The best of Hanoi
Im almost sure that every experience in Vietnam gets better and better. We had 2 full days in Hanoi before it would be time to catch our flight to India and say goodbye to Simon. We decided to do 2 major things: a personal food tour put on by us (it was so good it might as well have been sponsored by Anthony Bourdain) and go to BaVi national park.
The first of these excursions was very easy. We looked up all the different types of food special to Vietnam and we went around the markets, streets, and restaurants ordering one of each to try them all. We had some banh goi (type of fried dumpling), goi cuon (FRESH spring rolls, which sadly were not nearly as common as fried), banh xeo (corn flour pancake with bean sprouts), xoi xeo (sweet sticky rice), banh my (type of sandwich with pate, egg, chicken, shredded carrots and cucumber), bun cha (similar to a BBQ pork meatball on rice noodles), pho (noodle soup), beefsteak, fried noodles, salty lime soda, ice cream in a coconut, and many more that we weren’t even sure what it was. It was fun to explore the streets in this type of way.
The second thing we did was rent a motorbike. That was not easy, it wasn’t hard to physically rent it but I do have to say the mental game of deciding to drive in Hanoi city was equivalent to skydiving or bungee jumping. Both things I would love to do, but when you’re in the plane and you know you’re about to jump, you tend to second guess if it’s a good idea. Lucky everything went well and the driving was super fun! It wasn’t to hard as I was immersed in the moment swerving to avoid adults, children, dogs, cows, and the many buses and cars that seem to decide they are always in charge. It took about 1.5 hours to get there and a little longer to get back with a few stops for coffee and pho. The park was stunning! We decided to drive all the way to the top of the park which put us into the clouds and on top of a mountain. We hiked to the top of the mountain to visit a stupa and then a little higher to visit the temple. Both were poking out of the clouds in a very majestic way with a forest of moss engulfing everything. We arrived down to the bottom and snacked on a few goodies from the little shop thanks to a friendly helper who insisted on having us try things. I think most of the things in the shop were supposed to be for offering to the temple, but we were hungry so we made it an offering to our bellies. Some of which though we wish we could have offered back. After a little rest and a failed attempt to find a hiking trail we wanted, we walked up to the second temple on the other side. It was the steepest steps I have ever climbed and the clouds parted just enough to get a glimpse of the distance we had ascended. We stopped in one more part of the park before we left, basically to just drive around a bit more. But when we made a corner all I heard on the back of my bike was Anne and her expression of excitement. We had stumbled onto a really really old church. It was cloaked in vines and moss and the roof was no longer there. It had been swallowed up by the earth but refused to surrender as its walls still stood proud. We played around for a while and then ventured more around the road and found more and more earth covered wonders. They were beautiful.
A drive back to the city was in store for us now. It was approaching rush hour again and we knew it would be crazy. We stopped for a moment on the side of the road where a family lived and Simon got some photos of the family and their rice fields. It is amazing how people live and the conditions they endure. In front of their house was their little roadside shop and after taking a photo, Simon went to buy a salted lemon drink. The man was so nice and refused to let Simon pay. I find it incredible and completely recurring that the people who have the least give the most. After Simon tried and tried to pay and finally gave up with a huge smile, we were on the road again. The “phoqueens” (our bike gang name for Vietnam) was off to conquer the busy rush hour streets of Hanoi. It was epic. My concentration was on, simons gps was going. We blended into the masses of bikes as we tucked in our knees and elbows and maintained an amazing sense of peripheral perspective. The game was on and I was destined to win it ( I had to! Anne was on the back) We made it back, safe and sound and only hit slightly by 1 car which I would still call 1st place!