Hanoi, day two

It's amazing what can fit on a bicycle

If the first day in Hanoi was spent getting acclimated to a new culture (and time zone, and climate, and continent…), day two was spent jumping straight in. Grace and I awoke early every day in Vietnam, and it turned out to be an insightful way into the daily life of a new country. We got to see a lot of “behind the scenes.” Our second day in Hanoi, Grace and I remarked how we hadn’t seen any other Westerners, but it was only 8 a.m…. around noon the tourists came out.

There were a lot of travelers from New Zealand and Australia, which makes sense given it’s proximity (it took me until I got back to finally look at a globe and see how close they are – being a Cascadian, I sorta always thought that Australia was on the other side of the world!) And there were a lot of Europeans as well (though not nearly as close). Vietnam is definitely a tourist destination, and getting around was easy.

St Joseph Cathedral



We quickly became established with where we were in Hanoi by wandering further away from our hotel, making concentric circles, and getting a grasp of the landscape. Though the numerous side streets and allies tried their best to turn us around. The streets in the Old Quarter are arranged so that each street sells/specializes in a certain commodity. So there’s the rice street, the fish street, the blacksmith street, etc. etc. and on and on. We’d be walking down the “shoe” street and would turn the corner and be on the “coffin” street.

Food was all around us. Portland thinks it’s pretty Bohemian with its food cart extravaganza popping up on every street corner, but Vietnam is old school. We’d sit on a plastic stool on the sidewalk and eat the most amazing meals, quickly becoming addicted to the local cuisine. Except for a hurried stop into an Italian restaurant to miss the rain (which threatened but never came), we ended up eating only street food.


Language was a barrier, but our diligent study of the Vietnamese language from our iPhone app had us mastering how to order phở, so we could always order the most kick-ass beef soup ever. Pointing worked, too, and had us sampling “meat donuts” (Grace’s term) and banh mi sandwiches.

We never really got into any situation that we didn’t know what we were eating, but there were a couple of instances where we pushed tripe and pigs feet to the side to get to our noodles.

Traditional Tay house

Besides eating, we took a cab to the “suburbs” to visit the Museum of Ethnology. They had a rich collection of tribal art and artifacts (as well as an extensive display on AIDS in Vietnam) from around the country, and a courtyard full of traditional village houses that native tribes were brought to the museum to build. We climbed up into a huge Tay stilt house 5 meters off the ground, and explored the slender rooms of a long house (in which someone was napping, which was pretty awesome).






Inside the Tay house

This boat never lost a race and was retired to the care of the museum with a perfect record


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