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Taking it Slow: Shopping in the Old Quarter

  • Culture
  • Tourism
  • Travel

I woke up with a very dry mouth and a groggy head; two signs of a great night.

Waiting out the front of the hotel, I'm watching with continued bemusement as the traffic goes by. Those images you see of unbelievable loads on vehicles on the 'net, they're all normalised by this city. I've seen scooters transporting 10 metre construction beams, or a family of 5, and a push bike carrying a load the size of a small car. People texting while riding it's such a regular occurance that I don't even notice it any more.

Thuong arrived, and we grabbed a coffee over the road while we waited for Dung. Then a cab ride to the old quarter via Cafe Mai, one of Hà Nội's best known coffee houses, to buy a couple of Vietnamese coffee makers and some coffee. Looking forward to brewing my first cuppa when I get home.

The old quarter is more touristy than where I'm staying, and I notice the sudden increase in white skin. The locals line the streets with their stalls and shops; selling everything from meat and seafood, to hardware and yarn. Souvenir stores dot the streetscape and scooters weave their way through the lot. I pop in to a couple of places looking for gifts and find a beautiful pottery chopstick container with an ornate dragon design on the lid. A bit too heavy to take on the plane though, so I just stroke it a little and move on.

It seems that food is the way of life here, and a huge part of their social activities. We stop at a little place that sells fruit and yoghurt in a glass - quite common, it seems - and I try an avocado, pawpaw and coffee thick shake. I was curious how the coffee would go with those fruits, and it went very well indeed.

On we walked to Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle Tower, and meandered towards food before returning to the hotel. Unfortunately there is still work to be done, but tonight, I party again.

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