Hanoi – January

We’re off to Cambodia in a couple of days so here’s a few pics from this past month. I’ll also be putting up separate pages for our trips to Co Loa and the Perfume Pagoda.

First up: our new favorite restaurant: Com Chay Ha Tranh. A strictly vegetarian place they do wonderful mock meat. This may sound boring to those of us who think ‘bland tofu’ but their food is amazing, and sometimes so like the meat they emulate you’d have a hard time telling the difference. After several visits we discovered their set-menu; now both of us eat satisfying meals for a grand total of $3 (that’s for both of us!).

Com Chay Ha Tranh, vegetarian restaurant, Hanoi, Vietnam
Com Chay Ha Tranh Restaurant

Another recent discovery is the Cafe Nola, a very funky little place hidden away in the Old Quarter. To enter one goes down a very narrow passage which opens up to the first floor of the cafe. It occupies about four floors (I say ‘about’ because there are mezzanine levels). There are many little rooms and cubbyholes for comfortably sitting and spending time with a drink and a book. There’s a piano and lots of art. The photo below shows the umbrellas which provide shelter on the rooftop terrace.

Cafe Nola rooftop umbrellas, Hanoi, Vietnam
Cafe Nola Rooftop Umbrellas

We continue to wander on our bikes. One day we rode to the park next to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which I hadn’t been back to since the extremely crowded National Day. Typical of most Hanoi parks on a Saturday lots of wedding parties were out having photos taken and a bite to eat (everybody but the bride having nourishment – she has to maintain her make-up and no stains on that dress please!).

weddings in the park, Hanoi, Vietnam
Wedding Parties in the Park

There were also a few dragons in the park. Some were topiaries, others, like the one below, made of flowers and leaves.

Floral dragon, Hanoi, Vietnam
Dragon in the Park

We returned on another day to visit the park where two of Ho Chi Minh’s houses are located. While waiting for the gates to open we took a look at the One Pillar Pagoda. This is actually a reconstruction as the French blew up the original when retreating from Hanoi.

One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam
One Pillar Pagoda

Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house was unfortunately closed for repair work but across the way we stopped to admire the fish having a feeding frenzy.

fish in pond by Ho Chi Minh's stilt house, Hanoi, Vietnam
Feeding Frenzy

Speaking of housing: here’s a shot of temporary housing for construction workers. Note the TV antennae front and center.

temporary housing, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tent with TV Antennae

One of the first things one notices about Hanoi is how many tiny businesses there are. Tucked away everywhere they provide services for their immediate neighbourhood. And one of the most prevalent is the local beauty salon. Here’s one just down the lane from the vegetarian restaurant (we like riding down the lanes to avoid the traffic on the main streets, although we certainly don’t know that many of the alternate routes).

beauty shop, Hanoi, Vietnam
Beauty Salon

The weather this month has been variable (to say the least). Some days are warm and sunny, others quite cool (enough so that we’ve been wearing two shirts, jackets and scarves) and sometimes torrential rain (as in the photo below, taken while riding down a traffic clogged Kim Ma street).

Kim Ma street in the rain, Hanoi, Vietnam
Traffic in the Rain

But we need to get out and about. If only to discover another great place to have a fruit smoothie…

Happy House restaurant, Hanoi, Vietnam
Happy House Restaurant

Or to join friends at a bia hoi… below is Peter, our bia hoi guru, conferring with the staff on our dinner choices. This particular evening was a good-bye party for a volunteer heading back to Vancouver. Last we heard she was still stuck in Vietnam as her visa had expired. Each day the fine increases 😮

bia hoi, Hanoi, Vietnam
So Many Choices

We never visited this restaurant but I liked their sign:

Teeny Pizza, Hanoi, Vietnam
A Highschool Restaurant

We did go to a local production of Beauty and the Beast. The show was great and the audience was right into cheering the heroes and booing the villains. Although an amateur production there was some excellent acting and singing. We had a wonderful evening and on the way out took the opportunity to get a photo of Ian with the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast, Hanoi, Vietnam
The Beast and Ian

We’ve booked our flight home and are starting to get a bit wistful thinking of Canada…

Made in Canada store, Hanoi, Vietnam
Made in Canada

But we still have Cambodia and the rest of Vietnam to see first!

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