Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is picture perfect

Silk Street is a bustle this morning. Street vendors are carrying baskets of luscious fruit and vegetables like scales around their necks, or on the back of bicycles.

Our cyclo (similar to a rickshaw) drops us at Little Hanoi restaurant here in the silk shop area of Hang Gai, for some breakfast. Perhaps we would have done better in ordering the local food options as my BLT comes with really tough bacon and Susi’s toasted sandwich is pretty oily.

However, the local coffee has oomph to it and with food in our tummies we are ready to walk around the Old Quarter, where French colonial architecture and Asian scents exist in harmony with the narrow congested streets and carefully made handicrafts.

That’s one thing about Vietnam, the products really are made with care. Lacquer work cannot be mass produced because it involves a timely process that has to be done by hand, while the embroidery and silk work cannot even be compared to the cheap standard in China. The Vietnamese seem to take pride in quality, not quantity.

Even the noodles they so love to eat are freshly made, daily, and have to be used or discarded by the end of the day.

Everywhere I look is a pretty picture… lantern shops, Buddhist statues, cyclists wearing pointy straw hats, sidewalk cafes and pretty girls drying their hair out in the morning sun… that’s until we get to the fish market – chunks of meat sitting out in the sun, fish or not, has never been pretty and it makes my stomach turn.

Soon Susi and I are getting weighed down with all our shopping bags and decide to make our way back to our hotel, stopping at Ocean Tours, to arrange a boat trip to Halong Bay for the next three days.

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