Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Living in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

So here I am in Hanoi...

I have been here six months now and have mostly enjoyed it although there are problems living in a country where little English is spoken and a lot of the indigenous people see you as a way to make money.

Hanoi is a the sort of place where most tourists come for around two or three days, which makes it hard to make a lot friends. I have often met people at the Bia Hoi for a couple of days, got on really well, but will never see them again. Bia Hoi is a Hanoi speciality where a glass of beer costs about 8p. We sit on small chairs or stools outside at a crossroads just chatting and drinking. There are snacks available close by too, such as delicious kebabs for around 30p and those dried fish and squid so loved in Asia, which are ok occasionally. But not much else to do. If you go in a proper bar with a pool table, etc, beer is about 66p a bottle, which can soon work out expensive.

I am still living in a hotel about 50 metres from my local Bia Hoi, having advertised on the net for a house share, but not managed to find the right one yet... I will keep looking...

There are ex-pats, but most don't come near where I live in the Old Quarter as it is too touristy. I sometimes see them in bars like the R&R bar paying huge amounts of money for canned cider and australian beef burgers, whereas I would rather eat at local restaurants and pay peanuts. It seems to me that the more you pay for food in Hanoi the worse it tastes. Local street food is often delicious. I can buy a huge bowl of delicious duck soup for 10,000 Vietnam Dong or about 30p!! The local speciality is Pho Bo, which is (often altho not always) uncooked beef in a noodle and vegetable soup. Another speciality is Bun Cha which is barbecued pork with a delicious broth with a big plate of noodles and a bowl of leaves/herbs. Each place is different and some have sausage meat patties as well, some have spring rolls... Because of the barbecuing, and the large numbers of people who come and go, the Bun Cha places are usually the dirtiest of places you could ever visit, so few "falang" as the Thais call us, ever visit. But the food is some of the best in Hanoi, so I am a regular visitor.

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