Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hanoi with Helle, Gene, Emma and Uschi

Helle was going to Hanoi today to have lunch with Uschi, and since I had no classes I decided to tag along. Gene and Emma came for the ride too. So we left at 8am. Helle has a car and a driver, so we travelled in comfort for the two and a half hour ride. Our first stop was at Westlake, which is the suburb where many westerners live ... embassies and the like. There is a tiny little grocery store there called L's Place that is packed with goodies you can't normally find in Vietnam. It was a lot of fun to browse with Emma exclaiming in delight every time she saw something she hadn't eaten since leaving England. They even have Vegemite!!!

A few doors down is Saint Honore.  We didn't stop at this patisserie for a coffee this time, but I needed to use the loo, so I bought a fabulous looking pastry called a Jambalaya to eat at home. Gene bought some of their fabulous bread.
We walked along the Lake. As you can see, it was a grey old day. Come summer, with blue skies and lots of greenery it will be much prettier.

I'm not sure if this is another lake... it's on the other side of the road, and we only got a glimpse of it.

The green plant must be edible because the lady in the little boat was harvesting it.

Presumably the people who live in this house are the ones who farm it.

Like I said, this is the up-market end of town. We rendevou'd with Helle at this fancy building, then drove to Hai Bà Trưng to a gorgeous restaurant called Jacksons, where we met Uschi for lunch.

They do a 3 course set menu for 350,000d ($17). It was all beautiful and delicious. I had the mango, papaya and prawn salad...

followed by the NZ Rib-eye steak. ... forgot to photograph dessert - banana fritter and ice cream. Marvellous. Everyone said their lunch was delicious.

Helle particularly wanted to go to the top of the new Parkson building. It has a tower 72 stories high, but as you can see, the top stories were shrouded in cloud, so there was not much point in going up to see the view today! On a clear day I expect you can look out over much of Hanoi ... something to look forward to!

Gene, Helle, Uschi and Emma outside the new Parkson building.

Inside everything is very glamorous... but there are very few customers around.

We had a good look. Uschi bought some cushions and a massager and Emma bought a pair of Nike runners - she's in training with Will - they plan to run to Doson Beach ... 20Km - so she needed good shoes. They cost the same here as they do at home if you want the real thing.

Then we finally went to the old quarter. Love that part of the city!!  It was Emma's first time here but by then it was late afternoon, so we did a little browsing... enough to give her a taste... then ended up in this charming little cafe that looks out on the square in front of St Joseph's Cathedral

We enjoyed a fresh fruit juice before heading back to Hai Phong. It would be lovely to sit out on the balcony and look through the trees at the passing parade in the busy square below.... next time.

We were pretty quiet on the ride home... dozing. We were making good time when the traffic came to a stand-still. Minh (Helle's driver) edged the car to the side of the road and got out and talked to some locals, then next thing we knew he'd found a side track to an overpass, and we were soon passing the traffic jam along a narrow local road on the other side of the highway... it felt like we were heading down the wrong side of the road, but we were on the outside of the guard rail, so it was OK. It wasn't long before we came to an intersection that gave us access to the correct side of the highway beyond the road block... brilliant piece of driving!

So the trip home took less than 2 hours. It was a beaut day with lovely company - a bit of the hoi paloi.


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