Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hanoi: Food

We seemed to spend a reasonable amount of this trip either eating or looking at food and of course, drinking

We arrived on Thursday night and were directed to a couple of good restaurants down our street by our hotel.  We ended up at Cafe 69 which is a westernised restaurant - catering to the tourists and in the guidebooks - but the food was excellent and cheap.  A shared starter of spring rolls, 2 mains and a number of beers cost us under NZD 25.  Tiger is the big beer here and it was very good.  We tried the Hanoi beer but it wasn't so good.

We went local with a street restaurant sitting on miniature plastic stools.  Seeing the world go by from the lower viewpoint was fun and the food good.


A really great lunch was at a place recommended by Sarah Jordan.  Koto is a training restaurant http://www.koto.com.au/ training street kids in hospitality.  It was a slick service and we enjoyed the food very much.



Then there was really lovely meal at a more expensive restaurant "Green Tangerine"  Our starter soup was three soups - which we thought would come in three bowls but it came in a glass with them layered on top of each other - and they were delicious Beef broth on top, Coconut rice in the middle, and onions in red wine on the bottom.  Amazingly the flavours complemented each other superbly.



Followed by Steak and potato gratin, complemented by a lovely red wine it was a very nice meal.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Vientiane

The 24th of December was nominated as Christmas Day for the Jacksons in Vientiane.  Two daughters had managed to co-ordinate seperate Asian holidays to be in Vientiane at the same time.  Sounds easy but with two partners plus three other travelling companions coming from seperate directions for a while it seemed like a logistical nightmare, but it did come together.

Sophie travelling with Hayley, Courtney, Alex & Jane came to Vientiane on the 17th without the others.  Andrew had a fun time showing her the town on our bikes for the one day she had before she rejoined the others on an overnight bus south.  They would return on the 22nd December.


Chloe and Aidan flew in from Siam Reap, Cambodia on the 21st and Andrew started to get more proficient at tour guide duties.


Sophie and Hayley arrived back on the 22nd, and their travelling companions on the 23rd.

Christmas Day (i.e. the 24th) was a beautiful calm, clear & warm Vientiane day.  Aidan and Andrew (in matching BeerLao t-shirts) supervised the Barbeque.  Lamb, Chicken, and Sausages were on the menu.


Salads were made and some Fizz was consumed.  Christmas lunch was eaten outside, under the umbrellas by the pool.


 

Some swimming followed by some water fights. Andrew has perhaps decided to retire from the water fighting arena based on his results on Xmas day???

And a nice suprise end to the day was when we walked over to the local beer garden for an evening bite, Santa came around and gave all the tables little sweeties.

The following day, Christmas day for everyone else, all the travellers headed off, some north to Vang Vieng and the rest off on the overnight train to Bangkok.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hanoi: Vietnam: Traffic

The traffic in Hanoi is constant and loud.  Some riders and drivers seem to have become addicted to using their horns. 

The only way to cross the road is to wait for a small gap in the traffic, step out and head across to the other side at a steady pace.  The vehicles go easily around you and after the 1st heart stopping time doing it, it really is easy and works well.  The best advice is to try and cross when there is a child or old person on your traffic side, but that isn't always possible :-)

The traffic in the centre of town with 5 streets feeding into this square - and it all flows.


And if you watch the video below you will see Andrew (white shirt, blue trousers and quite tall) on the other side of the street, centre of screen, and his calm & steady journey through the melee.


 

Motorbikes and bicycles are the vehicular beasts of burden.  Some of the loads we saw were quite staggering.



It took 3 people to lift whatever was in this green sack onto the back of this bike.  We are not sure how he drove away or the state of the bike suspension

Andrew spotted a man loading 2 metal girders onto to his bicycle and had to stop, lend a hand, and only because of the language difference did he refrain from giving the chap advice. But he kept a close eye on proceedings. Lucky Andrew can't understand Vietnamese and 'go away strange foreigner who is staring at me'


And for the tourists the cycle taxi still cruises the streets


For ease of access to the footpath for parking, use a curb-step ladder which gets moved along the parking spot as needed







Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hanoi: the old Quarter and the lake

Friday 10th December was our 1st day in Hanoi and we walked and we walked and we walked.  We had a hotel in the old quarter that was conveniently located, clean, quite cheap with really helpful staff. 

