Another beautiful day in Hanoi, the very authentic capital of Vietnam. I haven’t bought much yet, because the shops are well, very authentic. Today we took a day off from the group, to do one of the walking tours that are in the Lonely Planet guide. It took us mainly through the old city, which was really nice as it has a lot of small streets, small shops and big groups of people running businesses.
There are a few lake-kind of waters in Hanoi, one of which we walked by too. We really enjoyed watching young couples get their wedding photo’s taken, they all look so gorgeous. Some of them got them done near the lake, others would go to the most expensive street in town to get a picture in front of the Louis Vuitton store. It seems a bit strange to me, especially because the lake setting is so beautiful!
There were all these little school girls coming up to us, asking us all kinds of things. One girl wanted to speak to my father in French, and another girl wanted to speak with me in English, so she started asking where I came from, what my age was (which is the number one small talk question Vietnamese people ask) and it was a very cute little talk. Especially the children in Vietnam are cute because they all wear their school uniforms and they are just sooo happy.
Seeing weird white people like us sometimes makes them stare, especially very small kids. It is funny to see, and in the restaurant yesterday a mother even came up to me with her 1-year-old just to stare for a while. It was cute, awkward, cute and awkward, as she did not speak English and I was not sure what she wanted from me. It is not okay in Vietnam to pet kids on the head, that is bad luck, so I was just smiling a bit awkwardly while enjoying the little kid that was truly adorable with its little dark hairs standing up.
Superstition is something that is very much embedded in many of the Vietnamese peoples lives. Do not take your cat into the bus, and if you don’t, while in the bus, do not brush your hair. In the city many shops have birdcages hanging with cute singing birds in them. Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of birds in cages, but in Vietnam they see it as something that brings luck. There are many of them, and it does look very nice, all those beautiful bird cages in the streets.
Like caged birds, kids are everywhere in Hanoi (not caged 😉 ). I do wonder what kind of toys they get to play with, because we went into a toy store to look for some LEGO (for ourselves, geek life!) and the prices are ridiculous. Seriously, it took me a few hours of thinking back and going: what the f?! A very simple box of LEGO, to be precize the 75086 Battle Droid Troop Carrier, cost around 100 euros, even though it should be more like 40-55 euros. We were really shocked by how crazy those prices are. I did not expect LEGO to be supercheap or anything, but this is outrageous.
Not that Hanoi is a cheap Vietnamese city that you might expect, it is actually quite expensive for Vietnamese standards. The tour guide did promise us that we would see lower prices outside of Hanoi, because that city has just become very expensive because of the richer Vietnamese people, plus it is the government city of the country, so you see a lot of embassies there and of course they come with the more richer share of the people.
Not that every body is super rich in this city. The people on the streets are mostly young people between 20-40 years old. Some of them are very rich, other ones are poor farmers that are really struggling. Some of them have tattoos, but that does not mean they are criminals, that is a bit of an old-fashioned way of thinking about tatts. Of course there are some big guys with koi fish on their full arm plus hands, but there are also a lot of people with modest quote tattoos et cetera.
We were having lunch at a pretty nice restaurant near the water, and the waiters there had tattoos too. I really like the Vietnamese food, especially in the city where I know they will take my Westernness into account and do not make too crazy things like chicken legs or something. I am very annoying and picky about my food. During lunch today I had lovely spring rolls, that are a lot smaller than the xxl versions we get in my country. I am glad, because I like the small ones a lot better and obviously the real Vietnamese people in Vietam know how to cook them a lot better than the Dutch Vietnamese (and often Chinese) people back home.
The walk was very nice, and as we walked the wrong way in the first place, it took us a few hours to get to our hotel again. In the evening we wanted to eat at a place from the Lonely Planet guide, but we discovered that was closed. So we looked on Tripadvisor and found A La Folie…! An amazing French-influenced restaurant in a little side street just a few minutes away from our hotel. I know it sounds odd to be eating French when you are in Vietnam, but I already knew we were going to eat Vietnamese soo much, it seemed nice to go to some other place for now. And the French have spent a lot of time in Vietnam as you might know, so the city has a lot of French restaurants as a souvenir.
Dinner was lovely, I had some amazing chicken wrap, beef steak and a lovely little chocolate mousse to finish it all up perfectly. The food was so cheap and yet so good, everybody was happy about it, great. It was also nice to not be with the group now, because we will be seeing those people a lot and everytime we have dinner in the group we cannot really sit together as we are with four people and other couples will just sit and then we do not fit as a four together anymore. It is not a big deal, but it is nice to spend time with my parents and this evening out was exactly what the family needed, I guess.
Talk to you tomorrow!