We’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that the first taxi ride in any new country will, very likely be a rip off. You are arriving at an airport or train station or bus station, you’re tired and you just want to get to the hotel... easy prey. To decrease the rip off we shared the cab ride (lets say ride-share as he had no signs or meter) from the bus station into Hanoi’s old quarter with Abby, a zoology graduate from country New South Wales, who we met on the bus. We checked into the Hanoi Pho Hotel and a room that proves you get what you pay for and we paid $22.00!! then headed out to re-explore the old quarter.
It had been a few years since we had been here last and it still had the same vibrancy though the traffic felt a little more aggressive and the streets a little more touristy. We tried to find a cool brew pub I had frequented in the past but it had sadly closed. Heading back to the hotel we stopped at a street vender for some really good Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls stuffed with mushrooms and minced shallots) and a couple of beers.....Hanoi was always going to be about the food...and beer.
Bia Hoi is local beer that is kegged each night and delivered very early each morning as it has no preservatives and is so fresh it has to be drunk within 24 hrs, street venders tap the keg and pour directly into glasses.
We had read about a restaurant near the west lake that had preserved its ration era ambiance called Trade Shop #37 so we thought we should check it out that evening, it was nice and the decor cool but... street food still gets my vote. On the way back to the hotel we passed another lively street corner with several venders selling bia hoi and food.. Dinner when we return from Halong bay sorted.
....Three days later it didn’t disappoint the food was great and the intersection endlessly entertaining.
One of the joys of travelling without a fixed schedule is your ability to change on a whim. Belinda’s friend Cynthia had recently facebooked about her stay in Ninh Binh, it looked amazing so we thought what the heck lets nip down and check it out. We asked at the hotel about train tickets, $15.00 each, not bad, but I had seen on the web a price of $10.00 so we strolled the 10 minutes to the train station to see if it was cheaper there- $4.50 each!!! ie a saving of $21.00 or 96 bia hois. On the way to the station there is a point where you can actually walk along the tracks with a quite amazing back story.