Second full day in Hanoi and we decide to devote some time to shopping. L and I took off into the Old Quarter to see what goodies might need to be tucked into our suitcases when we return. There's no end to the souvenir shops, the silk shops, the tailors and the touts. We explored a few places off the main drags (Hang Gai Street), and were rewarded with some bargains- the same items at a lower price than on the main street. Around one corner was a fruit stand, with a young woman making smoothies out of tall glasses of gorgeous cut fruit . She'd blend it with a little ice, some sweetened condensed milk and, if desired, add some tapioca pearls. I had an avocado smoothie and Laura had strawberry. Unbelievable flavor! We're definitely coming back to this stand. Once you start shopping and start showing interest in the wares of just about any vendor then all sorts of characters start to accost you to buy from them. We hadn't gone 10 feet from the smoothie stand when a woman carrying a bag of tshirts decided that we needed to purchase one. She would not go away, insisting that it was her first day and that we should have a heart and buy a tshirt from her. She followed us for blocks. This gets old - fast. Part way down another street a basket woman (the kind that you should watch when you want to cross one of these busy Hanoi streets "follow the basket women, they know what to do") badgered L to try balancing the bar of baskets, and while she's at it, wear her conical hat and wouldn't it make a great picture! No price! Suddenly a bar was on her shoulder, the hat was on her head and the woman was trying desparately to take L's camera from off her neck so that a picture could be taken. L was almost choked and the baskets dangled precariously and were in great danger of toppling off her shoulder and into the street. What a mess! And when another one approached us to offer the same thing L decided that the basket women were to be avoided from then on. We happened upon a food market and headed down the narrow walk, taking pictures and marveling at the meats and seafood and the produce on display. No Pike's Place Market here, the fish are still swimming in shallow buckets and the meats are being chopped and ground on makeshift cutting tables. You carefully make your way down the aisles, avoiding fish cleaning run off, scooters dashing to their vendors loaded with product and low hanging awnings ready to envelope your head if you fail to duck at the appropriate times. The smells, the women chattering, the cats lounging and the fish splashing. It was all very exciting.