After returning to Hanoi from a 13.5 hour round tour of Halong Bay, I set out to find dinner in the Old Quarter. Not thinking, I left without a map, even though I couldn’t read the @*&)*&% thing in the dark again.
It wasn’t long before I was lost or maybe it was just exhaustion from all the honking and crowds; being jostled by passing motorbikes, cyclos, and hawkers with shoulder-poles hanging pendulous burdens of local produce. The old quarter is one of those places in the world that should grow on you the more you experience it, and I just did not have the time tonight – It is a cool spot and I only wish that I could have lived more of it. My hotel is just off one of the side streets of Hoan Kiem Lake.
The streets are like chaotic branches of a tree and they actually look like branches as they fan out in jagged patterns, or even no patterns at all, across the north area of Hanoi’s famed lake with its temple in the middle. Two other land marks that I have not blogged about are the Red River and the Great Hanoi Citadel that the Old Quarter is in-between. Typically one of the joys of a new city like Hanoi is getting lost, but tonight I simply wanted dinner and a beer and without the maze (wish I had more time – still so much to discover).
As I walked, I passed Buddhist and Daoist temples among the city’s frustrating streets. Most notable is the Bach Ma Temple per my guide book. You would have to have your eyes closed to miss the buildings of the French with overhanging bay windows and a high sloping roof.
Ok – Back to the quest for food and that beer – I was looking for a spot that I found a few nights before to “hang” — local style – or simply pull up a little plastic squat stool or chair on a street corner and have a local brew, bia hoi, translated as “fresh beer” and otherwise known as draft beer to us. The kegs flow as long as folks people are drinking. You are sitting among locals and tourists, this is a great place to meet new friends and get close to Hanoi street life. Also, to find out most important tips and suggestions for dinner locations, my quest! You’ll find bia hoi all over, but I wanted the corner of Ta Hien Street and Luong Ngoc Quyen, in the heart of the Old Quarter. I never made it – I did have the good fortune seeing a couple from Scotland I met on my trip to Halong Bay this morning walking the street too. We ended up having dinner together – Mom you will never guess what town she is from, I think it was the only on we went to twice – Dundee. She is a teacher doing a year abroad traveling and working before truly getting in to the work place full-time (something we all missed out on, and I am attempting to accomplish in 10 day block over a life time). He is a free spirit in transit. He finished working in Australia after 6 years before heading to Asia for a few months – then he went onto France to learn the pastry business. I had my last bowl of Pho and a Green Mango Salad. They had Spaghetti and French Onion Soup. I had a Hanoi beer, he had tea the different in a 10 day trip and a much longer one.
Off to pack and bed before my 10:30 A.M flight tomorrow, the is schedule is to land 24 hours later in the snowy cold Boston before heading home to wake up in my own bed Saturday morning, if all goes well.