we had tried before but it had never been so good (the banh mi and the banh xeo were out of this world and Robert said the ca phe sua da was spectacular), some of it was new to us (xi ma, which is a black sesame seed and water herb soup-like thing that I’m going to crave for the rest of my life, and bo kho which is a beef stew served at weddings with baguettes for dunking in the stew (think french dip) that I will be searching out on menu after menu, and barbecued coconut which was so good I bought a bag of it).  The Australian and Vietnamese hosts (Neville and Ms. Sen) were amazing — friendly and funny and personable and oh so informative.  The women who worked at the tasting room were amazing — friendly and helpful and they weren’t afraid to make fun of their boss (Neville), which is always a good sign.

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Papaya salad on a crunchy cracker.

And, Neville provided us with a whole list of recommended restaurants for the rest of ours stay — even some in Saigon.  (The incorrigible Neville really liked Robert once Robert pointed out dark rum — which Neville just happened to have — would be a really good addition to a particular beverage served on the tour.  After tasting the concoction, Neville whole hardheartedly agreed with Robert’s suggestion).

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From the top left.  White rose, nem, and fried won tons.

If you come to Hoi An, we can highly recommend this tour.  Don’t let the price turn you away.  Don’t let the fact that part of the tour is in a tasting room turn you away.  Just go and enjoy.  (No, we didn’t get paid to say any of this, we just really enjoyed our morning).

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Rainy days in Hue

So, Robert and I really enjoy traveling in shoulder season or even off season.  There are far fewer tourists, everything is cheaper, and everything is just a tiny bit more chill.  But there is a reason off-season is off-season.  For example, here in Central Vietnam it is currently rainy season.  And, sometimes (although not very frequently), traveling during off season can really bite you right in the ass.  Our time in Hue was one of those times.  It rained every single day (and mostly all day) for each of the 5 days we were in Hue.  Rain, rain, rain.  So, nearly all of our plans for Hue fell through.  Rent a scooter and visit an abandoned water park or the old royal tombs or temples or graffiti street in the pouring rain?  Take a boat ride on the Perfume River in the pouring rain?  Yeah, I think not.

We did at least make it to the Imperial Citadel on one of the days with less rain.  The Imperial Citadel is yet another UNESCO site.

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At the entrance to the walled city,

Construction on the Citadel began in the early 1800s, and it was the seat of power in Vietnam until the late 1880’s when the French took over.

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A pop of color on a very gray day.

Thereafter, it fell into neglect and was significantly damaged when the Vietnamese fought the French for independence.  What was left was largely destroyed during the Vietnam war.  (Known here as the American War or “the Resistance against the Americans for the salvation of the country”).  The few building that remained after the wars have been or are being restored.  It is definitely worth seeing, but would be far more impressive when the sun was shining.

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Red doors at the Citadel.

Other than that, we did absolutely no sightseeing in Hue.  Instead, we saw some movies (can you believe movies cost under $2.50/ticket in Hue????) and spent quite a bit of time at cafes sipping on coffees, soda waters, and lime juices.

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One of the gates to the Citadel.

Oh, and you will be shocked to hear we spent some time in the local watering holes.  DMZ Bar and Tipsy Cafe were two favorites.  But, after Hue, Robert has instituted a new rule:  no visiting cowboy themed bars anywhere in Asia….

Now, fingers crossed that we get at least a few sunny days in Hoi An.

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Day trip to Bai Dinh and Trang An

So…many of you know we are not big fans of group tours.  Every once in a great while they work out at least half-way decently (see here), but most of the time they involve lots of hurry up and wait and uncomfortable travel and bad food.  Query then why we decided to book a day trip to Bai Dinh and Trang An?  In retrospect, I have no idea….  And let this little post be a Life Lessons 101 Mastercourse to all of you as to why group tours generally suck.

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Buddha statues at Bai Dinh.

We booked through our Hanoi hotel.  Always a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea, but we were booking remotely and knew we wouldn’t have time to book a tour when we arrived back in Hanoi after our amazing trip to Mai Chau.  Our hotel promised us a “deluxe” tour and that by paying a little bit extra (yeah, if you consider $20 a little bit) we would get both better transportation and better food.  Our hotel also promised we were paying $10 less than the general public.  We take everything with a grain of salt in Vietnam, but in this case we needed an entire salt mine.

