Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Travel Diaries: Hanoi

In between and after our time in Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay, Jossi and I kept returning to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. There were a lot of different things to discover there and so we spent much of our days roaming the streets, finding new places to eat, shops to visit and sites to see.

One evening, Jossi took me to a restaurant, Quan An Neon, her and her family had visited before. The whole place was done up like a covered market, with bamboo stalls lining the walls, filled with busily cooking chefs, and jungle-like plants everywhere. The food was some of the best we had in Vietnam.

We ordered an amazing papaya salad (the dressing was just incredible!), prawns steamed in coconut water, fried spring rolls, squid, a rice dish and pho. We shared all the dishes while Joss laughed at my (slowly improving!) chopstick skills.

Another fantastic little food place we found was called Pho 24. This is a Vietnamese chain of restaurants selling, unsurprisingly, primarily pho. Pho is a thin noodle soup, flavoured with fresh veg and normally a combination of meats. It was delicious! They also served this amazing lemon-y lime drink which was so tasty that Joss and I returned to Pho 24 twice more just to drink the drink!

 While wandering through the street, Joss and I happened upon the Women's Museum. Surprisingly, this was one of the most interesting places we visited. Each floor was devoted to a different area of a Vietnamese woman's life: fashion, 'in the home', and 'in history'. We learnt a surprising amount about Vietnamese life as a whole and about the important roles women have undertaken, from bread winners to soldiers in the Vietnamese war, but also about how hard life can be for the Vietnamese people. One short video on the life of the street sellers was particularly moving as it showed us how women would leave their homes in the countryside and work impossibly long days to try and make enough money to send back to their families.

During our visit to the Museum, we were lucky as a special Korean cultural exchange event was happening. Therefore, there were a number of things happening, including a dance and music show. However, most importantly, this meant that we had the chance to dress up in traditional Korean outfits! This meant that two very excitedly giggling girls queued with a bunch of (much younger) students in order to try on the colourful outfits.... I regret nothing!

One of our final activities in Vietnam was a cooking course at The Orchid restaurant. This was absolutely fantastic and definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

We were picked up at our hotel door by little carriages on the front of bikes, given Vietnamese traditional hats and whisked off to a local market where our chef took us to buy our ingredients for the day and try some local delicacies.

As our chef, Mr Tien,  took us around, he explained where some of the food came from and what it was used for. I was shocked to find out that the meat we saw being sold had all been butchered that morning in the countryside and when it ran out, the sellers would return home, butcher more and bring it straight back!

One local delicacy we were encouraged to try was duck foetus, boiled in it's egg. This however proved to be a little much for Joss and I who struggled to take a bite while the store holders laughed good naturally at us. Thankfully, after, we were offered something a little more palatable- cinnamon pork in a soft, doughy bun!

Once back at the restaurant, we were excited to discover that we would be the only two in the class! As our class kicked off, we learnt how to finely chop our ingredients and watched as Mr Tien minced pork by hand, simply by chopping it over and over with a knife in each hand. We also saw how to BBQ inside- simply set up your BBQ next to a window with a fan behind and just blow any smoke straight on out!

By the end of the class, we had cooked Hanoi spring rolls, char-grilled pork balls with vermicelli, fried chicken with lemongrass and chilli and a kind of black bean desert.

The food we created was amazing. Once it was all prepared, we sat down and ate a banquet right there in the kitchen. There was so much food that Joss and I didn't have a hope of finishing it and so our leftovers were kindly boxed up for us and we polished them off for dinner as well!

Sadly, before long it was time to leave Vietnam. We had had an incredible time, met some lovely people and experienced some amazing things. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Hopefully though, we'll be back soon!


  1. Looks like so much fun! The food pics have got me drooling. x
    Kate Louise Blogs

  2. Marianna Papagiannopoulou24 September 2014 at 14:07

    Beautiful pictures, dear!! And all this food looks yummy!!!!


  3. Oh I am soooo jealous of the adventures and the food! :)

    Lela (LelaLondon.com)