We started off today pretty early still adjusting to the time changes and the early turn in from the Jet lag. Fortunately we were able to see how Hanoi wakes up. Going to the lobby that early (it was about 7am when we went downstairs) my mom and I were surprised to see a group of people just waking up. Bewildered we went back upstairs to confer with Jessica on what we should do, truck on through their makeshift sleeping areas or wait. She told us it is very common for people to sleep in the lobbies for protection and that we can just go on through as the time was relatively late to go see the morning rituals of the area.
Empowered with our new found knowledge we went back downstairs only to meet the men trucking their mattresses back upstairs. Oh well maybe next time we can rumble through their area and greet them with a morning gesture. Your really did get a sense that "family" is very evident within the culture.
We headed to the lake that was a couple blocks away to see the locals undertaking Thai chi and to fill our senses with the morning sounds and smells. At this stage in the morning the street vendors are busy setting up for the days trade which gave us an opportunity to eat some very tasty rice, or sticky rice. Then vendor of choice was a small woman who setup on the corning with plastic covered paper and a larger round container that was filled with multiple layers of different styles of sticky rice. We had the red rice that had a sweet taste, the peanut rice covered with a very finely shredded meat (not sure what), and a rice with corn also covered in the meat. All were warm and VERY delicious. There is just something about starting the morning with local food prepared as you walk. Just beautiful.
After eating and watching some Tai Chi and badminton (I love it) we decided to head to a cafe and get breakfast (the sticky rice was a morning starter). I had Pho Gha (a wonderful chicken broth soup with shredded chicken, local greens (cilantro (a few varieties), green onion, bok choi and rice noodles) and a Chocolate Croissant. If you are wondering why there is French pastries in Vietnam the French occupied this area for over a 100 years. This is very evident in some of the architecture, the width of the streets (as compared to old downtown), and the large churches.
For most of the day we walked around the streets of Hanoi learning about the culture from Jessica and shopping in many of the shops. We had a really great time. One really special event was the lunch we had. There is a small restaurant (a families home) that served only 1 item and that was fried fish. You are served a few bowls of fresh greens (onions, bok choi, cilantro, etc), a couple bowls of sauce, a bowl of rice noodle, and peanuts. They then deliver in a small fry pan a sizzling pan of cut up fried fish in an oil sauce. This comes on a special stand that has hot coals to keep the food sizzling. Add some of the greens to cook up and serve over the rice noodles you end up with a fantastic meal. Just wonderful and unique to Hanoi.
After almost 9 hours roaming around we headed back to relax and call it a day. For dinner we ended up having some local food delivered to the hotel and again it was outstanding. That just seems to be a common experience around here!
Looking forward to another day tomorrow! Until then take care and don't forget to check the photos (Hanoi Day 2 updated with many more pictures.)