Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Downtown Hanoi, quán ăn ngon (Delicious Restaraunt), Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (lake of the Restored Sword), and some sightseeing

     Waking up early, the morning began with french pressed coffee and a fired mission to schedule our Vietnam holiday. There were many goals we had in mind; Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne and Ha Long bay. Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) and Mui Ne are in the Southern part of Vietnam and Ha Long Bay in North of Hanoi, we had ten days to work with and a lot to see. Tracking down hotels and with a loose schedule we headed over to downtown Hanoi to meet with our travel agent. Within an hour we had a flight (roundtrip) booked to Ho Chi Minh city, train tickets to Mui Ne, and a deluxe 2 night cruise set up, all for $400!! Our Ha long bay trip was through a deal, all but three companies go to a set area of islands on the bay, our company would be going to nearly ALL of the cards swiped!
     After we rode over to  quán ăn ngon, which means "delicious restaurant!" The concept behind it is bringing street food inside. Multiple stands are organized in a large circle surrounding family style tables and tight seats. Several tarps protect both the stands and the eating area from was packed full of locals~ you can't go wrong~
the entrance of Quan An Ngon! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
a view "inside" (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We started off with Trà đá, which is an iced green tea harvested from the second flush of sencha. It's mild and invigorating, even a little citrusy! This tea is very common in Vietnam, and in Japan!
 Trà đá (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The menu was very extensive. Just scrolling over the surrouding stands your mind tends to travel with all these options. Finding vegan was rather difficult. Vietnamese culture uses everything, every bit and piece of animal is used and not wasted. I greatly respect that and truthfully find it admirable. If you are to eat an animal, honor it, respect it; America tends to through pieces out...)O:
     "Speaking" with the servers and playing some dramatic cherades, we were able to find some things that I could have and were still very much Vietnam. I want to experience their cuisine...if I came here 11 years ago, things would have been different!
     Vinegars and heat smoldered the air, and sounds of chopping knives and sizzling pans teased our senses as we anxiously awaited our choosings. Being so busy, there was a bit of a wait, but this also meant loads of beautifully plated meals whizzing by our tables, as if sticking their tongues out.
     The first dish to come to our table was the nom lac salad, which is a papaya salad. There were generous amounts of fresh shredded papaya, carrots, bean sprouts, mint, peanuts, and fried onions. The dressing was some sort of sweet vinegar and lime juice...refreshing and plentiful!
nom lac salad (photo taken by VeganBeats)
      Next came the vegan and simple dau ran, which is a pan fried tofu. This was served with thai basil, sliced cucumbers, a small sweet lime, and soy sauce instead of fish sauce. Not out of this world, but satisfying!
dau ran (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Ani's dish was stunning to look st, complex and colorful! She got a dish where egg eas fried into a thin pancake and filled with steamed veggies, beansprouts, and shrimp! The dish also had fresh thai basil, lettuce greens, and soft rice wraps. On the side was a hot sauce.
gorgeous really, all that color! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Our neighbors were drinking this colorful concoction that I had to capture!
agar agar jellies on the bottom, sweet beans and berries topped with coconut milk and loads of ice! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The idea and understanding of this place is to fill up, order loads, and share! The family sitting next to us was doing just that!!
happy nomming neighbor! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Monsoon season is occurring in Vietnam as well so every couple minutes there would be a downpour and the smells of the city would release...I'm glad we were surrounded by spices and cooking! This was a dining experience...check it out!
Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Phone number: +84-4-3942-8162

     Next was exploring! The city is alive at the start of sunrise and full of tourists. Everyone is selling something, offering motorbike rides, bike rides...offers to fix your shoes. (I was wearing shit-cheap Old Navy babies...fix a flip flop?!!!) We were int he old quarter are some shots (lots of shops, sellers, etc.)
shops, buses, tourists in bikes (photo taken by VeganBeats)
art shop (one of many!) photo taken by VeganBeats
these guys will bike you around~ tres touristy (photo taken by VeganBeats)
a "small" flower shop (photo taken by Vegan Beats)
fruits! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
hidden peace (photo taken by VeganBeats)
In the land where bird's eat mangoes! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
        The old quarter is close to Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (lake of the Restored Sword) and legend has it that in that lake a century year old turtle resides there.
     ~Emperor Le Loi handed a victorious magical sword called the 'Heaven's Will' to the Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui. This sword brought victory to Le Loi during the revolt against the Chinese Ming Dynasty. And the sword was passed at this very lake!

king of the hill! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     There were children laughing and playing all over this place, I loved the rocks piled up by the bridges gate!
the colorful gates! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
beautiful Ani, next to some dragons! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
view from the bridge! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
view of the bridge! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Sitting on a bench, Ani and I soaked up the sounds of the city and simply were 'being.' Groups of tourists were guided down the lake by French speaking locals, and women sold bags of cane juice, the motorbikes speeding on the roads behind us...looking at the time, it was early. The days are full already, and I'm really living it!
     It's barely been 48 hours and I'm already falling in a comforting love with this place!

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