Friday, July 27, 2007

Days 4-5: Small seats, big appetities

Two straight days of pacing around the city, and man are our dogs tired. Here's one simple view of the last two days - a list of each of our meals:

  • Coffee and a sweet & sour apricot juice
  • Homemade munchkins (doughnut-like things from a street vendor)
  • Fried tofu and rice noodles (served 6" off the floor of a market butchery)
  • Dragon fruit
  • Pho ga (chicken)- one local's pick for the best in the city
  • Bia hoi (Vietnamese beer) and boiled peanuts (As an aside, almost everything we have eaten here has been great. The boiled peanuts are not great. They are mushy and tasteless. It was a bad idea to boil them. FYI Vietnam--let's get the folks from Yankee Stadium to come in here to give some tips.)
  • Fancy dinner - fresh springrolls with fish, beef salad, chicken and stickyrice cakes, eggplant in fish sauce, whole steamed fish
  • Buon cun - soft rice crepes with mushrooms
  • Pho with a bit of everything including fried tofu sticks that you dip in the soup
  • Peanut-covered noodles (served in a banana leaf package)
  • Fried spring roll
  • Bun cha (grilled pork with veggies and vermicelli)
  • Creme caramel
  • Bia hoi, peanuts, rice cracker, grapefruit
  • Bizarre custard apple fruit
  • Tofu with green onions, chicken with lemon leaf and pork ribs at a restaurant popular with the friday night crowd
  • Fried pork stick
Though it does often seem that all we do is eat, we have seen the sights as well. Yesterday (Thursday) we had a quintessentially communist experience, waiting on line for an hour to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. It was a big hit with the many Vietnamese people on line with us, though we found the disorganized standing in line and enormous building devoted exclusively to the glass-enclosed body of the former leader to be a little weird. After Ho we wandered through a couple new neighborhoods and saw the tiny narrow streets where people live (or sleep if it is mid-day--we seem to be the only people crazy enough to walk around in the noon-time sun).

A welcome reprieve from the bustling and horn-filled streets around it, we spent some time in the afternoon in the Temple of Literature, a series of buildings and gardens devoted to recognizing famous scholars in Vietnam's past. We wandered around from the Temple and through some more Hanoi streets just slightly further afield, ending up in the eyeglasses section of town. After excruciating cost comparisons and frame evaluations, we settled on a pair that were prepared for me (EB) and finished today. Another Hanoi shopping perk--cheap prescription eyeglasses.

Today we woke up with great expectations of a communist party celebration, as there have been banners up all over the City proclaiming 60 years of communism and July 27 as a special day. So far as we can tell, none of the 2 million Vietnamese communists (out of a total population of 80 something million) showed up for any celebration, and we are still holding our breath.

Not letting the communists keep us from having fun, we spent today on a major walking excursion, first heading to the middle of the main lake to see the temple (probably the most famous in Hanoi), then going north (or at least up on the map) to a market area and the giant west lake. The market was a wholesale produce market for the most part and though the stuff looked great, it was easily the worst smelling place either of us had ever been too. Once we'd left the market though and were walking by the lake, i was very relaxing and a nice break from the craziness of the old city.

After the lake and its temple, we hopped in a cab and headed south first to another market--this one overflowing with screws and bolts and springs, as well as everything else imaginable and then to a market where Josh bought some fabric for shirtmaking. New materials in hand, we went back to the tailor to get fitted into some of our things such that they can be done before we leave here very first thing Monday am.

Then off to dinner and a street food snack before bed. As Josh has suggested in the title of today, I must make a comment about the seats everyone sits in for eating street food. Carts and vendors set up literally everywhere on the sidewalk and block all traffic with their food prep and seating. The seating usually consists of tiny TINY stools that are roughly 8x8 inches and 6 inches off the ground. And though it appears to work for the Vietnamese, I'm sure the site of the two of us giant whiteys sitting on the stools much be hilarious for anyone who walks by.

Tomorrow morning bright and early we are off for a couple days to Halong Bay, so we may have to take a temporary breather from blogging. We'll be back afterwards, of course, so please stay tuned.


Ali said...

I don't understand all of this custom made garment and glasses stuff. can you at least model your new accessories for us?

and don't take too long of a blogger-breather. don't you know that one of the basic rules of good blogging is regularity? sike, jk, totally understand.

I agree with Jon, I'm exhausted just reading. I don't know how you can even give such a thorough update at the end of the day.

Ron said...

Babi says the Vietnamese don't know anything about dumplings. The Czechs win that competition hands down. Harry sends licks and wants to know what you are bringing for him - leftovers? He is just happy he is not in some Vietnamese hot pot. Keep the updates coming - we love them! xoxoxoxo

fishwatch said...

Hello from the apple store in Rotterdam, where I have opened the blog on all the computers for the whole city to read. The food here is not nearly as fun, though the falafels are not all that bad. I hope you are taking a cassette tape with recorded Miss Saigon songs and playing them at random points throughout the day.

aries_mom said...

OK, I've got the picture--eating, walking, shopping--I'm tired already!
Please post a shot of the two of you on those 6" stools. XOXO from the new grandparents.

Jonathan said...

Yum. The food-heavy days are really winners in my book. Please save room for dessert (because I plan on arriving very hungry).

Jay said...

Like aries_mom I marvel at your energy--to say nothing of your appetites. I've often felt Asians--esp. chinese--to be more adventuresome eaters than whiteys, and to possess a more efficient metablolic system: specifically, eat more, different stuff, more often, and gain no weight. Did you guys take pills to be able to fit in?
And how do you find time to blog? Surely you're cutting and pasting, right?

ENJOY. (have they fed you the dog or the snake stuff yet?)

cmeg said...

Luvin' this Great Adventure stuff.

I can talk about food morning, noon and night. Hey, two of my all time favorite movies are Big Night and Mostly Martha, so keep the descriptions comin'.

Too bad you didn't get pictures of the haircut or tailoring expeditions. Sounds like Kodak moments. Are you two the tallest people around most of the time? I'm guessing neither of you gets lost in the crowd.

Josh, I'm definitely putting you in charge of dumplings for T-giving this year. I think the Pilgrims (and the Ebners) would love them.

Living vicariously...

Laura said...

So much fun, Josh and EB! I think I may need to go to Chinatown for some xiaolongbao tonight. Thank you for sharing your adventures - lovely to live vicariously for me and my stomach, before plunging into several hours of hard work from home. Our staff starts tomorrow!! Keep having fun and being careful!