Monthly Archives: February 2012

Walk slowly and deliberately

Crossing the street is treacherous business. There’s always a swarm of scooters rushing to run you over, no matter if you’re on a huge street or a tiny lane. At least that’s how it seems at first. Thy key is to walk out into the street, and slowly go across allowing the traffic to flow around you.

Traffic signs are definitely suggestions more than rules. For example, a left turn on red on a major intersection is completely normal and, amazingly, it seems like everyone is pretty safely getting around.

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I thought pho is a noodle soup…

In fact, it’s a rice sheet that can be consumed in any number of ways: noodle soup, rolls, fried with vegetables…

These are pho, beef and cabbage rolls. You dip them in a clear salty-sour sauce.

This is fried pho with vegetables

Hanoi

On my trip to visit Chi I had a few days to look around Hanoi. As I am not an architect, or a historian, or a sociologist, my observations on this topic are best expressed in photo form.

Balconies everywhere and street cafes are everywhere. The Vietnamese people build up and make use of every piece of livable space. You get a cozy, busy kind of feeling walking down the street. The problem is you want to try everything.

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Chi at one such street cafe; the furniture is child-sized and you feel like you're at a tea party every time you sit down.

Chi at one such street cafe; the furniture is child-sized and you feel like you’re at a tea party every time you sit down.

Lakes, ponds, temples, and parks – they are just everywhere, though sometimes you can find a statue of Lenin. It shouldn’t be surprising, but living in the States, it isn’t something I’m used to.

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Lenin park – enormous area with beautiful flowers, lakes, and some curious statues.

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Temple next to a shopping mall.

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Temple Courtyard. The signs ask you to remove your shoes before going inside. The floor was FREEZING.

 

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Bridge path to a pagoda on either the East or West lake.

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Pagoda at the main temple close to city center very busy the day after new year.

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Turtle island with its own pagoda. Legend has it that there are enormous turtles living in this lake and they socialize and relax on that island.

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Flowers decorating trees for the New Year.

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Lenin statue in a park

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This bridge leads to a tiny island with an old pagoda that is being restored.

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The flower market

On the eve of the lunar new year Vietnamese people decorate their homes with flowers. On this day we went to the flower market.

Peach trees, trees with small tangerines, and orchids are the staple new year plants.

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People transport everything on scooters; I don’t know how they manage to see anything in the rearview mirror with a tree there…

Anyway, there were thousands of orchids and other types of flowers there.

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Banh Cuon Nong

My favorite breakfast food is the steamed roll.

My favorite breakfast food is the steamed roll.

They take a rice flour and water mixture, spread it on a hot round sheet, cover with a lid and let it steam for a short while.

They take a rice flour and water mixture, spread it on a hot round sheet, cover with a lid and let it steam for a short while.

Then pick it up with a stick, throw some black mushroom and pork in it, roll it up, cut, sprinkle with dried fried onion, and serve.

Then pick it up with a stick, throw some black mushroom and pork in it, roll it up, cut, sprinkle with dried fried onion, and serve. Alternately, they cook an egg with the rice sheet and hold the black mushroom and pork.

The dish is served with a clear fish sauce broth and pieces of pork.

The dish is served with a clear fish sauce broth and pieces of pork.

 You get to add lime juice, mint, cilantro, and chili to taste. Then dip your rolls in the sauce and enjoy.

You get to add lime juice, mint, cilantro, and chili to taste. Then dip your rolls in the sauce and enjoy.

Giai khat; solve the thirst problem

When in Rome, etc. So when in Vietnam, I’m drinking local coffee and local beer only.

ca fe

I’ve had Vietnamese coffee a few times in the States and never really got it. (bitter and really sweet and they love to serve it with ice) …Until I had a real Vietnamese coffee. It’s made in a contraption called “fin ca fe”. The result is a combination of drip coffee and a French press-made coffee. It is served in a bowl of hot water, so that the coffee that already dripped down doesn’t get cold while the rest is still dripping.

Sweet condensed milk is optional, but if you decide to have it, it’s got to go on the bottom of the cup. That way the sweetness dissolves gradually into your hot beverage. Then, if you want, add ice. Yum!

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beer

I tried 3 types: Ha Noi, Tiger Beer, and 333. They’re all about the same, relatively light, pleasant when cold.

Bus ride to Sapa

I don’t know, maybe I’m spoiled, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Chi and I were extremely lucky that nobody had digestion problems or smelly feet.

sort of like double car seat bunk beds, in a bus

sort of like double car seat bunk beds, in a bus