Hanoi swept me up in a rush of traffic, street food and coffee.
Let’s put an emphasis on the coffee.
Arriving at 8pm I decided on going for a walk, I struggled to find vegetarian food (I didn’t know where to look!) and probably paid too much for some average rice paper rolls.
All was not lost, I knew exactly where to look for a glorious egg coffee. Well, I did after I walked around the same block four times and asked numerous people for directions…
Cafe pho co:
Just back from hoan kiem lake, walking through a little hallway in from the Main Street you’ll be in darkness until it opens up to the cafe.
The staff took my order as soon as I walked in, egg coffee, to save them walking up the stairs twice I supposed.
A few flights of stairs later and I am seated, a view of the lake and all of its surrounding lights, sipping on my coffee. Sipping might be the wrong verb, scooping up its sweet goop with a spoon.
Black coffee underneath thick, whipped egg… Sweet and gooey like a meringue custard.
Coffee success number one.
Number two happened the next day (and again that same day).
I managed to test out the first Vietnamese word I’ve learnt: “chay.”
I wandered all over the place looking for a Bahn mi and ended up in street after street of mechanical devices. But there, down that alley, sat a woman who looked kind and in front of her was a little cabinet containing bread, eggs and various pates.
“Bahn mi, chay?”
She smiled and held out pickled carrots and cucumber for me to approve. She held up some money to show me how much. 15000 dong! (99 cents)
Lathered with hot sauce, the bread was warm and its contents dripped out onto the flyer she’d wrapped it in.
My mouth was full of a pleasant burn and I was sweaty and thirsty…
They have 6 locations around Hanoi and I am all the happier for it. I meant to order coffee with condensed milk as I haven’t tried it yet but I got tempted by the coconut coffee smoothie and I have no regrets.
It’s not a smoothie by normal standards, it’s a mound of frozen coconut yoghurt in a pool of coffee. The ultimate twist on an affogato.
So good that I went back again after dinner.
I like finding places in cities that take me out of the city and into the people. Parks, beaches and lakes work well. My hostel here is right by hoan kiem lake so I’ve been there three times so far. The first time I was asked to hold some ones baby so they could take a photo, the baby cried, finally smiled and it was all laughs. The second and third time I went with the idea of writing or reading and instead I was quickly encircled by Vietnamese students wishing to improve their English.
I met a girl the same age as me who worried greatly for my safety as a solo traveler. One boy has a book where he gets everyone he talks to by the lake to write a message in their native tongue- he speaks six languages! My initial response was to tell them to go away so I could read my book. How silly of me. Speaking is such an efficient way to learn and it’s so easy for me to do.
I get a homey feel from the city. I feel like I belong. Someone came up to me while I was shopping asking if I was a regular and could I point them in the direction for bread? I could, but only because I’d seen it a few minutes prior. I was recommending cafes to people.
The city is confusing with the language barrier and the mess of traffic.
I have arrived in Vietnam! And it only excites me further knowing I have time to get to know this country better.