We had a walking map to follow and it concentrated on the various streets in the old quarter.  In the old quarter streets have the name of the goods that were, and often still are, sold there.  So there is a shoe street, paper street, silk street, carpet street, bamboo street - you get the picture.


The streets are vibrant and there are a large number of small shops in this capitilist communist country.  The old buildings are maintained rather than being bowled over and are often side-by-side with new buildings.  Every shopfront is quite narrow, but the buildings extend back a fair distance.  This was due to an old tax based on the width of your street front

Dotted throughout are the streets were the communal houses.  Each of these was set up by the guild and once inside the gates you enter a quiet inner sanctum away from the traffic people and noise.  We went into a few of these and at one a lady opened an area for us to see the other temples and artefacts.



We walked around the lake - Sword Lake.  Last month Hanoi had celebrations to mark 1000 years!





Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another Project Completed

As of Friday Andrew has completed his project with the Ministry.  It was a challenging assignment, but also rewarding.

On his last day he was given a traditional Lao silk jacket - fully lined etc and a silk scarf for his wife.  These gifts were from the Director General, and were totally unexpected.


He is now working improving his cooking and ironing skills - which gives him a definite incentive to look for another project. 

He has a goal to master the washing machine.  The first time he used it a couple of months ago the program options he selected would have had a four hour wash cycle - so he deferred that load until someone more skilled came home to help him.  The first load he did since becoming a man of leisure was done at the highest temperature possible and resulted in one light blue t-shirt and one white blouse taking on a red tinge (we are still not sure how he manged that as there was nothing red in the load).  I had left the house refusing to write down the steps saying something along the lines 'nothing could go wrong, just follow your nose' - lesson learnt!

Cooking so far has been masterful, delicious and somewhat innovative.  He is doing very well on this front.

He has managed to confuse most of the locals he has encountered in his shopping endevours, but we hold out hope this will improve for everyone's sake.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bike Hash

On another fine warm Sunday here in Vientiane we went on our first bike hash - 25km or so. 


Hash House Harriers are found around the world and are non-competitive running & walking and socialising & drinking clubs.  A trail is set by the 'Hare' beforehand and along the way markers in chalk or paper dropped and the Hashers  work out where the trail is supposed to go.  Afterwards there is a 'circle' and a review of the evening's proceedings/banter/drinking/eating.  We have been to one of the weekly after-work runs and met some very interesting people.

Then there is a monthly bicycle hash.  We turned up at the Nam Phu fountain in the centre of town at 9:00am meeting time.  By the time everyone's bikes had been loaded onto the trucks and utes there were about 24 people - and more people than seats inside the member's vehicles.


Unloading the bikes
Andrew had his first experience of the local custom of packing as many humans in the back tray of a ute.  He got to ride the 20 minutes out to the location of the ride with the wind whipping through his hair - like a cow on it's way to the works.  At times he wasn't sure just where to hold the ute as the driver was reaching some very good speeds and had great acceleration.  The ladies managed to get a seat inside the vehicles.

The ride set off and went through villages, round ponds, down roads, on sand, on dirt, alongside rice paddies... and one snake was seen rearing up in the grass



Decisions, decisions, do we go left now or is the marker to the right????


People got lost and had to be rounded up at the two pre determined beer stop destinations.  One after about 9 km, the 2nd after about another 9km, and another 7km back to base...all up the DIRECT route was supposed to be 25km.  We probably did a bit more with the back tracking.


Back at base about 2:30pm and some well deserved beers and lunch.  We grabbed a ride back to town and spent a  v e r y, v e r y, quiet evening - it had been hard work!

Monday, November 29, 2010

W.I.G Annual Bazaar

Once a year the W.I.G (Women's International Group) run a Bazaar.  It is quite an event on the Vientiane calendar and there were crowds in attendance.

In the central covered-outdoor hall, school groups provide entertainment and they seemed to be having a superb time, singing, dancing, martial arts...it was all going on.


There were plenty of stalls selling everything from silk to handmade furniture.  The number of food stalls was wonderful and the quality of food very high.


Perhaps the best attended stall of them all was the bric-a-brac.  There was a crowd of local people gathered around the clothing table - they obviously thought they were on to a bargin.  


The bouncy castle was one of the largest we have seen in a long time



Not allowed to go on the bouncy castle, Andrew's little eyes lit up when he found the home baking stand!