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Beyond Our Conestoga

Goodbye Vietnam.

VIETNAM | Thursday, 29 April 2010 | Views [517]

Our last few days in Hanoi before departing Vietnam were enjoyable amazingly enough. I believe this is because we shopped! Knowing this was near the end of our trip and not having to lug around heavy bags for much longer, we stocked up on a few things. Plus, Vietnam is so cheap, who wouldn't? Knowing fruit would not only not last, but also not make it through customs, we stocked up on some of the more unique dried fruits. There are whole stores dedicated to dried fruit in Vietnam. The selection of fruit is quit large as well. In these last few days, we also found some great little food stands that some how evaded us the first few days we were here.

Our first night upon returning from Halong Bay, we met our new friends from the tour all for diner. We wondered around town until stumbling upon an incredible local bar/food joint. Tables, people, food and beer spilling out onto the streets, we wondered into this corner place. The employees eyeing us I am sure wondering what in the world these tourists are doing here. But as soon as we took our seats and starting ordering rounds of Fresh Beer, the workers starting smiling, realizing, that yes, we did fit in. Eel and banana curry, fried frog legs, grilled rabbit, chicken, rice and oh let's not forget the fish sauce I have learned to love. Along with our beer, the meal for the six of us didn't top $22 US I think. Amazing! 

So any restaurant, especially bar where you've been drinking, you'll need to find your way to the restroom right? Let me tell you about this bathroom. You wonder through the dishpit to find a storage room on the left and a hallway on the right with a ditch running along it. There is a sink at the junction. You turn around looking. Where is it? The workers in the dishpit keep pointing and pointing. You then realize that you are looking at it. And actually the male and female bathroom. The ditch being the male and the storage unit the womans. How in the world you would know? I have no clue. The storage room was filled to the brim with kegs. There was a trash can and a hole in the corner of the floor. Literally more like a drain hole with no drain. I guess if you got thirsty... Talk about one sure way to not make you NOT have to go to the bathroom anymore. But rest assured, that yes, you are looking at the right place as you see others come and go doing their business. You remind yourself why you came here and that the food was worth it. The food was worth it. The food was worth it. Do I want to think about the conditions of the kitchen? No. Not really. The food was worth it. Besides, there is a dishpit. I see some sense of sanitation going on. The food was worth it. I think only one person in our party actually opted to not hold it in.

Eric and I actually returned here as our last meal in Vietnam before flying out. We made our bathroom stop before going.

My love of the fresh tofu in Vietnam has greatly expanded my tofu horizons. I wish I had discovered it sooner. Maybe it could of given me a bit of solace in the comfort food kind of way while we were here. So I ate the last meals full of tofu. One meal being a little challenge as the stall was so busy, there was a system to it all to keep it organized and flowing, but I couldn't figure it out at first and couldn't get them to give me food. I had to return a second day for a second attempt. This time being successful. Eric enjoyed one of his last meals of Pork and Rice down the alley while I had the last ever so simple but now one of my favorites meal of fresh fried fresh tofu, fresh bun rice noodles and fish sauce and chilies. Yum. Yep. Eric is happy. His wife now loves fish sauce.

One last cheap massage. Opted for the Thai one this time. Yes, Thai, even though in Vietnam. The Vietnamese don't have their own style of massage like the Sweds, Thais or Laotians. I splurged for the fancy spa and not the corner joints. 1 and 1/2 hour Thai massage and a leg waxing for about $27 US. I hadn't bothered shaving the whole trip. Just decided to not waste my time. A waxing was due as we approached homeward travel. : )

In ordering my Thai massage the owner was very hesitant, 'Very strong?' 'Very strong?' alluding to the 'can you handle phrases from Malaysia.' It's ok I tell her. Again she repeats 'Very strong.' With all the walking, I am ready. Everyday. We Walk and Walk. We walk to bfast, walk to lunch, walk to diner, walk to the museums, walk to this neighborhood and that neighborhood. To this and that historic sight. On our feet. Maybe even eating on our feet. Or if sitting while eating, hunched on the tiny plastic stools over the tiny plastic tables commonplace at the local street stalls we eat at. Walk or no walk, with all the stress of Vietnam, I am ready, give me the 'strong, very strong' Thai massage. Funny part was, the masseur could of pressed so much harder. I was tense!

While I knew Vietnam had brought me down, I didn't think I really knew how much until we landed in Singapore. Walking off the plane somehow I felt like walking on air. I was elated with joy. Not only were we away from Vietnam, but were back in a city we knew. The first time in the last few months. We weren't strived with pressure of figuring out where we were going to go, where to sleep, where to eat and how to get there. We had our one day layover in Singapore on route to Hong Kong well planned out. We knew exactly what and where we wanted to eat. We had reserved our room. We knew what MRT stop to get off on. Our planned time did get cut short though. Prior to our take off, while we taxied on the runway in Hanoi, Vietnam, the pilot postponed our takeoff. We were told another plane was making an emergency landing. Huh. Never had that happen before. In hind sight, after learning soon thereafter of all the planes diverted from Iceland's Volcano Ash, maybe this was related. We learned that actually our flight coincided with the first closings of air space. Luckily all our flights then, a day later and then our final flight home 9 days later all were unaffected. The airspace we were traveling would of been probably the last to get closed if the ash continued to spread. Probably the whole earth in ash sky would have to happen. We did run into people though in the ensuing days who weren't in Singapore or Hong Kong by choice. One couple stuck for 9 days. Ouch! 

Our brief revisit to Singapore afforded us a visit with our friend over a meal of Shark's Head. Eric's research had found a food court stall who served apparently a famous version. Our friend, having lived in Singapore for years had never had Shark's Head, and didn't even know this place existed! Eric and his love of food research. I am so lucky to reap the benefits simultaneously. Shark's head wasn't on the menu. Hummm. But this is the right place. The front counter woman was questioned. With an 'ahhhhh' expression, she waved over what I presumed to be her husband and cook. 'Shark's Head?' we ask. A big smile thus ensued on our cook's face and a glimmer in his eyes. These guys knew to come here. After ordering a medium sized head and some sides we were committed. Once it came, there was so much pointing, photos and discussion from the four of us over the dish, the cook came back out to answer questions he obviously saw that we had. After clarifying what parts were what, everything was still NOT clear to me. Everyone else seemed to get it. I just don't understand how a bone and head that big could produce such little meat. And it's not meat at all. It's all cartilage. Kind of like eating a very well stewed dumpling in texture. But very clean and mild in flavor. Could almost just squish it with your tongue. When the plates were empty and curiosities fulfilled we learned just how lucky we were. This was the last week this guy was going to be open! He was moving shop to way out of town. Rent just too high, so much so that I guess Bourdain's press still wasn't enough. I wish him luck.


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