The second stop on our Southeast Asia trip was Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and was unexpectedly my favorite city on our trip. I loved the endless, twisting alleyways full of street food vendors and the excitement I felt when I stepped outside the familiarity of our hotel. The weather was mild in Hanoi, so it allowed us to spend the entire day exploring without having to take our usual 3pm shower break.
We stayed in The French Quarter at The Metropole. The breakfast and tea-time spread were insanity, (and fully included in our stay on the concierge floor). The hotel was also situated in a great area that allowed us to walk to most places. On our first night, we saw the water puppet show. It’s a traditional Vietnamese puppet show geared towards tourists that runs several times a night. It was interesting to see how villagers entertained themselves in the rice fields during the 11th century..but it was also nice that the show was only 30 minutes long. WINK.
Between 9am-12pm you should wait in line to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum. This sounds sorta grim, but seeing his body lying in a glass case surrounded by armed guards dressed in starched white uniforms was pretty incredible. Nothing gets you more in the mood for an epic food tour than a body viewing! That’s exactly how we felt.
Our afternoon was spent visiting numerous food stands, balancing on plastic stools, and trying fruitlessly to save room for the next dish. We had a semi-private guided tour by Tu, an English-speaking Vietnamese foodie. Jordan contacted him after reading this NYTimes article about his company, Hanoi Street Food Tours. The experience was absolutely incredible and even prompted us to sign up for a similar tour (recommended by Tu) in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We had to keep on reminding ourselves to save room for the next stop – Jordan had to pry a bowl of squid noodles out of my hands at one point. We had a job to do, and it was tasting absolutely everything that was put in front of us, including black chicken cooked inside of a soda can. Head and feet included.
8pm: Wait, are you hungry? Embarrassingly, the answer was yes. For some reason eating 20 dishes earlier in the day did not deter us from going out to dinner that night. We decided to try our luck at an actual restaurant rather than on a street corner. Jordan had read about cha ca la vong, an iconic traditional fish dish of Hanoi. You actually cook the white fish yourself on a little charcoal burner set in front of you. Along with the seasoned fish, they place mounds of dill, chilies and rice noodles on the table. A perfect make-your-own fish adventure. We went to sleep that night early and the most full, in preparation for our 5am departure to Halong Bay.