Bird soup

Again I’ll be honest – I’ve not done much in Hanoi since I got here. Except simply enjoy myself and pop round a couple of old haunts. Yesterday I had lunch at the Phở place around the corner. They’ve now got the menus in English as well as Vietnamese, though I still just have the Chìn!

The currency is very easy to get used to having spent a little time in Singapore. Instead of $3 to the pound, it’s â‚«30000 – so pretty much the same sums, though everything is a lot cheaper here. Lunch, with a Coke, cost me â‚«22000. This is in a fairly affluent touristy area. Had I eaten off the street a few hundred yards away I could probably have managed it for half that.

Mike, one of the owners of the hostel, turned up later in the evening. Great to see him again, especially as he’s generous with the beer! After a couple of cold Halidas and a burger from the upstairs BBQ, I joined a bunch of Aussies and a random Pom and went to Highway 4 to watch them eat, and to partake of the somewhat powerful liquor they sell there.

Dinner for them (and I pinched some) was a mixed bag recommended by the waiter. First up were catfish spring rolls followed by freshwater shrimp. I don’t do seafood (or fresh water food unless it has four legs) so I skipped these, but they were all received well by the others. The main course was a poultry soup containing sparrow, pigeon and chicken which we cooked ourselves.

Two burners were placed on the table with a soup-filled metal bowl on top. The meat was dropped into be cooked for 10 minutes or so along with herbs, spices and the like. I never realised that pigeon has a blue/grey colour once plucked, or that you could eat a whole sparrow. The bones are very soft rather than crunchy. Live and learn.

The liquors we had were a mixed bag. The fruit ones were very sweet, the non-fruit ones very similar to whisky. I went for Bổ Sa Pa, a very rich tasting liquid which evaporated on the tongue and left a very pleasant burnt cinnamon aftertaste. I’d make a wild guess that it’s about 70% proof. Powerful but tasty!

Afterwards I led the group to my favourite Bìa Hoi corner where we sat for 30 minutes or so before the girls decided that Karaoke would be such a good idea. Oh dear, oh dear. We ended up in the bar next door to the hostel necking Carlsberg and hoping that we were all drunk enough not to remember the next day.

It turns out that the Aussies, and now Griff the English guy, are heading to Sa Pa this evening, so I’ve booked myself on the same train as them. Having said that, I’m on a hard sleeper while they’re in soft as I booked after they did. No big deal. Having done various “classes” in India, I know I can sleep! I’ll also be travelling very light with just a small overnight bag on me.

The large group are going to do the trek I did last year whereas I’m meeting a guide and climbing Fansipan. The climb up and down can take anything from to to four days. I’ve opted for two so I really get pushed. It means I’ll be back in Hanoi sooner and can then move on more quickly. I like it here so much I’d just loaf around otherwise!

I’ll be somewhat out of wireless range and I doubt there’ll be cybercafes on the mountain (I hope not, anyway!), so no more posts or anything until the 27th when I return to Hanoi. With any luck I’ll have some nice photos and all my limbs still attached!

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