Very tired, a bit nervous and eager of anticipation we're walking out from the airport together with our luggage and our moneychangers.
During the 50 minuets long ride it takes to go from the airport to the old quarters in Ha noi we sit on each side of the car, quiet, with our noses pressed towards the window, watching the scenery passing.
We see a rural landscape, even though we're really close to the capital and the big city life in Ha noi. Old looking women and men, in traditional triangular hats, working in the rice fields with an ox in front of them, plowing the soil. It feels like we've been taken back at least 50 years in time. I can see my prejudices of Vietnam pile up in front of me, right outside the window. There's this smog in the air, which evokes a very special feeling, like the air is different somehow, like we're in a very special place. The smog lies like a cover over the city during the whole time we're there.
When we drive over the last bridge that introduces us to the city core all the rice fields are suddenly gone and instead we're in this crazy traffic jam. The mopeds are everywhere, and whole families on a single one, thousands of them. The streets are narrow and packed. Packed with people selling batteries and fruit, people on their way somewhere, but not necessarily in a hurry.
In the corner of two busy streets we see a bunch of Vietnamese people sitting on extremely small plastic chairs (but still, big enough) eating traditional street food. A glance at each other is all it takes for me and Christian to decide this is where we are going to have our first meal in Vietnam. We get eye contact with one of the guys that are working and immediately there are two more chairs and a table in front of us where we can have a seat. Two minutes later we have our food in front of us which at this particular place always is a dish called nộm thịt bò khô (green papaya salad with dried beef) and it had been thrown together by a lady who sat on the same kind of chair two meters away from us. Her only tool was a big pair of scissors used cutting the meat into stripes. And the taste was heavenly! The best mix of fish sauce, garlic and chili andA LOT of fresh herbs like mint, shiso leaves and rau ram. We loved it.
Other fantastic dishes not to miss when in Hanoi:
Phở bò – noodle soup with beef
Bánh mì – rice flour baguette, often filled with omelette and paté
Nước chấm – a vietnameese dip sauce you get where ever you go. Ingriedients: chilli, garlic, sugar, rice vinegar,fish sauce and lime juice. Doesn´t get much better than that.
Bún chả- Grilled pork with rice noodles. The pork is marinated in a caramel sauce and fish sauce together with onion, salt and pepper. I candream of this dish at night.
Bánh xèo – Pancakes filled with Scampi.