24.03.2009 80 °F
Second day back in Hanoi and we plan to meet another friend of S at Cinemateque. In the meantime it’s a good opportunity to do the last bit of souvenir shopping and maybe hit the Temple of Literature, do a bit of culture. We step into the streets of Old Quarter Hanoi again, finally armed with a decent map, and making our way north we lose ourselves in the sights and smells of the city. Down a street that sells silk, another selling trinkets, we head down the small side street where we purchased our wonderful fruit smoothies, was that only a week ago? We sit and order a hoa qua (we think) it is what we would otherwise call che in the pho restaurants back in Portland. It is a mixture of fresh fruits, condensed milk, coconut milk, tapioca pearls and shaved ice. A little chopping with the long handled spoon and you have yourself a tasty early afternoon treat during a hot muggy day that holds us until lunch. Off again and down streets that are selling cooking wares (L picks up a small tart pan for a mere $4), restaurant supplies, metal and glass cabinets. Down more streets with storefronts selling hinges, rope, store fixtures, hardware (“Home Depot Street” we call it), and shops that sell nothing but tape! “Costco Street” is lined with bulk items: rice, flour, cases of colas and beer, huge jars of spices, and boxes of noodles. We are lost, good thing we have a map. It’s almost lunch time and the vendors have set up charcoal grills on the sidewalks, tiny plastic stools have locals perched on top of them as they dip their chopsticks into noodles and soups. We consult our map and decide to head back toward Hoan Kiem Lake through streets of brightly lit lanterns and wedding decorations. We check out 69 Bar on Ma May Street. We are constantly barraged by the request “Yoo-hoo, cyclo, Madam?” A kind “No thank you!” with a smile will deter them. 69 Bar is located at 69 Pho Ma May in a restored old house from early last century. There’s a marker on the front of the house, noting that it was a safe house during the resistance when the Vietnamese were struggling to shake off the French. The house is dark wood and has a low ceiling with a narrow, steep wooden stair case that leads to the second floor and a lovely covered balcony with higher ceilings and shuttered windows that are open. Fans on the ceiling help to circulate the still air and we sit. First we order a couple of iced coffees, S. has hers black and I get one with chocolate and coconut (why not!?). On closer inspection of the menu it divulges that they have banana blossom salad, a treat I have been dying to try again since we had it at a Bia Hoi at the start of our stay. We also order a serving of Hue style spring rolls. Now, I must say, as much as I love all the new and wonderful foods that have been presented before me on this marvelous trip and as much as I was ecstatic to find banana blossom salad again, we will definitely be going back to 69 Bar to get the Hue style spring rolls again!! The. Best. Spring. Rolls. Ever! Filled with a shrimp mousse, taro and carrots they are wrapped in rice wrappers and deep fried served with a very mild chili vinegar fish sauce. What a find! Oh, and good banana blossom salad, too.
We have missed our opportunity to visit the Temple of Literature today as the afternoon climbs to early evening. We make our way back to the hotel to freshen up and head over to our little oasis at Cinemateque to meet S’s friend.