On day two I woke up at the glorious hour of 6am, guess that makes sense considering I went to bed at 8pm. The minute I woke up I heard the sound of rain- not just a light drizzle but heavy, pounding, sideways flowing rain. I was amazed Brian wasn’t awoken by it. Considering, it was our last full day in Hanoi before departing for Halong Bay I was a tad sad by the rain and immediately went to the weather app on my phone to see the forecast…
The lightening bolt was a nice touch, don’t you think? At this point I became worried about our two nights and three days, on a boat in Halong Bay. I wasn’t keen on the idea of floating around on a boat, in Vietnam, in a torrential downpour with the chance of lightning. I’m not much of a boat person in general; I much prefer land. So I spent the next hour going through all the options in my head – do we just go with the flow? Do we move the Halong Bay trip back a few days? Do we skip Halong Bay all together? Luckily, by the time Brian awoke the rain had become a soft drizzle (and was lucky enough to avoid all my neurotic thoughts) and we decided to go with the flow and make the best of it. The hotel equipped us with umbrellas and off we went. The city was actually beautiful in the rain- it. gave it a romantic feel. Being used to such downpours , the locals just put on their ponchos and go about their business.
We decided to make day two more culturally driven as opposed to yesterday’s heavy food focus, so we set off in search of a temple and museum we wanted to visit. First up was the Temple Of Literature, built-in 1070 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius. It was also home to Vietnam’s first university, which was established within the temple to educate Vietnam’s bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. The university remained open from 1076 to 1779.
The grounds were absolutely gorgeous and very lush and green after the morning rain. It was a nice break from the chaotic bustling streets. There was a big gorgeous pond surrounded by a stone wall that we peered into and saw a bunch of large toads hopping around. How magical, I thought. That was until I heard a horrified Australian women shriek that we were stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. I looked down and saw the teeniest tiniest black specs jumping all around us. Oh, yes you would be correct…we are stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. Sadly, I fear we may have killed a few prior to our knowledge. That doesn’t count, right?
After The Temple of Literature we strolled across the street to what appeared to be a little lake and were greeted by this women, fishing. Don’t you just love her? She clearly means business.
Then we strolled a few more blocks down to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, home to an extensive collection of Buddhas. After the museum we were starved and decided it was time to delve into the world of Vietnamese Pho- something taken very seriously in Vietnam. I had read that the North and South disagree over who has better Pho which was confirmed yesterday by our food guide, Chinhg, who made a point to say the southern version wasn’t as “tasty and balanced” as the northern version. This of course made me want to compare the two. So we headed to a restaurant called, Pho 10 for our first bowl of Vietnamese Pho. We were the only tourists in the joint which I took as a very good sign. We ordered two bowls of Pho with steak and not even one minute later were enjoying said bowls. The noodles and broth were really good- very flavorful, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the meat- it was a bit too fatty for my taste.
If you can’t tell from the above photos Brian likes to add hot sauce to his Pho. That boy was literally drenched with sweat and after finishing. He makes me smile.
After lunch we decided we were in need of beers and stumbled upon Cong Caphe, the cutest little cafe located by the St Joseph’s Cathedral. It really showcased how much Hanoi was influenced by the French. I felt like we had stepped into Paris. Worked for me. It was filled with twenty-something locals sipping coffees and drinks. We holed up at a cozy table upstairs in the corner by a big window. The rain had completely stopped at this point, so all we felt was a warm breeze waft through the window. Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” played in the cafe- which is a favorite of Brian’s and mine, while the cathedral’s bells chimed in the distance. To say I loved this place would be an understatement.
At night we tried Cha Ca La Vong, a restaurant that serves only one dish – Cha Ca, which is grilled fish served alongside various kinds of herbs, rice vermicelli, nuoc cham dipping sauce, sliced chillies and roasted peanuts. It was incredible, definitely my favorite meal in Hanoi. You also had to cook it at your table yourself, which made it rather fun. One of my favorite things about Vietnamese food is their use of herbs, it makes every dish so flavorful.
After dinner we decided to take a walk to go and see the Opera House, which was built at the turn of the 20th century to keep the French entertained. After years of renovation it reopened in 1997 and hosts regular performances. Sadly, we did not think ahead and get tickets for a performance so we had to settle on the view from the street. It’s situated right in front of a large roundabout, and I loved the image of all the cars and motorbikes zipping by it- keeps with the frenetic energy of Hanoi.
As Brian snapped photos (I love being married to a photographer) it began to drizzle. In that moment I was reminded how grateful I was to be in Vietnam with the man I loved. I am always the happiest and most alive version of myself when I am traveling.
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson