|Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam|
From the taxi driver who tried to tempt us away from the official airport queue, to the speed demons swerving on the freeway, to the insanity of traffic as soon as we hit the Old Quarter – the excitement was already outshining the grey and cold January weather.
|Traffic in the Old Quarter|
Welcome to Hanoi, indeed.
|Banh bao on the street side|
We skipped the steamed banh bao (like Chinese char siu bao only with different meat fillings) in front of the hotel, and sought out warmth and comfort in an unlikely place around several corners.
|Noodle shop, Luong Ngoc Quyen (I think), Old Quarter, Hanoi|
The large pot she stirred was filled with a reddish stock and bits of meat. We sat down inside to tiny, low, plastic chairs at the tiny, low, plastic table; knowing that we were getting noodles, but not knowing much more.
|Bun - noodle soup with beef and pork sausage|
The soup was warming and fulfilling with its spice and slight tartness. Shredded lettuce was brought to the table, but it seemed to be a help-yourself setup too where you’d head over to the giant colander and with your own chopsticks, gather a bowl for yourself.
|Dau chao quy - fried bread sticks|
|Traffic jam on the shoe street - Hang Be, I think|
That’s when we weren’t playing Frogger with the traffic, or trying to deal with the air and noise pollution.
We dealt with the air pollution (from so many scooters and motorbikes) as the locals did – we bought face masks, which probably looked mighty strange on walking tourists as opposed to speeding locals, but it doubled as an item of clothing to keep my face warm, so I wasn’t complaining.
|Baguette breakfast at Hanoi Emerald Hotel, Ma May Street, Old Quarter|
Options were soup noodles (beef, chicken or crab) or a western breakfast of a fried egg and an impossibly fresh baguette.
|Beef noodles at Hanoi Emerald Hotel|
|Che from a street side stall|
|Tortoise Tower in Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi|
|Le Club at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, Hanoi|
|Le Club at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel|
The staff were excellent, smiling yet solemn in a way that fit the venue so well, and in many cases tri-lingual.
|Metropole Memories from Le Club|
|Bloody Mary, pre mixed with DIY condiments|
|French fries with tomato ketchup|
As the night sky approached, the garden was lit up in a blaze of fairy lights, giving the bar a warm, yellow glow and overall whimsical, romantic feel. I wasn’t keen to leave to go back into the cold, grey outside, but couldn’t quite afford to stay much longer either.
|The pool at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, Hanoi|