The first evening after catching up with our daughter in Hanoi we retired for much needed rest. A wonderful shower after an extended journey is refreshing – but with a time difference of plus 14 hours I woke up at 3:00am and could not get back to sleep, so I meditated – a good use of time.
At 6:00am I prepared for the day. Breakfast begins service at 7:00am…the Vietnamese rise early because of the heat, and try to get work done in the morning. At 12 noon it is very warm due to the humidity, so most take naps from 12 to 2:00 and then resume work around 3:00.
The hotel offered Western and Vietnamese breakfast. Fresh fruit – pineapple, mango, dragon fruit in abundance, orange juice, tea…and a breakfast made to order, of one’s choice. I began with the western breakfast – eggs, toast and fruit, and was not disappointed. We met other Fulbrights who were departing to different locales – the 2013-2014 Fulbright session was over, and everyone wanted to take advantage of travel opportunities in Southeast Asia before making the journey home.
After breakfast, daughter set us up with a local tour group that assigns young students to tour foreigners to enhance their English or language skills called Hanoi Free Tour Guides. We were assigned two lovely young ladies, Hoai Phuong Pham and Hao Phung, who showed us the Temple of Literature in Hanoi – the temple of Confucius in Hanoi, and Vietnam’s first national university. We walked through five courtyards, and lit incense to give thanks for this moving educational expedition.
It was a warm day and we broke for lunch at Koto Cafe, a restaurant that serves as a platform for Vietnamese disadvantaged young trainees practicing hospitality service & culinary arts. KOTO stands for “Know One, Teach One” – as a social enterprise it has trained over 400 students. The food was a welcome oasis, and the chosen Vietnamese fare – vegetables, fish, chicken, noodles – was precisely cooked and the hospitality was friendly & professional. KOTO does a superb job.
Food and meals were to be a highlight of our visit to Vietnam. Our family enjoys well-prepared food – especially fresh fruits and vegetables – prepared precisely, with flair, and we were not disappointed. The Vietnamese meals we enjoyed were amazing, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to enjoy this exceptional cuisine. And just a note – the Vienamese do enjoy different forms of protein – I refrained from tasting foods I was not used to, as it doesn’t suit my palate, but its something I respect of the culture.
That evening our daughter took us to a contemporary Vietnamese coffee house L’Usine, where we discovered tasty salads and a spectacular authentic banh mi sandwich. Attached is a fun boutique. The Vietnamese use fresh produce daily (it is a must), and there is freshly baked light but crispy French bread, an influence from the early French colonialists. Good food is important to one’s balance and health – and enjoying it indicates feng shui wealth & prosperity. We ate & drank to that!
In gratitude, Janet Mitsui Brown, www.thejoyoffengshui.com