Only the afternoon….Day 2
Our First trip with Paloma scooter tours. Our guide Tu met us at the hotel and ready and waiting for us were 4 scooter and 4 traditionally dressed Vietnamese young ladies to be our drivers. The girls are all university students working for Paloma and wanting to improve their English….it is a theme here! They were all smiles ….well 3 out of 4….the 4th took one look at Rich and knew she was in for it. Seriously…these Vietnamese are little people! I haven’t looked it up yet but I am sure the average male weighs only 60kg. So Rich (with a few extra travel pounds) was going to weigh down the scooter. He took it in stride pulling up his shirt to show off his “6 months pregnant belly” and Tu joked along side him – touching Rich’s belly and saying “I felt it kick!”. It was going to be a fun adventure.
Certainly, one of the highlights on the tour is driving on a scooter in Hanoi traffic. I already covered crossing the street here…but being on a scooter…is a whole different vantage point. The kids, well Wilson at least, were a bit nervous but the girls were super friendly and within moments everyone was comfortable with their safe driving skills.
We visited a temple and Ho Chi Minh mosoleum. We also stopped to see a memorial pond with a B52 bomber. Tu elaborated a bit more about the French and the wars and the government. I was impressed with him because he also told stories about his family and growing up in Vietnam. He told stories about his ancestors and the respect he has for them. He often used his stories to be sure to send an impactful message to the kids. He loves his country this is obvious. He is typical to the Vietnamese we met in our stay here. Gracious, kind, helpful, and always smiling.
Tomorrow night is our food tour – again with Tu and the Paloma girls and scooters….but this afternoon he didn’t hold back and took us to a few local haunts. We really didn’t know what we were in for when he took us into this alley/dark hallway between buildings…but we followed along. He pointed out that many different families live in small “apartments” in this one tall “house”. They all have different entrances along narrow stairs/ladders in the alley. There are clothes hanging above doorways, noises of children and adults inside the homes and smells of dinner cooking (and toilets…nearby!). We climbed up some dark stairs and along another hallway…and ducked our heads into ….what?….a café! YUP…there is no way you would ever know this was here. No sign, no one our front calling you in…but none the less – a café or tea room with a balcony overlooking the square. We will have to keep our eyes open for these hidden gems.
We stopped at another local restaurant and headed upstairs. Tu ordered for us – knowing we had tried Bun Cha and Bahn Mi already…..this time we got banana flower salad -nam bo hoa choi. Let me tell you …I like banana flowers…tastes kind of like cabbage or coleslaw salad.
The tour ended by 6:30 and we didn’t really need supper with all the taste testing we did with Tu. Off to bed…well for Lulu and I. Wilson and Rich went out in search of more real Vietnamese food!
Day 3 (banana pancakes and more Frosted Flakes!) and we have the day free to explore until Tu returns at 6pm for the food tour. You know what that means? ……..The Millionaires go SHOPPING! We had a lot of fun walking around the Old Quarter – along “toy street” buying none other than LEGO….along “shoe street” -nothing that met our high standards….along “textiles street” buying some souveniers (can’t tell you…they might be for you!)…along “MADE in VIETNAM…but not really….likely it is made in China and sold here with a label on it to make you thinkitisauthenticbutitreallyisn’t…clothing street”! Nothing would do to stop in Vietnam and not buy some clothes! Hundreds of thousands of Dong later….we were hot and tired and thirsty!…so we got more cheap delicious ice cream and…
Then came along CONG CAFÉ! All war paraphernalia inside and people dressed in army green. I ventured in….and I came out with ICE COFFEE…YEAH ME!
I wasn’t SO sure about it….all separated into “milk” at the bottom —I think it was condensed milk” and coffee and ice….but hey…when in Vietnam! Well…you will be happy to know…it is not only drinkable (once you …or in my case my handy dandy assistant Lulu stirs together the layers) …it was delicious and refreshing….I am sold…and for 35000VND (it is only about $2 CAD).
6pm and we are ready for our adventure on scooters in Hanoi…in the DARK! I am more nervous about scooting around than what Tu is going to make us eat! We have new drivers today – same lovely attitudes and safe driving skills. This is definitely the way to see the city. Tu was a gracious guide and throughout the tour we covered a lot of kilometers —out and over the Red River on the old bridge….only the train and scotters allowed on this bridge….why??? ….well…likely because it is SO OLD AND CAN’T HANDLE THE WEIGHT OF ALL THE CARS!….but whatever…we lived! We saw many different little communities in and around Hanoi – some on the edge of the Red River (living in boats/floating houses) and many with more people living in one small space than we could ever ever imagine. The kids are getting a sense that they are lucky to have their big house and their own rooms not to mention all of their “stuff”.
We tried a number of new foods ….but I will let Rich elaborate on these…because hey – he is the foodie and he DID try them all….me —I tried “most”! My favourite was the mushroom “crepe” kind of thing from the guy in the alley Bahn Cuon Nong!
Here are some pics from our adventure. Thank you Tu and Paloma —highly recommend them in the future for anyone that comes to Hanoi.