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Statue at Bai Dinh.

Things got off to a great start when the tour guide and bus showed up at our hotel 10 minutes early.  We rushed downstairs, but the bus left without us.  The hotel said “no worries, they will pick other people up and be back in 10 minutes.”  So we waited, and waited, and waited.  Oh, and while we waited we got to listen in on somebody’s video call with a Spanish toddler having a meltdown.  Big fun!  After some 40 minutes of sitting in the hotel lobby, the bus finally returned.

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Another statue at Bai Dinh.

At first, I was pretty stoked that we didn’t have to sit on the bus for 40 minutes while other guests were picked up around the city.  However, when we finally got on the bus, the only seats left were the two in front.  Our initial thoughts were “great, Lisa won’t get car sick.”  That lasted all of about 30 seconds.  And, then we realized our seats were narrow.  Very, very narrow.  Why?  Because our bus had a fold down seat in our row, that was folded up into our seats.  Now we understood why these “prime” seats were still available after nearly everyone had been picked up.  Lovely…..there were only 5 hours to go in those seats…..

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The biggest Buddha in SE Asia.  Not.

Once everyone was on the bus, the “English speaking tour guide” gave a short little speech about our upcoming day.  At which point we realized our guide’s English was seriously deficient.  Oh happy, happy, joy, joy.

We also learned at this point that our tour was run by a company called Go Asia Travel.  And, guess what?  The advertised rate on their website was exactly what we paid.  Not $10 less as promised.  (I guess we should be glad we didn’t pay even more than the posted rate….although we no doubt paid more than some people on our trip who bargained in person with a travel agent.)

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Trang An scenery.

As I was researching the on-line rate of our tour, I noticed something curious.  Our “professional” guide was studying about Buddhism so she could tell us about it later in the day.  Hmm….one would think a “professional” guide in Vietnam taking tourists to a Buddhist temple would already know the key facts about Buddhism….  But, clearly not.

After an hour or so in our cramped seats, it was time for a 25 minute rest break.  Because, apparently, grown-ass adults can’t hold it for the two hours it would have taken to drive to our first stop.  Oh, wait, we can, but then there would be no excuse to stop at a tourist gift shop selling overpriced junk that nobody should even consider buying and disgustingly filthy bathrooms.

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Clearing weeds in Trang An.

After the break, we got back into our cramped seats and the guide tried to tell us about Bai Dinh.  But first she gave us a little lecture on Christianity, telling us who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.  Um, why????  (She didn’t even describe it accurately).  Then she told us how Buddhists believe in reincarnation.  (I’m not sure she described that accurately either, but don’t know enough about Buddhism to say so definitively).  Nobody really paid much attention to her because everyone was trying to sleep.  So, a few minutes later, she came up to Robert and I and said she didn’t think her speech was interesting enough so she wanted to practice giving it to me.  We didn’t really have a choice, so we sat and listened to the speech a second time.  Then, she gave the same speech to the Vietnamese couple behind us (in Vietnamese).  Then, she gave it again to the entire bus.  I can vouch for the fact that it wasn’t interesting any of the four times we listened to it.

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Wedding photos in Trang An.

Finally, we arrived at Bai Dinh. The guide told us about three times that we had 1.5 hours at Bai Dinh.  And, then she proceeded to run us around the complex and finish the tour in 45 minutes.  No great disappointment though, as the temples at Bai Dinh are some of the most stark, boring, and empty temples we have seen.

The guide also told us repeatedly that the biggest Buddha in South East Asia is at Bai Dinh.  Except, yeah, no.  We have seen bigger Buddhas with our own eyes in Thailand.  So, our guide pretty much had no idea what she was talking about.  (Turns out, the complex is the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam.  Just a teeny, tiny little distinction, right?)

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Trang An scenery.

Next stop was lunch.  Our “deluxe” lunch was a buffet that had been sitting there too long so everything was cold.  And bees swarmed us while we were trying to eat.  Never fear though, the restaurant told people “the bees never bite.”  Yeah, if I know one thing, it is that there is always a first time for everything….

