Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is one of the most interesting big cities of South-East Asia we went to.
The Old Hanoi architecture is still very similar to what it was like when its construction started in the 15th century. Unlike Saigon, which has been quite Americanized during the war, Hanoi kept its authenticity. No skyscrapers there but only small shops home to different craft that disappeared in most big cities of Vietnam.
We spent our last two days of Vietnam there, and we made the most of it.
Discovering Old Hanoi
The city is swarming with people and walking around its 36 streets, its old market and Hoan Kiem Lake was a blast.
Finding a small street hidden between buildings for a yummy lunch
Gerrit wasn’t sure which hat to buy
Our gourmet adventures
We could not go through Vietnam without eating exotic stuff. We did everything on our last day, making it a “gourmet day”.
Starting easy with some pigeon…
…up to some harder stuff!
We started off by asking some Vietnamese at our hostel where we could find some dog. We ended up in a very popular neighborhood (that was probably one of the first times they were seeing westerners) where the dogs were already cooked, cut and spread on a table outside… not very appealing.
We tried nevertheless and shared what seemed to be a thigh and some dog sausage. The taste was quite strong, close to duck, and not really good to be honest.
On the evening we went to a remote suburb of Hanoi known as the “snake village” to eat a cobra. The owner was playing with the live cobra while we were negotiating the price (it went down to 1M dong – $50 for 3 people).
That was the perfect night and the perfect place to do that: it was pouring rain outside, and we were alone in a small pavilion open on a small lake, listening to the rain and the thunder while they where bringing a snake to us… Surreal!
The night started with the cook killing the cobra with a knife in front of us, then pouring the blood and the bile in rice alcohol shots. That was truly disgusting, but most of the taste came from to the rice alcohol. Gerrit was fortunate enough to have the heart of the snake in his first shot, making it tricky: you can’t chew on the heart otherwise it apparently releases some poison that makes you pass out right away.
They then brought us seven different dishes cooked with different part of the snake they’d just killed for us: the skin, the vertebras, etc… The taste was very strong and not really good, but the experience was amazing.
Our hostel was huge and had mostly young people from everywhere looking to party. The nightlife was concentrated in a few bars and nightclubs for the foreigners, making it wilder.
Hanging out with Vietnam misses
According to the law, every establishment is supposed to close at midnight. So from midnight and onwards, whenever the cops are close-by the bars and nightclubs are closing the lid halfway, lowering the music while the parties goes on inside. On our second night, the nightclub opened one hour late because they were busy bribing the policemen for the night. Seems legit.
With quite a lot of difficulties, we managed to pass the customs – I had to bribe the custom officer for him to give me my passport back with my exit visa – and we’re off to Hong Kong!