One of the sweetest things about being vagabonds like us, is that you can choose a place that sounds interesting and crash there for more than the 2 days a guidebook typically suggests. We decided to squat for 3 weeks in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
We took it easy these 3 weeks; attending cultural events, learning the tough history of the country, participating in morning workouts with other Hanoians, going rock climbing, CouchSurfing meetings and eating the best food we’ve had in Asia. Also, Andres started studying Japanese!
One of the most challenging and fun things was the language barrier. Here’s a funny example of trying to Google-translatalk on the phone with a restaurant to find out when they close.
Our home base was a cozy apartment with a strong AC (Hanoi is an oven in summer).
With more motorcycles than any other place we’ve seen, we were surprised but mostly impressed by how much they manage to fit! Four and sometimes 5 people on a single bike, and people carrying insane amounts of things on them.
Some people even rode the scooters with one hand, held a leash in the other with their dog trailing behind in the middle of the street, among all other cars!
And while we’re on the subject of dogs…
Walking the streets, we suddenly got surprised by what looked to be, and effectively was: a roasted dog! Yes, dog is a common food for some people in Hanoi and all of Vietnam.
The streets were chaotic and always zooming
In a Zumba class I took, I was always the only non-Vietnamese person, and the energy was so welcoming that I went back multiple times. Through the class I made an awesome group of local friends, always inviting me to lunches, yoga classes, and making me feel at home in their city!
The few words that we could utter in Vietnamese usually came out with such horrible sounds, that sometimes saying Khong Thit (no meat) resulted in us getting extra meat!
One night we asked the group of young Vietnamese sitting next to us for help. Not only did they place the order for us, they also showed us how to properly cut, stuff, roll, and dip the delicious Banh Xeo (sizzling pancake). And as we were saying goodbye, one of the guys told us that the check was covered. Whhattt?! They had paid for our meal!
Banh xeo, our favorite dish!
One thing that really caught our attention was the difficulty to negotiate prices at the local fruit market. As budget travelers, we negotiate for most things, and in Asia you can usually lower the price, but the street vendors of Vietnam are tough and not afraid to tell you to f*** off, even if it means they lose a sale.
Mangosteen, Anon, Rambutan, and Lychee
Carrying groceries just like the locals
The Hanoi bicycle group let us tag along on their Sunday ride until my bike pedal broke grrr
Even running the most mundane errands were a whole adventure!
Best barber in all of Hanoi
Teeth cleaning for $5! Sketchy but does provide some peace of mind.
My favorite food of the trip so far has been in Vietnam. The flavors, colors and freshness were all amazing. I didn’t have much experience with Vietnamese food before getting here but I can tell you now it goes way beyond pho! Just some of our favorites pictured below:
Cha Ca: Fish with fresh dill then dipped into delicious sauce. Make it yourself at the table.
Banh Cuon: Like a rice milk pancake. Usually filled with pork and mushrooms but the nice guy near our place would make us an An Chay (vegetarian) version topped with crispy fried onions, fresh herbs like mint and cilantro and dipped into fish sauce with jalapenos. We quickly became regulars at his place.
Noodles with crispy eel: This one took a little bit of courage but it was so delicious. A small place that only sells small crispy eel 6 different ways. We tried both the regular and fried noodles and it was delicious!
Banh Mi: Not just a sandwich. The fresh bread, pickled veggies, laughing cow cheese, and herbs make it THE sandwich.
We had our share of pho for breakfast too.
We didn’t get to try the famous Bun Cha, but it seems Obama’s visit to Hanoi with Anthony Bourdain made it famous enough.
If you are considering Hanoi, do it! Coming up next, stories from the rest of our time in Vietnam!