Then it was time for a bike ride.  This was the actual highlight of the entire day, even though it only lasted about 45 minutes.  The bikes were in good shape and the scenery was stunning.  And, our guide didn’t even try to talk to us about where we were or what we were seeing.  She did, however, insist that my seat was high enough when it clearly was not.  (Don’t worry, Robert fixed it for me when she wasn’t looking).

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Robert on the bike trip.

Then it was back on the bus for our boat ride.  Trang An is a UNESCO site and it is quite beautiful.  A river flows through various caves and mountains and rice fields.  Stunning, really.  Except for the 1000’s of boats full of tourists wearing life jackets.  Seriously, we all had to wear life jackets even though though there were literally boats everywhere and anyone who can swim could have easily made it to shore.  (I’m honestly not even sure if the water was over my head).  And, for two hours we sat in a boat on a hard wooden seat without any cushions.   Getting hit in the back with oars almost every time the boat driver paddled.  And we had to share the boat with another couple.  (Remember, “deluxe” transportation….)  Who sat right in front of us so we couldn’t actually see the caves.  Or take many photos without their heads popping into the photos.  And then the boat driver, who hadn’t even acknowledged us once during the entire two hour boat ride, started begging us for a tip.  A tip she likely would have gotten if she hadn’t begged but didn’t get because she did beg.

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Me on the bike trip.  I think it is time for a haircut….

Our guide didn’t bother to tell us this, but the movie Kong Island was filmed in Trang An and the movie set is still there.  Actually, I read it is a recreated set.  We didn’t get to see it though, as for reasons completely unknown to us, our boat tour didn’t stop there….

Finally, the boat ordeal was over and we got back in the bus for the long drive back to Hanoi.  Never fear, we had the obligatory rest stop at the same cheap tourist shop.  Where, once again, nobody bought anything.

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Boat after boat after boat of tourists in Trang An.

Back on the bus, the guide asked everyone to fill in a survey form.  Which she then proceeded to read (to herself) in front of us.  And then, just as we were pulling into Hanoi, she gave a little speech about how bad she felt that not everyone enjoyed the tour.  And then called us out in front of the entire bus and told the entire bus that we didn’t have a good day.  You know what, I’m pretty sure nobody had a good day and we were just more honest than others.

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Making the best of a bad situation.  See how tightly we strapped on those stupid life jackets????

It will be a very long time before we take another group tour….  (Somebody, please remind me of that if you ever hear we are considering another one).

All that said, Trang An was stunning.  We would highly recommend going there on your own, staying a couple of nights, renting a scooter, and exploring.  We sure wish we had done that instead of a day trip.  Next time, right?

 

 

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Relaxing in Mai Chau

We have spent the last few days in an area of Vietnam known as Mai Chau, a rural area about a three hour or so drive from Hanoi.  It was a perfect place to visit after the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.

The region is in a valley, surrounded by hills.  It is beautiful even now when the rice is all harvested and the fields are brown, and I can only imagine how stunning it must be in green season.

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The view on one of our daily walks.

The residents of Mai Chau are largely from the white and black Thai ethnic groups.  They build their houses on stilts.  There are shops and restaurants underneath many of the houses.  The women are apparently expert weavers.  We saw lots of women harvesting silk worms and sitting at looms and there were all kinds of colorful scarfs and the like for sale.  And not a single person harassed us or pressured us to buy anything, which was lovely.

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House on stilts in Mai Chau.

Mai Chau is sleepy without much to do except walk and bike.  We spent hours each day walking through the various villages and exploring (and a little bit of time on some rickety old bikes that made my butt hurt).  There were plenty of farmers working in the fields.

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Farmer working in the fields.

There were dogs everywhere.  Seriously, if you have a dog phobia, don’t visit Mai Chau as there are hundreds of dogs.  Many of them are out in the rice fields hunting (sure wish we knew what they were hunting).  Many of them are hanging out on the roads.  All of the dogs that got anywhere near us were friendly.  And, if you are extra lucky, a huge dog will come up to you as you are sitting in a cafe and demand to be given some attention.

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A dog in the rice fields.

There were various farm animals.  This baby pig was adorable.

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Baby pig in Mai Chau.

Cows roamed freely in the villages.  (You always had to watch where you stepped….).  The water buffalo, however, appeared to be penned in fences or at least tied up.

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A cow walking through town.

