Touring Vietnam & discovering its cuisine-Hanoi and Halong Bay

Originally we had booked to go to Thailand for our honeymoon but after all the trouble with the Red Shirts in Bangkok, we decided to change to Vietnam as it was still Asia and it also meant we could use our flight.
We booked a guided tour for 13 nights,which started in Hanoi and ended with a couple of days to relax on the beach in Nha Trang. I hadn´t tried much Vietnamese food before our trip so was looking forward to trying this unknown cuisine. As we had chosen to go on a guided tour, lunch in a restaurant, usually with a set menu,was often included in the day´s visit. I however think that this was a more Westernized version of Vietnamese food as during our whole visit, we didn´t even get to try one of Vietnam´s most well-known dishes, Pho!! I really enjoyed Vietnamese food and its fresh, herby, sour and sweet blend of flavours and the next few blog entries will be about my experiences and food discoveries. Hopefully in the future I´ll also include some Vietnamese recipes as I couldn´t resist buying a Vietnamese cookbook!
When we arrived in Hanoi, we had the first day to ourselves to explore so after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, the first thing on our agenda was to find somewhere for lunch.We found a little café,which unfortunately I can´t remember the name of, and ordered a sausage sandwhich and braised beef. Both were delicious especially the braised beef which was really tender. One of the main things that hits you when you first arrive is the amount of traffic especially motorbikes in Hanoi that there is and also how chaotic it is. Crossing the road is definitely an adventure and an experience-I was pretty scared each time I had to do it!
We wandered around the Old Quarter taking in the sounds, smells and sights of Hanoi. One common sight is women carrying all kinds of strange fruit or other things in special baskets hung on a wooden pole carried across their shoulders. You can also see motorbikes which are completely laden with products, like in the following picture:
The following day we visited the typical sights of Hanoi, such as Ho Chi Minh´s Mausoleum, One-Pillar Pagoda, the Museum of Ethnology, the Temple of Literature etc. In the evening, we ate at a lovely restaurant,Dinh Lang Thuy Ta, which overlooked the Hoan Kiem Lake. Although expensive by Vietnamese standards, it is worth it for a romantic meal with beautiful views, the wonderful food and service and also traditional music while you eat. We shared a lotus flower stem salad which had a crunchy texture from the lotus stems and the peanuts (pictured below)

I chose steamed chicken with lime leaves-the meat was lovely and tender and the overall dish had a nice taste although I wasn´t too keen on the lime leaves which seemed to overpower the dish a little.

My husband chose a beef dish, hot and sour I think (sorry I´m so bad with the names!!) which was delicious and I actually preferred it to my dish!

We took the waiter´s advice for dessert and chose lotus seeds and dried longans in a syrup . The lotus seeds had a nutty, almost white chocolatey taste which wasn´t too bad and the longans were a bit like raisins.

We also tried agar-agar with dried longans in syrup. Neither of us were too keen on either of the desserts unfortunately but of the two, the lotus seeds were the best. You have to try these things!!

After a couple of days in Hanoi, we made our way to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stayed aboard a typical junko and took in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of more than 2000 rocky islands jutting out of the sea.

As the food on the boat was mainly fish and seafood which I´m not that keen on we ordered something different for me. I got mainly meat dishes but one dish in particular looked a bit green around the edges but tasted fine. Unfortunately that night I started with bad stomach pains and both me and my husband, who had also eaten some of this meat, spent the vomitting and with diahorria!

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