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Hanoi - Take Two

Vietnam is my 71st country.  That sounds a bit presumptuous, like I've been collecting them as if countries were small pieces of art to be collected and enjoyed.  It's more like the countries were magnificent pieces of art that I zipped past and barely glimpsed, sad to say.

When I first learned to SCUBA dive, a veteran diver told me that some divers want to swim as far and deep as they can, believing that is the best way to see and experience the most the sea has to offer.  He suggested that another way to do it is to find a spot on a reef and to wait patiently, watching. The life of the sea will come to you.  That's the way I like to dive.  If you are patient, and look carefully you'll see creatures and plants you would miss when swimming quickly to find the coolest thing.  That also tends to be my approach to travel.  Before you think I'm taking the high horse here, let me admit.  I enjoy comfort and moving slowly.   I'm way more of a slug than a gazelle.

I tend to take that approach when I travel.  Having worked since I hit double digits, it is an amazing luxury to be able to make my own schedule.  To enjoy doing nothing if that's what my mood dictates.  You'll see in the photos that follow not the breadth and width of Vietnam, but one small section of the Old Quarter where I wandered.  Mostly reading, eating and drinking iced coffee.  I guess the Travel Channel won't be giving me my own show anytime soon.
The beverage menu in one of the fancier restaurants where I dined.

While intrigued, I stuck with the coffee.

My table came with a great view of one of the main streets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

I kept seeing items whose shapes intrigued me.

Virtually all Vietnamese food comes with a variety of very fresh herbs.

This is a platter of bun cha - an iconic dish of Hanoi.  Grilled pork with "bun" or noodles.  In the center is a sweetish/spicy dipping sauce.
My waiter instructed me that to correctly eat the dish you collect a bit of each item to get a balanced taste.  It was delicious.

Topped off, of course, with more iced coffee. 

Near my hotel was a street vendor who sold these dessert balls called Bahn Cam or fried sesame balls.  They are hollow with a marble sized ball of mung bean paste in the middle.  Rich and not too sweet, they are amazing.  That's my Kindle to give you an idea of how large the balls are.

With my tv remote for perspective, here's one of my favorite meals - a doner kebab.  Perhaps not authentic Vietnamese food but it made for a delicious dinner.

I have a friend who believes that doner kebabs are filled with bacteria and should be avoided.  I disagree.  And with a name like Duc Long, how could I resist?

Strolling through the Old Quarter of Hanoi is not a relaxing endeavor.  It felt more like being in a life-size game of Frogger.

I explored pretty much all of the Old Quarter.  I saw no grocery stores.  Mostly ladies with baskets of items for sale and small stalls like this one.  There is a large open air market about a 15 minute drive away.  That's where the vendors buy their produce to sell.

This vendor was carrying baskets of tiny land crabs.

One of the many Bun Cha sellers.  Given that I'm almost 6 feet tall and "voluptuous" (which is the term I prefer to "fat") those tiny chairs are a challenge I don't care to face. 

Want some fresh flowers for a decoration or an offering?  Vendors will roll by to sell them to you.

Beautiful fresh fruit.

Electrical wires are everywhere above ground in Asia.

Just when I found a quiet street to stroll down a motorbike would zip up behind me.  Every single time.

I think this should be my next job.  I couldn't provide much information to tourists but it would be great cardio and my butt and thighs would look awesome.

I enjoyed the trees in the city.

These are called Hands of Buddha and are a fruit in the citron family.  I saw them first at the Stop and Shop in Revere, MA of all places.


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