Friday, August 17, 2007

We Are Having Technical Difficulties . . . Or How the Dog Ate Our Homework

After spending two days on an Asian Junk in Halong Bay writing a blog entry about our first few days in Hanoi, we appear to have technical difficulties and the post about our journey from Shanghai to Hanoi through Hong Kong and the delicious food we ate and clothes we had along the way has vanished. We are confident, however, that we can recover it and will post it soon (we hope) albeit out of order. For once, this poor execution was not my (Jon's fault).

Meanwhile, we'd like to tell you about the days following the days that we blogged about but cannot find, and in particular our trip to Halong Bay, which we've decided is part of the Gulf of Tonkin (where we sank no ships and passed no resolutions). Spending several hours at the fabric market and at the tailor (yes, Josh, you are getting a "pocket-in-a-pocket" in your pants and yes, they remembered exactly who you were when I asked for it) got our appetites ready for another delicious Vietnamese dinner. We'd only had two bowls of pho and a pork and quail (fine, pigeon) egg bun, so we were ravenous. Without the guidance of Josh and EB, we were on our own to select a delightful local place. Which is why it was a mistake when we settled on the highly recommended "Hanoi Inn" from Lonely planet. It might as well have been the Inn at Little Washington. We walked up the stairs to see nothing but American and European faces looking back at us. On another trip, that would be fine. But not on Our Great Asian Adventure. We promptly asked for a menu and looked at the offerings. Hamburger, steak frites, meatloaf, and duck a l'orange, but no sign of anything Vietnamese. And so we fled as fast as possible.

Instead, we found in our Luxe Guide what sounded to be the grittiest, noisiest, least-likely-to-be-overrun by people like us restaurant we could. Success: only locals, not a white-y in the bunch. We're not sure what the name in Vietnamese was, but we're sure it translates to "Banana Leaf Cockroach Heaven." Yes, the floor was covered in both. (We actually only saw one tiny bug). We stuck with the motto "It only matters that the cooking surfaces are clean" and dug in to the simple beef, noodle, peanut, sprout, hot sauce, leafy vegetable. Once again, Hanoi didn't let us down. We loved every bite (leafy vegetable included). Satisfied with our delightful find, we followed the locals in our restaurant to another nearby establish that served what looked like Capri-Sun: unidentifiable juice in a plastic bag rubber-banded around a straw. Turns out it was fresh sugar cane juice. Yum and yum.

The next morning (Thursday) we were finally off to Halong Bay. It was beautiful slash our van ride out included as comical an array of visitors as we could have hoped for. First, there was the snooty pair of Frenchies who were living in Bali and taking a weekend in Hanoi. Next, four British boys from "outside Manchester" who claimed to have just graduated university but didn't look a day over 12. Did we mention how they said Chinese and Vietnamese women were "fantastic"? The rest of their tale is not safe for work, or for blogging. Sharing the front seat was a Vietnamese couple on their honeymoon. Cute. The groom had relocated to Colorado and the bride was from Saigon and spoke no English. The perfect pair, except when the groom introduced himself, told us about their 500 person wedding, and added without a second thought: "We'll have to spend the next few weeks getting to know each other." Make of that what you will. Finally, our tour guide brought his father -- age 46.

Halong Bay only got better from there. Tasty seafood, beautiful scenery, great company, and hilarious co-travellers. And in keeping with our style, we saw a pagoda on the top of a mountain and, naturally, climbed it to see the view.

As Amy put it this evening after we returned, drank 3 bia hoi a piece and ate one kilo of lychees among the three of us, "So many great things have happened today it doesn't even feel like the same day."

We're back in Hanoi tonight and tomorrow, leave for Sapa tomorrow night (on the border between China and Vietnam -- yes, mom, we will watch for ice patches and landmines) and return Monday.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Jon & Amy I hope you succeed before you depart where EB & Josh failed in locating Jane Fonda Blvd in Hanoi. I'm told the very best restaurants are there along with wonderful photos of the heroic revolutionary American princess.