There were ducks and geese everywhere.  Every morning we woke up to the sounds of ducks and geese in the rice field outside our room.  One day we happened to walk by as an entire flock of ducks left the puddle they were in, waddled up to the road, and waddled down the street.  Maybe they were going home for the night?

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Some Mai Chau ducks.

The hens and roosters were extraordinarily colorful.

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Check out the amazing colors on this guy.

There were even mountain goats.  They were very skittish.  We could hear more rustling in the bushes than we could actually see.

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A Mai Chau goat.

The insect life in Mai Chau is pretty darn amazing too.  Check out this guy.  He showed up on our patio one day.  He was very curious and started walking towards me as I was taking photos.  The next thing I knew, he jumped right on my camera.  Pretty cool!  Except then he jumped right on me, at which point I might have just shrieked a teeny, tiny bit.

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Praying mantis in Mai Chau.

The butterflies were amazing.  These guys were huge.

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Butterflies in Mai Chau.

And check out this very strange caterpillar.

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An almost iridescent caterpillar.

We very much enjoyed our time in Mai Chau.  I’m guessing it has a completely different feel during green season and on weekends (apparently, tons of school kids come on the weekends from Hanoi).  But it was a wonderful little off-season, mid-week, get-away.  (I know, I know, we are retired and shouldn’t need get-aways…..).

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The food you have to eat in Hanoi

One of our absolute favorite things about Vietnam in general, and Hanoi specifically, is the food.  It is (mostly) fresh, it is (mostly) healthy, it is (mostly) cheap, and it is (mostly) delicious.  If you are visiting Hanoi, here is what we think you absolutely must try (in alphabetical order because we can’t decide on our absolute favorites — ok, we probably could, but we wouldn’t agree, so there is no point):

Bánh xèo.  A savory pancake-like concoction made with rice flour and tumeric.  In Hanoi, the filling is typically pork and shrimp and bean sprouts (although we also saw chicken and beef).  In the north, you eat it by wrapping the banh xeo and some greens and herbs in rice paper, and then you dip the whole thing in some fish sauce based dipping sauce.  Banh xeo is better in the south of Vietnam, but it is one of those dishes that I think you have to order every single time you see it on a menu….  Our personal favorite in Hanoi was at an upscale place called Grandma’s Restaurant at 6A Đường Thành Street.  It was big, it had high quality and lean pork in it, and it was delicious.  But a complete meal there is quite expensive (by Hanoi standards).  So, if you don’t feel like a splurge, we also really liked the banh xeo at Mr. Bay Mien Tay restaurant at 79 Hàng Điếu (pictured below).  About 100K VND ($1 currently equals about 23K VND).  (You will see lots of recommendations for Banh Xeo Zon.  We thought the banh xeo there was just plain weird — not folded, no tumeric so it was an odd white color, not very crispy, too thick so only one side was done, short on fillings — and don’t recommend it, although we didn’t hate it).

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Banh Xeo.

Bo Bia Ngot.  We don’t have a picture of this, because I ate it too quickly to take a photo — seriously, I inhaled it in about 20 seconds.  This is a street food snack that tends to be around more in the evenings and consists of honeycomb and coconut and sesame seeds wrapped up in rice paper.  It was delicious!  It should be about 5K VND, but the vendors will like try to overcharge you (we stupidly paid 10K VND before we knew what the price should be, but I’m not going to get worked up about 20 cents….).

Bún Bò Nam Bộ.  This is basically a combination of rice noodles, greens, and beef in a sauce made of fish sauce, lemon, sugar and chilies with peanuts and fried shallots on top.  We really liked the version at Bun Bo Nam Bo restaurant at 67 Hang Dieu — look for the blue sign.  About 60K VND.

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Bun Bo Nam Bo.

Bún Chả.  This is a specialty of Hanoi.  It is grilled fatty pork in a broth of vinegar, sugar and fish sauce, served with a side of rice noodles and various greens.  Dip the noodles and the greens in the broth and have one of the best meals of your life.  (Note this dish is served on the cold side — the broth is not supposed to be piping hot).  A great version of this will be smoky, caramelized, yummy, goodness.  A bad bowl in Hanoi will still be pretty damn good.  It is also generally served with nem (deep fried spring rolls) filled with pork and crab.  We highly recommend Bun Chah Hang Quat at 74 Hàng Quạt — note they are pretty much only open between 10-2.  About 60K VND for both the bun cha and the nem.

