The empty streets of Hanoi at Tet

By on Friday, January 31, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

Tet trees

By on Thursday, January 30, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

The road we live on is host to a number of garden centres, all of which truly come to life once a year at Tet (Lunar New Year). Although to say that isn’t quite true: they start coming to life some months before Tet as the kumquat trees emerge from last year’s fallow land and are carefully tended as  the bright orange fruits spring forth. But it is in the weeks before Tet that the hoards of customers arrive and the motorbikes and bicycles head off, tree strapped to the back, delivering trees to businesses and private homes. The roads of Hanoi are always an obstacle course but they become more so just before Tet. Not only does the amount of traffic increase as locals hurry out to buy kumquat trees, peach blossom and gifts, but roads lined with salespeople cause obstructions and large trees, flowers and other articles on the backs of bikes make them even more wobbly and liable to catch your ankles or head as you drive past. Today is New Year’s Eve, so we are hopeful that the roads will calm down for a few days now before normal service resumes....

A street food repeater

By on Monday, January 27, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

Early in 2013 Travelfish set me a task: to try out a few street food tours in Hanoi and write about them. This was like a red rag to a bull and I jumped to it immediately. Ever since I’ve wanted to re-visit some of the new places that I discovered on those tours but have failed miserably in my quest. But a couple of weeks ago Kat reminded me that she was keen to do a Sarah-guided street food tour so I was propelled into action, and at 13:15 on a Sunday afternoon, Kat, Sam, Paul and myself headed into Old Quarter to eat and drink the day away. We more or less followed the route set by Mark Lowerson — the most expensive yet most enjoyable of my street food tours — so I won’t repeat the details that are in my Travelfish post but will mention a couple of highlights. Or lowlights. When I went on the tour with Mark we went to Cafe Giang, on Yen Phu Street, for egg coffee. He mentioned that they also had egg beer on the menu but that he had yet to try it. Of course, there was no chance we weren’t going to give it a go on the return journey — although I stuck with the coffee. It was a strange concoction: the beer and the egg part were served separately and then mixed in a glass. The egg tasted a bit like zabaglione and when mixed it reminded us slightly of advocat. Generally agreed to be interesting and tasty but a whole glass was a bit too much. That was a highlight, as were the deep fried banh bao, despite the extensive discussions that took place before we were finally seated on stools on the other side of the road. A lowlight was that the banh tom place was full and we were waved off and another was the man inserting a suppository into his daughter’s bottom while we sat eating herbal chicken. He then gave me my change — which no-one else would touch. The afternoon ended in Truc Bach, drinking the same named beer at Moc Quan. Great day. Bun nem cua be Che chuoi Share nicely Banh gio A little bit of chilli with that? Comfy spot Used for colouring Bia hoi stop In all seriousness… or not Beer again, this time with egg A big head Where’s the food? There it is Banh bao chien. Healthy. Desert to finish. It’s too small....

Temples galore

By on Thursday, January 23, 2014 in Hanoi | 0 comments

This has been turning into a photo journal rather than a eloquent diary! Not such a bad thing, as photos are undoubtedly more attractive than my ramblings, but I really must start making more of an effort to write. Lazy Sarah. The photos here are from a Tay Ho walk I joined this week organised by HIWC and run by Roman Szlam from Friends of Vietnam Heritage. I was keen to join as I’d just started writing a post for Travelfish about Tay Ho Temple and realised I needed to know a bit more about it before I could write an informed and useful post. We met at the Hanoi Club and walked around the corner to the Đình. A Đình is a communal house: an informal meeting and resting space for local residents, and a place where the elders meet to make village decisions. I’d always thought they were temples, but that’s not the case. Facing the courtyard is the main building, dominated inside by an elaborately carved structure, used to carry a statue of the God or patron of the village at festivals. Around the edges are raised platforms, for meeting, sleeping or preparing food, and at the end is a display of statues dressed in xxx partaking of a feast. Next we walked to the nearby alleyways famous for breeding and selling aquarium fish. The fish themselves didn’t hold much appeal — don’t get me wrong, I love fish, as is demonstrated by my willingness to live in a house with an inside ornamental pond, but I wasn’t too bothered about seeing them in tanks — but the idea of streets dedicated to certain functions and the fact that these are often tucked away in places you’ve walked past many times but never noticed, always tickles me: it’s once of the things that makes Hanoi what it is. After the fish we took taxis to Phu Tay Ho, which I was later told means ‘West Lake Palace’ and not ‘Temple’, and then walked to nearby Chua Pho Linh Tay Ho. I’ve just written posts about both of these places for Travelfish so won’t repeat them here. No idea! A Ding Fish farming. Overcrowding Nice spot Selling by weight Writing prayers in Chinese to send to the Gods Golden buffalo calf Replica bell Mother Goddess altar and cave Imbuing produce with power Small donations Prays Entrance fo Pho Linh Tay Ho Pagoda Tibetan Buddhist style statues Quan Am Mother Goddess shrine at Pho Linh Tay Ho PAgoda The 10 deadly sins and their...