26.07.2013 - 26.07.2013 34 °C
After recuperating in our room after our sleepless bus journey we were ready to go out and explore. There is only really one word to describe Hanoi, manic. We have not experienced anything like it, the streets are jam packed, there is a constant heavy flow of traffic which mainly consists of motorbikes. The sidewalks are apparently not used for people to walk on but for everyone to park their motorbike on, the small room that is not taken up by bikes is used by shops and small restaurants that spill out onto the streets. We explored the Old quatre today, the streets are narrow but this does not deter the traffic, junctions are like nothing we have ever seen, no one stops, there are no traffic lights, everyone just drives and somehow avoids each other. This makes crossing the road incredibly difficult as because no one ever stops you just have to go for it and hope they somehow miss you. All of this chaos is accompanied by the soundtrack of blaring horns. Each one seems loader and grates on you more than the last.
Apart from this obvious shock, we have quite enjoyed our first day here. We went for a stroll this morning, and called at a street restaurant for brunch. We went to a restaurant that only serves 'bun cha'. There was no menu we were just given enough for two people. The meal consisted of BBQ'd meat and pork patties that come in a thin stew, another bowl of a pickled vegetable that we can not agree what it was, noodles, herbs, chilli, garlic and some crab spring rolls to share. We had enough food to feed half a dozen people but it was utterly delicious and we made a good dent in the giant portions we were served.
This kind of stuffed us up and made walking around a bit too difficult. We took a break from the stress streets and headed to a small lake that sits in the centre of town. Apart from people trying to constantly sell us, fans, drinks, and food it was calmer and we took our time making our way around. After this we ended p going back to our guesthouse, we were still slightly tired from the previous night, the temperature had gone through the roof and we were totally stuffed from our epic brunch.
A few hours later we were ready to brave the streets again. Tonight we decided to call for some of the super cheap beer we have heard so much about, and visit a street food restaurant in our guidebook. The streets do not quieten at night. It did not put us off though and we walked for around ten minutes to the first bar. There is a beer in Vietnam that is called Bia Hoi. It is incredibly cheap, we bought two tonight at two different bars and they were 25p each. They seem to be a kind of home brew as they both tasted drastically different. we have read the beer is so cheap as it does not last very long so it has to be sold within 24 hours or so. That is fine by us.
For dinner we called at a place called Bittek. It specialises in beef, so we ordered what we thought was beef steak and chips as this is what other people were eating. Instead we got a stir fry beef with veg and chips in a kind of gravy. It is not at all what we ordered but it was strangely delicious, and we can not think of why we have not though of stir frying chips before. After another super cheap beer it started to rain so we made our way back.
Our first day has been slightly overwhelming but we can see the appeal of the city. For how busy it is it is still charming and the food going on todays evidence is spectacular. We plan to explore in the opposite direction tomorrow. We have not 100% decided on how long to spend here yet, but we do plan to do a day trip to Halong Bay before we start our trip south.