Exotic food in the smog of Hanoi

Great breakfast at Hanoi 3B Homestay

A lovely welcome by the taxi driver and the 3B homestay in Hanoi set us off on a great start to our 4 week stay in Vietnam.

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Feeling like Christmas at 3B homestay

Paul had booked the penthouse in 3B Honesty which was, clean, big and amazing. First feel of crisp cotton sheets that we’ve had in a long while, soft mattresses and one of the best breakfasts on our trip so far.

2 days in Hanoi with kids

We spent 2 days wondering the streets of Hanoi trough the old quarter, the french quarters, around the lake as well as exploring the many little shops and street stalls.

The first day of wandering around here we were marvelling at the exotic feel of this place, much more like China then Thailand, not quite what we were expecting.

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One of many food stalls where to local hang out and eat

We were surprised to find that the thick grey skies covering Hanoi gave us all a cough and a headache already by lunchtime on day 1. Even more surprising to find that heavy smog and thick air pollution is not mentioned anywhere in the Hanoi travel guides.

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Thick blanket of smog in Hanoi

Exotic and tasty street food in Hanoi

Despite the smog, we enjoyed some of our most exotic food on our trip so far here. Our first lunch was at a little street stall in the old quarter where we had, among other things, shredded pork which a constancy of candy floss that simply melted  away in your mouth.

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Candy floss beef for lunch in Hanoi

In the evening we enjoyed some more tasty street food in the old quarter. Warning! Although the food was good, we got ripped off big time here by the friendly owner who pretended he had no menu to show us, then served us the most expensive food he had and magically producing a menu when he gave us the bill to prove he was entitled to charge us a ridiculous amount of money. Never eat in Hanoi without establishing the price first!

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More street food – BBQ pork ribs!

The following day we had lunch at a little street full of stalls serving food. Scott opted for snail soup, which was interesting but not that tasty.

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Selection of snails for lunch

We had promised the kids we would enjoy some french desserts here so In the afternoon we went hunting for French Patisseries and ended up in an expensive hotel eating creme brûlée and creme caramel. Delicious!

Awful traffic & thick smog – time to get out of Hanoi

Beautiful water puppet theatre in the afternoon followed by traditional Vietnamese style dinner. Although we enjoyed exploring the streets and the food, the noise and smog from the never ending hoards of traffic, make any time spent here pretty grim. We all had headaches, sore thoughts and felt generally ill from the thick layer of smog that covers the city. Its especially hard work spending time here with the kids as you have to focus on keeping them safe from traffic at all times.

Traffic does not stop here you simply have to take a deep breath and walk out into the street hoping the cars and motorbikes will drive around you, which they do most of the time.

Escaping the pollution – Vietnamese home stay in Ba Vi National park

We had planned to go North to Sappa from Hanoi, but we all felt tired from travelling and from the craziness of Hanoi and so opted to go to Ba Vi National Park, close to Hanoi instead. You can get there by local bus, but we paid a taxi 1m dong (£30)to drive us there.

In Ba Vi 1.5 hrs north west of Hanoi, unfortunately the smog was still like thick carpet overhead. Not until we got to the top of Ba Vi mountain could we take a breath of fresh air while gazing dow  at the lid of pollution below.

The homestay was a bit rustic, with little help or service for us and too far away for us to walk or cycle anywhere. It’s so not a homestay we would recommend but it was a good experience all the same.

The kids enjoyed the adventure of sleeping in the cold air under double covers in the bamboo barn while my back ached from the rock hard bed. Although the hosts here were keen to make sure we were looked after, this place lacked any comforts you need as a family to stay here, from hooks or shelves for your clothes to lunch, choice of breakfast and dinner.

The only other place to eat along the busy main road only had dog on the menu, so that was not a success either.

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Dog for dinner? No Thanks!

Back to Hanoi the next day before heading out to the coast, we opted for western lunch to lift our spirits. Its amazing what a simple burger and chips can do when you are feeling a bit run down.

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Beautiful burger

Next stop Cat Ba.

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