Cafe culture in Hanoi

Pagoda in Hoan Kiem lake

Pagoda in Hoan Kiem lake

We have made our way to Hanoi.  This time, we wised up and took a plane so there were no misadventures.  But I will say it sure would be nice if $50 last minute, one way tickets were available in the good old U.S. of A.

Since arriving, we have been taking it pretty easy.  Most days start with an egg coffee for Robert (and a Diet Coke for me) at a coffee shop right across from our hotel.  Egg coffee is one of the dishes of Hanoi and I’ve heard it described as a liquid tiramusu.  Robert says that is a fair description.  It is a concoction with coffee on the bottom and then a layer of egg yolks beaten with condensed milk and sugar.  It is served in a glass inside a mug of hot water and you can either drink it without mixing it or after mixing everything together.  Robert seems to like it, but I haven’t tried it — I don’t like coffee and I don’t like egg yolks so I fail to see how the combination could possible be tasty.

Robert drinking an egg coffee

Robert drinking an egg coffee

The coffee is usually followed by a lap around Hoan Kiem lake, also known as lake of the returned sword.  Here is the story in a nutshell.  Le Loi led the resistance against the Ming Chinese back in the 1400’s.  He later became king and now every town in Vietnam has a street named Le Loi street.  During the fighting against the Chinese, he had a magic sword kind of like King Arthur.  After the war against the Chinese, he was boating on the lake when a turtle rose to the surface, grabbed the sword and took it back to its rightful owner — a dragon king that lived at the bottom of the lake.

The lake allegedly still contains a very old (and very rare) soft shell turtle, but I have my doubts.  In three visits to Hanoi we have never seen a turtle…Although perhaps not surprising given that some people say only a single turtle resides in the lake (and only 4 of the species still exist in the world).  That said, we have read that a turtle was captured in 2011 and given veterinary care before being re-released into the lake.

The lake also contains a photogenic, but unreachable, pagoda in the middle of the lake, and a small island reached by a cute little red bridge.

Pagoda in Hoan Kiem lake

Pagoda in Hoan Kiem lake

We also have managed to hit a sight or two.

Monument to Le Loi

Monument to Le Loi

Lisa and a dragon of some sort

Lisa and a dragon of some sort

And stopped to smell some pretty cool looking flowers.

Stopping to relax and smell the flowers

Stopping to relax and smell the flowers

But most of all, we have embraced cafe culture wholeheartedly.  We find a coffee shop or brew pub or small little red stool on a street corner, plop ourselves down, and watch the world go by.  Traffic here is a sight to behold — cars, pedicabs, pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes going every which way.

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Watching the traffic from a roof of a brew pub

It is also absolutely amazing what the Vietnamese can carry on their scooters.  Sheets of glass, ladders, cases of beer — you name it, we have seen it.

Beer on a moto

Beer on a moto

And on their bikes.  Check out this bike full of hats.

Hats on a bike

Hats on a bike

We have also had fun watching the workers install what we think is fiber optic lines.  Check out the mess of wires.  There are so many wires that we have seen workers balance their ladders against nothing but the wires.  In fact, although it is hard to see, this guy was doing precisely that.

Line work in Hanoi

Line work in Hanoi

We have also discovered that Hanoi loves their beer.  There are numerous microbreweries in town.  And most of them serve fried cheese.  Not as good as Wisconsin cheese curds, mind you, but we never expected fried cheese of any sort in Vietnam.

Hanoi microbrewery

Hanoi microbrewery

In a nutshell, we love Hanoi….

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2 Responses to Cafe culture in Hanoi

  1. J says:

    Not sure why it disturbs me so–riding a motorcycle in flip flops is such a bad idea but appears to be de rigueur in Hanoi.

    Like

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