Sunday, January 27, 2013

Postcard from Vietnam part 2: Cat Ba island and Lan Ha Bay

Island Paradise (Day 1)
OK Molly, I've got nothing on the amazing photos of Vietnamese island paradise that HNF sends around. But I can tell you that, even on an overcast day, Lan Ha Bay is pretty darn spectacular. Sitting in a kayak in a quiet lagoon, entered via stone archway at low tide, is the farthest from noise and traffic I've been since I left home. It is wonderful. I could spend a week here, but have decided to cut it short to get the bus-boat-bus-killme-pleaseGod-anotherbus-ripofftaxi-nicetaxi back to Hanoi to make sure I make it to the airport on time. I wish I could have stayed at least another few days.

The food here in Cat Ba is variously terrible and wonderful. Dinner was a shocker.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Postcards from Vietnam part 1: Hanoi Street Food Tour

Greetings from Vietnam, Molly. Are you missing me?

Booking a 3-day 'tag-along' street food tour of Hanoi may be the second greatest travel decision, just after 'rent a car in Cyprus and drive to the North and eat lunch sitting on Roman ruins overlooking the sea'. Spirit House (a restaurant in Qld which I believe is quite incredible) sends their chefs to SE-Asia to learn more about the food, and they let you come with them. Just a short time with our Hanoi food tour guide, Sarah, gave us insight into the food and culture, access to some of the best food around the city, and the confidence to eat anything, anywhere. It was the perfect introduction to Vietnam. (Unfortunately my actual introduction was lunch and dinner at two places 'recommended' by the hotel, which were terrible and quite expensive. Pro-tip: Don't eat anywhere that's on the mass-produced hotel map 'recommended' list. Avoid, with prejudice.)

Alright then. How do I do it? How do I distill 13 days, 1500 photos, 57 dishes, 2 cooking classes in 2 cities... into a postcard? One image, 13 lines. Guess I gotta start by trying.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Food Tour Day 1
I'll admit it, Molly. I don't have a strong grasp of what Vietnamese food actually is. Pretty sure it involves pho, rice paper, fresh herbs and lime. Probably noodles, rice, and fish sauce. This bun rieu cua is way off the scale. Sure it's noodle soup, but so different to pho. Rich, salty broth with pounded crab meat and noodles. Throw in some greens, chili, squeeze of cumquat juice, and you have yourself a delicious start to the day. Followed it up with a banh ran ngot (sweet, fried bread thing) on a street corner for breakfast dessert. Then ducked into the markets to see some fresh produce and eat some goi du du (papaya salad) and banh mot loc (little prawn parcels). Topped it all off with a sabayon coffee (sweet and eggy) at a secret rooftop cafe, and plans to meet for dinner.

Pro-tip: Even the locals are paranoid about the water, so everyone uses bottled water for broths, drinks etc. Bottled water = happy stomach.