Lost in Hanoi and karaoke in the rice paddies

Me and Zara at Hanoi’s beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake
We’ve spent the last week and a half travelling around (for S’s work) – from Hanoi to Hoi An to Hue.
Highlights – staying at the beautiful Life Resort in Hoi An (chic rooms, great pool, really nice staff), seeing our friend Quyen, walking around beautiful Hanoi (except when lost) and delicious meals at Hoi An’s Mango Rooms (a Mexican/Vietnamese fusion place).

Mango Rooms’ amazing food (so good!) – duck with mole sauce & sticky rice
with spiced tempura prawns in the background

Lowlights – getting drenched in torrential rain in Hoi An and getting lost (multiple times) in Hanoi! One wrong turn on the twisty windy streets and you can easily find yourself heading in the wrong direction and ending up far from touristville. Not that that’s a bad thing (of course!) but when it involves freeways and dusty roads past manky local hospitals it is, especially when you’re alone with a baby in a stroller – ridiculous!

Unplanned detours aside, Hanoi is such a beautiful city. The buildings and lakes are gorgeous, and in the early morning the cool temperature, misty air and sight of rugged up locals having coffee at local sidewalk cafes give the city a romantic and atmospheric feel. I’m happy to return to Hanoi again and again!
In Hoi An we visited our tailor friend Quyen at Hoi An Cloth Shop. We first met Quyen in 2003 on our first visit to Hoi An, and visited her again last year. This time, we were invited to lunch at her family’s house in the countryside (around 10kms outside Hoi An).

Behind a village and down some windy paths through waterlogged rice paddies, we ventured to her family’s welcoming home, a simple yet effective structure with a high ceiling, concrete walls, tiled floors and an open front that provided a surprisingly cool temperature due to its great design.

We feasted on chicken noodle soup with fresh herbs and had bananas fried in batter for dessert, all washed down with the local brew, Biere La Rue. The whole extended family turned up, family by family on their motorbikes, and mayhem ensued with babies and kids everywhere and their karaoke machine being given a workout by the whole family. There was an insane amount of chaos and noise, and miraculously little Zara managed to sleep for part of the time – she really is used to living in Asia!

The (almost) polished off soup, and Quyen with a banana fritter – they were
sweet, soft in parts, crispy in others and really tasty
!

Now we’re in Hue but only for one night, not enough time to see or do much and it’s raining non-stop – time to order room service and watch Gossip Girl DVDs and maybe drink the Dalat wine (red wine made in Dalat, Vietnam) we’ve been given, though it smells not too good come to think of it, and I just saw a description on their website – sour and acrid!! Maybe not!
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