Today we had a long leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Relaxed, chatted, read, wrote, and napped before venturing out into town around 1pm for lunch and a wander. We ate at the best restaurant we've been to so far. Called Manda de Laos, the breathtaking restaurant is a UNESCO World Heritage Site sits on the bank of a huge lily pond. It is an oasis in the middle of the city. And the food was spectacular. We had steamed fish on lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime. A delicious red curry with chicken and a papaya salad with "melted pork" (just marinated fatty bbq'd pork). I was really looking forward to their homemade desserts but we were too full to get it. Actually I'm kidding myself again, I would have made room but we ran out of time as we had a flight to catch and you know how mom gets.
We flew to Hanoi this afternoon for our journey to Vietnam is beginning. When we arrived in Hanoi we were met by Giang, a young energetic 3rd generation Hanoian. Instantly a likeable guy and so refreshing from our last guide, Siphone, who meant well and was so kind, you felt bad judging him as a bit useless. I imagine Giang is also feeling quite refreshed given today is his first day back after a long holiday, the tet new year.
The Vietnamese New Year, called the Tet New Year, just passed on February 5th, although the celebration goes on for a week before and after. Tet literally translates to "eat" symbolizing how important food is in its celebration. I love this country already! All offices have been closed over the last few weeks and today is the first day people are back at work. Giang says Hanoians, more than other Vietnamese, are very traditional. He works every day of the year but always takes the Tet off to spend time with family. Tet New Year is time for reunification of family and he picked us up seemingly refreshed after a long holiday. He said the streets on Tet New Year are so empty one could lie down on the street safely. In another sentence later he said Hanoi traffic could be described in one word: chaos; and that driving is like Tetris-you fill the space wherever you can. I think I wouldn't take the chance.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the second largest city with Saigon being the first. Giang says to compare Saigon and Hanoi is Saigon is like a young boy whereas Hanoi is like an old man with a young heart. Meaning there is a lot of history and culture here but is also very vibrant. Hanoi sits on the right bank of the Red River delta. It was established in 1010. In 2010 a 6.5km mosaic mural was designed along a major road and were fortunate to see a large part of it riding to the hotel.
Our hotel is in Old Town, also referred to as the French Quarter, and still is very reminiscent of the French Colonial era when Vietnam was a colony of French Indochina. It is one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in (Sofitel Metropole). By the time we arrived last night it was getting late (after 8pm) so we let mom and dad have a romantic night out and we stayed in the hotel and went to bed early.
Dad is reading a book on Vietnam history so I imagine I will have more to report in the coming days.