We splurged on a flight on a real airline (Vietnam Airlines, not our normal budget carrier Air Asia) out of a real airport (Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, not the normal Don Muang Airport which is so. freaking.far.from.the.city) and said goodbye to Thailand. The day before and the day we left were bittersweet. We had figured out Thailand! We could order in restaurants! We knew how to do things! We were sad to leave but ready to move on. We hopped our flight after the world’s longest passport control line and were off on a quick flight to Hanoi. A 1.5 hour flight that included both wine and a full hot lunch, I AM LOOKING AT YOU AMERICAN CARRIERS.
We took the Vietnam Airlines shuttle to the city center – that is, we meant to but probably took an imposter—and walked to our hotel, the Golden Sun Palace Hotel which charmed the pants off us. Which made us care less when we were ripped off when buying train tickets a little. We had a tiny room in the back with an even tinier window but it did small right (I’M LOOKING AT YOU THE REST OF ASIA) and everything was modern, very bright, and white. They had our fav international channels (BBC, CNN, Starworld and Nat Geo) and the bed was ridiculously comfortable. Sold! So we forgave them for selling us overpriced train tickets and pocketing the difference since they were so nice. FINE LADIES, YOU WIN THIS ROUND.
Hanoi also felt very European to us. Pretty architecture. Manicured gardens. Coffee and cafe culture.
We have a friend who grew up an Hanoi who armed us with about 10 recommendations for food, bev, and everything in between and we did our best to try each and every one of them. That’s sort of all we did aside from go shuffle by embalmed Ho Chi Minh in his mausoleum (no photos allowed) and see the “Hanoi Hilton” Prison where John McCain was a prisoner. Mostly we ate things. Shocker, I know, considering this blog should really be named “food porny pictures of soup around the world taken by average photographers with a point and shoot camera”.
Here’s what we ate that we loved:
Delicious porky patties and bacon-y strips of fatty meat served with noodles, fresh greens and herbs, and gently pickled cucumber in a sweet broth. It was my jam. Served with crab spring rolls, this was the greatest thing. Seriously. Ever.
We ate ours on Hang Gai in the Old Quarter
For some reason, I can never remember the name of this dish. Which is super sad because I loved it with my whole face. It’s thin, silky rice rolling paper stuffed with minced pork and topped with herb salad and fried shallots.
We ate ours on Hang Ga
With a blog named like ours, you must know we ate four banh mi on our first day. Banh mi stuffed with pate, banh mi stuffed with omlette, banh mi stuffed with doner kebab meat (this one is for overweight middle schoolers after class and drunk backpackers after beers.
We made some friends with a few local drunk dudes after they took pity on our infantile Vietnamese while ordering our banh mi. They invited us to sit down and poured Dave 3 shots of local rice whiskey and invited us to share their delicious crab spring rolls. We had a hodge podge conversation of them pointing at rice and us saying “rice” in Vietnamese. Them pointing at beer and us saying “beer” in Vietnamese. Then they wished us good luck in French (as you do) and we saw them later on a moterbike (yep — after all that rice vodka) and they waved at us like we were family. It made us love Hanoi.
We ate it everywhere!
This is how jaded we are — we ate pho for like, 5 meals over the course of like 3 days and I wasn’t even blinking about how awesome that is. Pho is like the creme de la creme of our noodle soup slurping addition.
We enjoyed pho on the street everywhere but the best was Pho Gia Truyen.
So, you don’t go to Hanoi without drinking Bia Hoi (fresh beer) which is mind-numbingly cheap and varied in its deliciousness. Bia Hoi will set you back anywhere from 3,000 – 6,000 dong (wait for it — 15 – 28 CENTS) and it can be awesome or sort of metallic. Who cares when it’s that cheap? Then you focus on the beer’s best quality: quantity.
We drank Bia Hoi on “bia hoi corner” where there are dueling shops serving beer. It’s mostly “same same”. You sit on impossibly tiny plastic stools that fit about an ass cheek and a half and rub elbows with a handful of Vietnamese, but mostly British 19-year-olds on their gap year all the while ignoring how huge this contraption makes your butt feel. HUGE AND NUMB. Which is why you are drinking from a keg.
There is ONE joint is where the young Vietnamese go and Dave and I were determined to break in. When we sat down over there they gestured to go across the street like we didn’t belong. A bit deterred but not entirely we shouted our order to a different waitress in muddled Vietnamese and our beer arrived but we had to pay by the round. We stayed for two rounds and felt triumphant and also bullied so we left. We sulked across the street into our tourist beers and then abandoned caring.
We left Hanoi for two days to do a Ha Long Bay tour which was super fun and reminded us about what wusses we’ve become about temperatures. It was maybe 70 degrees and we were wearing ALL OF OUR CLOTHES. AND SHIVERING. It was awesome though. More on that next!