Back from what was Ben’s favorite meal thus far: cha ca, a Hanoi speciality and at the best restaurant in town. Cha ca is fish battered in turmeric, fried with lots of scallions and dill, topped with more herbs, roasted peanuts, and nuoc mam. It’s amazing. I’ve tried to make it myself but never quite can commit to the heat and last-minute oil. At this restaurant, it’s the only thing they serve — no words exchanged between when you sit down and the food comes. They serve the fish on a charcoal grill, so it’s piping hot the whole time and you can add fresh veggies to cook. Ben said he could have eaten three portions, but decided to hold back (or else he would have fulfilled the Western stereotype).
I, on the other hand, seem to have caught some stomach bug. Don’t worry, nothing gross to read about yet. I just have a relentless stomach ache and a small appetite, which is, as you can imagine being here, devastating. More for Ben, I guess. It’s also made me a bit tired so we rested at the hotel today. It was much needed; if you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been sort of go-go-go.
I’m not sure what I think of Hanoi. My initial impression isn’t great and matches what I remember from awhile ago. People seem to not like me, Viet Kieu (although, technically I’m not since I wasn’t born here). The stares seem more hostile; in Hoi An and Saigon, it’s just been more the typical staring that isn’t rude in Vietnamese culture. I even got pushed by two old ladies, who snickered and said something about “my” (american). I assume they were referring to Ben, with me. They all know I’m Vietnamese, which is a change, since in Hoi An everyone started with English. But they talk to me rudely, quickly here, so much I actually have a hard time understanding (I thought I wouldn’t b/c my parents actually have a northern dialect).
Ben even almost got robbed! A guy tugged the top zipper of his backpack (in which I was keeping my wallet). Fortunately, Ben felt it, whipped around, and the guy pretended to sell him postcards. Grrrr. I now carry the backpack paranoid style: on the front with my arms wrapped around it and the wallet is at the bottom.
So, you can see why we don’t feel as welcomed here. I’m hoping it’ll be better tomorrow (we’ve noticed it takes us a day to adjust to the new city). The plan is to get up early and join people in their morning exercise around the lake (that’s the center of the town). VN 2001 crew: it’s where the red bridge is. Supposedly you can do that, at like 6:30am, and not get hassled. Then, we’re going to do a walking tour of the old town, which will probably get frustrating with all the folks, but we want to see all the old buildings. Hanoi definitely has some history to it. Not sure if we’re going to hit up the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, but Ben is interested in seeing some museums. Maybe where McCain was imprisoned.
Then we leave for Sapa on an overnight train. Should be interesting. Maybe our new silk sleeping bags will come in handy. And those earplugs Kerry from NZ gave me for the huts. Ah New Zealand… 🙂
For everyone stoked about the inauguration, so are we! And are so, so bummed we won’t get to see his speech, so post some updates about it after please. This will be something to remember!