Took a break from street food-Pho Bo Ha Noi-beef broth cooked for 10 hrs in cinnamon cardomon star anise -secret ingredient sea worm; rice noodles beef tenderloin. Cost? $5.00
I made it back safely from my trip on the bay. Back to the same little hotel as it’s centrally located in old town, the rooms are clean, the staff are friendly and helpful and, furthermore, the breakfast is delicious! “I give you the deluxe room! This one has a window and views!”, Tony says proudly.
Thanks Tony:) So I open up the shutters as I can’t seem to make the damn air conditioning work. All sorts of sounds flood through my window. It’s so strangely odd to wake to the sound of roosters bellowing between these concrete buildings. Today I hear the sound of a dog wailing ..you can see where this is going. I was told that yes indeed they do eat our beloved domestic animals but I have chosen to block it from my psyche. Until today. The blood curling screech coming from the ally below was undeniable. Then..I heard a very loud thump. And the barking stopped. For two very long minutes I felt my blood rush to all my extremities..I was paralyzed. I couldn’t breathe.
I will add that it is my belief that to truly get the most from travelling one must abandon their biases and suspend thier judgments to open oneself to a different worldview. For the first time I struggled with this. All I could think of was my little “Tula” (my chihuahua back home). I wanted to vomit. But then to my desperate relief the barking continued. I’ve never been so relieved to hear the incessant barking of a dog in all my life.
I couldn’t help but ask the lady at the front desk-“so I hear lots of barking from the dogs behind the building..umm..they are to eat?” The lady chuckles ..”those? no no they are pets!” Sigh. I feel silly for asking…… “But yes people here do also eat them”. Uhg. ?
Well I hope that didn’t ruin for you what I will share next. I was advised that the noodle house showcased on an episode of Anthony Bourdains, Parts Unknown, in which he takes Obama to experience what he described as the best noodle soup, is in fact here in Ha Noi. It is further from where I am staying but there is no ocean or busy street big enough to keep me from a noteworthy food experience.
The lady at the front desk suggests I cab it, though it is only a 20 minute walk it might be confusing. “You see where you go then you can walk back”. She assures me she will tell the driver where to go when I get in the car. He arrives I hop in swiftly because the war of cars behind us is about swallow us up.
Trying crossing this without a pedestrian crosswalk
At this point the driver turns with a perplexed look and at that moment I realize he does not speak a word of English nor does he know where he’s taking me. I show him the address. He still looks confused. I frantically try to keep track of the turns-‘straight on Hang Bag, Right on Hang Quat, Left on Hang Can, right on Hang Tron’..dammit hang this hang that I’m dizzy I’ve lost it! I’m getting frustrated with the driver who keeps gesturing to look at my phone for the address as it seems he’s also confused..and knowing very well that he can’t speak a word of English I start unraveling, “this is taking longer than she said” “are you sure you know where you are going” “maybe I should just jump out here” ..he just smiles and shakes his head and keeps driving . Then at one point he whispers a couple of syllables under his breath. Uh oh.. as patient and friendly as the Vietnamese are, I indeed managed to piss off a cab driver. Travel tip: Do not piss off a cab driver in a country where you have no idea where you are and do not speak a word of thier language.
I relent and sit back and keep my mouth shut. This better be good Mr. Bourdain.
Finally I arrive to both our releif and order what else but the Obama Combo.
And here in this little grungy diner I am presented with perhaps the best bowl of Pork Bun Cha I have yet to try.
With a side of Rice vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, lettuce and chillies, I dive into this soup with such a flight of excitement. And oh my. A broth so indescribably flavourful-sweet with a hint of spice, layers of taste, sliced BBQ pork cooked so perfectly, chuncks of sweet crunchy apple floating like little islets. I am swimming in gastronomic bliss.
Sigh. Belly rub. Swig of beer.
I finish and give a little bow to my disinterested young waiter and hop into another cab. Dammed if I have a clue where I am. Like I’m gonna walk. This time the cab driver pulls to the curve and gestures me to get out and just walk straight-I am still blocks from my hotel but I am confident that it’s a straight line back. I have a sneaking suspicion that the first driver dispatched out to his comrades to ‘watch out for the little blonde Canadian girl-she’s a handful’. Only when’s she hungry;)