Have started a little travelpod blog specifically for this trip, which is cool because it has a little mapped itinerary, so I’ll be cross posting my blogs onto here to keep everyone up to date! Here’s what I wrote on Saturday morning, after arriving at Lily’s parents’ house in Kim Ma Street, Hanoi.
Arrived in Hanoi after our homely, comely 12 hour flight with Vietnam airlines, 1am Londom, 6:45 Hanoi time. My friend Thuy, whom I met in London around this time last year, was kind enough to get an early bus to the airport and pick us up, which was just as well as she haggled our taxi fare down whilst I was still dazed trying to work out why Natwest had blocked my debit card already.
I didn’t actually realise but we’re only half way through the monsoon season over here, so although it was 23 degrees outside at 7am it was pouring with rain and grey. Everyone gets around on these little mopeds and cool coloured macs. So we’re going to have period heavy rain for the next couple of weeks before it stretches into beautiful, clear autumn weather.
The taxi squeezed right down past all these stray mopeds into Kim Ma alley, where my friend Lily’s (whom I also met in London last year) parents’ house is. It’s a long market street, full of stalls of most kind and selling street food and fruits that I didn’t recognise. At first we couldn’t find the house and I worried I’d copied the wrong address, but Thuy was on fine form and phoned Lily’s mum Loi, who we then bumped into in the street after her morning shopping round. She is very beautiful, looks young, very much like Lily, and very kind. Luckily I’d met her once in London when she made dinner for us, so she recognised me!
Now I’d told lily about my Vietnamese lessons and so I think her mum was unfortunately expecting me to speak a bit more than I do… Luckily the bold Thuy helped us with introductions before heading off, and Luke and I gave Loi some English Earl Grey tea and a mug with the London tube map on it (v original gifts), along with a card Thuy helped me write. And £80 worth of Diabetes supplements from Holland and Barrett on commission from Lily. We’ve henceforth managed to stumble along using the dictionary as a mutual reference point.
The house is beautiful, much bigger than the other ones on this street, all the floors have been laid with varnished dark brown wood. It’s a lot like my aunt Helene’s in Marseille. We’ve got Lily’s room at the top of the house. Her mum Loi soon invited us down for breakfast (our 7th meal in less than 24 hours) and served us bread, warm milk, followed by warm, fresh soy milk mixed with rice milk (delicious) and bowl of what looked like boiled limes. I just started eating them whole as I figured if they needed peeling someone would have said something, and they tasted a tiny bit bitter, very much like a pear in texture.
Then Loi chopped us up something that looked like a marrow from the outside, pinkey orange on the inside and tasted like a melon, only more delicate (with a slightly fermented aftertaste). Luke was a bit overwhelmed by all the fruit, he’s not that much of a fruit guy normally, but we kept eating even though we were full. And after much searching through the dictionary Loi told us they were guava and papaya, respectively.
We’re extremely lucky with Loi, because she is a devout Buddhist and follows a fairly strict vegetarian diet herself, and so the food she will cook for us is the food she herself eats on a daily basis. We’ve gone upstairs for a much needed nap (it’s 6 am for us with the jetlag, not slept yet, feeling a bit forgetful), but in the kitchen Loi has all her bowls out and looks like she’s peeling huge bunches of Morning Glory for us that she must have got from the street market outside for us this morning. I could also see a bowl of fresh tofu and shiitake mushrooms. Extremely excited about what she’s going to make with it. We just met her dad too, who seemed a bit confused initially as to who we were but warmed to us kindly. Bit overwhelmed by how hospitable everyone is being. Lily called and said she’d be back in a couple of weeks to look after us, but until then we have her family (mysterious English speaking brother, Bom), Thuy and another pal Giang who’ve kindly offered to meet up whilst we’re in town. Need a rest now, sensory overload. Along with all these tropical bird noises, there’s the sound of a child screaming loudly in the street outside and the occasional shouts of a man. Lots to think about, lots to plan and learn.