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Bun Cha.

Bún riêu.  I’m not a huge fan of this, but Robert is.  It is a tomato and crab soup in a pork broth with vermicelli.  The crab is from the rice paddies, not from the sea.  This bowl was from Banh Xeo Zon at 25 Lò Sũ, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.  Robert says it was above average, but he thinks you can do better.  (He only managed to get the one bowl, because I don’t eat this and most good restaurants serve only one or two dishes).  About 55K VND.

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Bun rieu.

Bún Thang.  This is another chicken noodle soup.  An authentic bowl will supposedly have chicken of a particular age (hens that have laid eggs for about a week, which apparently means chickens that are between 6.05 and 6.27 months old), some dried shrimp in the broth, and a hint of beetle extract (apparently, some kind of pheromone), as well as some shredded egg and vegetables.  We recommend Bún Thang Bà Đức restaurant at 48 Cầu Gỗ (be warned, you go down an alley and up some stairs).  About 35K VND.

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Bun Thang.

Cà phê trứng.  Egg coffee is more a snack than a beverage, so we included it.  Yep, you read that correctly — egg coffee.  Supposedly, some dude in the 1940’s couldn’t find fresh milk for his coffee, so he threw in some whipped egg.  The egg coffees of today typically have sweetened condensed milk and sugar in addition to egg.  The coffee cup is served in a bowl of hot water to keep everything the right temperature.  Robert says it tastes a bit like tiramisu.  I wouldn’t know because I don’t like coffee or tiramisu.  You can find these at most cafes and they cost about 40K VND.

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Egg Coffee.

Phở bò.  Beef soup with rice noodles.  You can find this all over Vietnam, but the best is supposedly in Hanoi.  The best we had was at Pho Thin.  There are at least three places with this name, but we went to the location at 13 Lò Đúc (welcome to Asia, where as soon as one business gets successful, someone copies the name….).  The story there is that the owner was the first to saute the beef with garlic to give it some added flavor.  We also really liked the version at Pho 10 in Hanoi at 10 Ly Quoc Su, especially because you can order your beef either “half done” (Robert) or “well done” (me).  Make sure to add some of the garlic sitting in vinegar!  About 50-60K VND, depending on where you go.

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Pho Bo.

Phở chiên phồng.  Remember what I was saying about Vietnamese food being healthy?  Well, this dish is an exception to that rule and it is 100% worth every calorie and clogged artery.  Yummy little pillows of fried rice noodles, covered in beef and greens (and too many onions for my taste but OMG the fried rice noodles…).  As we were eating this, we were already planning a return trip for more….  We recommend trying the version at Huong Mai at 25 Ngu Xa Street (the restaurant is actually on both sides of the street and covers multiple addresses, but just look for the big green awning).  About 60K VND.

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Pho Chien Phong.

Phở cuốn.  OK, this was a revelation.  It is so simple — just some beef and greens wrapped in a fresh sheet of rice paper and then dipped in a fish sauce based sauce.  But, OMG, was it delicious.  The photo doesn’t even begin to do this dish justice….Try it at Huong Mai at 25 Ngu Xa Street.  About 60K VND.

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Pho Cuon.

Phở Gà.  Chicken soup with rice noodles.  In Hanoi, I really liked the version at Pho Lam restaurant at 7 Nam Ngu, although Robert thought it could use more greens (Robert is wrong….).  Probably one of the best bowls of chicken soup I have ever had (it even beats out Mish Mash soup at the The Bagel (RIP) and that is saying something….).  About 50K VND.

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Pho Ga.

Phở Trộn .  Chicken and noodles with a sweet and sour sauce (no broth).  We tried this on a street food tour at Pho Hanh at 65A Lãn Ông, so we don’t know what it costs, but it was delicious.  Huong Mai also does a version with beef, but we liked the chicken version better.

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Pho Tron Ga.

Pizza at Pizza 4P’s.  Did you really think I would spend 2 weeks somewhere and not come up with a pizza to recommend????  Oh ye of little faith.  And, let me tell you, this was the real deal.  Italian pizza chain by a Japanese chef in Vietnam.  So good — probably the best pizza we have had in Asia, and better than many pizzas in Chicago.  About 150k VND — yep, you read that right — this beautiful pizza that fed both of us was under $7.  We went to the branch at 24 Ly Quoc Su.  I can’t wait until we get to Saigon so I can have another….

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Pizza at 4 P’s.

We do have one last addition to the list, but only if you are spending all of your time in the North of Vietnam — if you are headed South, feel free to wait.

Banh Mi.  A sandwich made with a baguette, and according to Robert, one of the best sandwiches of your life.  The best come with pate and head cheese and La Vache Qui Rit cheese and quite honestly who knows what else and the best generally come from ladies on street corners.  There are lots of banh mi ladies in Hanoi — try one anywhere you see locals eating.  About 30K VND.

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Banh Mi.

Hanoi is also really well-known for its bánh cuốn, which is ground pork and mushrooms in a rice paper wrapper.  We found it kind of disgusting and really don’t understand the love for this dish, but you should probably try it while you are here.  Look for a shop that makes it fresh, as some places make them in advance and serve them cold.  I can’t imagine how much more disgusting that would be….

OK, for those of you who have been to Hanoi, did we miss anything amazing?  (Because you know we will be back someday….).

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People watching in Hanoi

So, we haven’t done a whole lot of blog worthy sightseeing in our two weeks in Hanoi.  What we have done a lot of is eat and eat and eat — more on that in a future post — and people watch.  We love hanging out at a cafe, nursing a drink, and watching the world go by.  And, the people watching in Hanoi is out of this world.

First, this is typical traffic for Hanoi.  You’ve got cars, you’ve got scooters, you’ve got pedicabs, you’ve got cars, you’ve got buses, you’ve got people on bikes, you’ve got pedestrians, etc.  And, they are going in every different direction at once.  I don’t know how it works, but somehow it does — especially when there aren’t any stupid tourists trying to cross through this mess.  (Our favorite is watching tourists try to cross who put their hand up in the “stop” signal — like that is going to matter even one teeny, tiny bit.  Yeah, sure, it is.  That big, huge tourist bus is definitely going to stop because you put your hand up…..)

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Traffic in Hanoi.

Sometimes, you even get guys pushing loads of wood, steal beams, pipes, etc.

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Pushing lumber through the intersection.

You also have your flower sellers.

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Flower seller.

And hat vendors.

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Hat vendor.

Don’t forget the pedicabs — they are everywhere, offering one hour rides around old town.  We haven’t taken any of them up on the offer just yet because I’m pretty sure we have walked on every single street in the Old Quarter.  And, the more we walk, the more we get to eat!!

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Waiting pedicab driver.

Don’t forget your fruit vendors.  And, the guy in green is a Grab motorcycle driver waiting on a fare — Grab is the Asian equivalent of Uber.

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Fruit vendor and Grab driver.

You can also shop for clothes on the side of the road too….

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Clothing vendor.

I don’t think anywhere in the world has the same high quality people watching as Hanoi….but if you know of an even better place let us know.

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Hanoi Murals

When you have been to Hanoi multiple times like we have, you start looking for some off the beaten path things to do.  Luckily, there are two sets of murals in Hanoi and both are within walking distance of the main tourist center of Hanoi.

We first visited the trompe l’oeil murals.  This is a street art project that was jointly created by Vietnam and Korea.  The 20 or so murals are painted on sealed archways of a railroad bridge.  Many of the murals look like they are coming right out of the archways.  The murals start at 27 Phùng Hưng, Hàng Mã, Hoàn Kiếm.  When we were there, there were almost no other tourists.

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Trompe l’oeil mural.

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Trompe l’oeil mural.

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Trompe l’oeil mural.

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Trompe l’oeil mural.

The next day, we visited the ceramic murals.  These murals were created along the walls of a dike and run for about 4 miles.  Apparently, it holds the Guinness record for being the longest ceramic mural.  Unfortunately, the murals are next to a narrow sidewalk on a VERY busy road, so it was a bit hard to see them and impossible to get decent photos.

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Ceramic mural.

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Ceramic mural.

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Ceramic mural.

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Ceramic mural.

We wouldn’t make a special trip to Hanoi to see these murals, but they are a nice way to spend some time if you’ve seen the other highlights of the town.

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