Sunday, October 30, 2016

Eating street in Hanoi

I will be honest. 

My influence to visit Hanoi was inspired by Mr Bourdain (again), not from the legendary visit that the world knew so much, on stools with Mr Obama over Bun Ca. But from No Reservations, after a whole day of crazy at work with a bowl of ice cream thinking how blegh the world could get. That episode, he was in Hoi An, cruising through the buzzing streets enjoying the good things in life; good food.

That looks so good I said.

There are so many good things in life. Like great new friends, new hair, new clothes, a good dinner, some good movies, and GOOD FOOD. This is a terrible introduction, but the food photos are coming, so please bear with me.

I wanted to be more impromptu and spontaneous in life, and this was that trip that I was. I decided on a few days before the actual date, and had very little research. Which is quite unlike me, I usually spend months ahead researching for the places I'm visiting, learning a thing or two about their culture (except for Shanghai of course, this span of a few weeks were the busiest I've been), their food and their language. SO - because I only had one goal in mind; food, and I had no knowledge about it, I decided I was going to ask for help. For the sake of food, I asked for help.

I met Tho online while I was researching for Hanoi street food. I emailed her about my intentions to write about eating street in Hanoi, or just eating in Hanoi in general and she wholeheartedly helped me out. From outlining the places to eat, down right to its location and photos of the places to some history about it. She was an angel.

In ALL of my trips, FOOD has always been one of the main underlying theme. I usually jot down notes on some of the things to try, and where I can try and get them, but in any case that I don't get to experience it, I would be fine with it and move on.

Until, this Hanoi trip. 

I decided, food would be my focus. I weighed in the idea that I would look like a balloon after this trip, but it didn't matter, I wanted to explore this very idea, and this very idea, I explored.

These were some off the food I've tried in Hanoi within the span of a few days. Some things have pork, please take note.

I arrived Hanoi approximately 12pm, just in time for LUNCH. So after check ins, and numerous messages with Tho, I finally met up with Tho, and there was no greater introduction to Vietnam food than the legendary Bun Cha. Never underestimate the connection of food two can make :p We walked towards the streets of Hanoi, zig zagged through the hundreds of bikes and back alleys. I will not remember this place, I told myself. 

Bun Ca at Old Quarter 

That setting, the insides of an alley, by the road on Vietnam's famous stool and small table, was a remarkable intro. This was Bun Ca [(Bun - round rice noodle and Ca (fish) with Ca Cuon (roll) Thit (meat)]. Tho carefully explained to me that the most important thing, "lies in the broth" - and this broth was magical alright. Freshly made and served while hot, it's a stew of fresh Vietnamese herbs, veggies, fried fish, pineapple and tomatoes. With a side of pork wrapped in freshly fried fish dipped into the famous fish sauce enjoyed best with slurps of this soup in between.

Fk, I made myself hungry.

We went to the one around the Old Quarter.

Lo and behold; freshly made bun ca, with cold Vietnam tea and fish sauce. 

^Ca Cuon Tit, pork wrapped in fish 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Thank you Tho

Dear Tho,

Thank you for having me in Hanoi, and for taking care of me within the few hours that I stepped onto Hanoi. Thank you for introducing to me the wonders of Vietnam cuisines, welcoming some of the most amazing culinary experiences I've ever had into my life. Now I can't wait to experiment and try to make my own Vietnamese cuisines (they seem quite easy but who am I kidding!!).

Thank you for navigating me through some of the oldest alleys, into the beautiful colourful buzzing streets of Hanoi and for inviting me to have meals with you in the most awkward positions I've ever been in. Knee to knee, elbow to elbow on one of the smallest tool I've sat on with monoxide blowing to my face. Ah, life is very good :)

I have never lived enough, the least, till I did all of that. Thank you again. xxx 

Thank you for introducing me to each and every one of the dish we've explored together. You were so FUNNY, patient, kind and obviously knowledgeable about everything. For taking the time to explain the differences between each dish, the textures, the methods, to relate with me to some of the dishes back home, the type of ingredients, and for hilariously answering my silly questions about everything. About the food, Hanoi's history and so forth. I had so much laughs and learned so much from you.

Thank you for opening your heart and some parts of your life to me, about your turmoil past. From seeing your parents drift away, to being abducted to hunger strikes. My life is no where close to that much of a drama you've had to endure, and the way you looked at life... is so fascinating! As you take the time to inch day by day in your established career in a fascinating industry., I love how you look at life full of humour and reflection, and taking each and every phases of your life as episodes, ready for the next.

I love how you are taking a stand to take a different course in your life in the near future. What is it about being comfortable to change that is so .. admirable? Uprooting yourself especially, taking a different path in life sounds like an awesome way of living.. Is life too short for the same thing? I've talked about doing things like that, either I'm not as adventurous as I thought I am, or I just don't know how to, or where to start? Maybe both.

As I overlook the Hoan Kiem Lake from a roof top view on one of the oldest cafe in Hanoi with you with Jessy J's price tag as background with you singing to it. I registered into my heart; moments that are so beautiful, so foreign, but still so familiar reminding me of home wherever I am at moments like these. And to the friends I've met along my travels who have been so kind to me, almost strangers of a family, I can never put the price on your time and kindness.

To sum it all, thank you for your friendship. Please wait for my Hanoi posts!
See you again :)

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Turning a year older // travelling alone

Man this journal is becoming a complete and wholesome travel journal day by day. And I'm not so sure about that.. Eventhough I did change the title to 'Travel with Me', I'm not sure I want to completely disconnect my honest thoughts away from this space and focus completely on my travels. (which are honest account of them also anyway) *emoticon thinking face*

Anyway, I turned a year older last week and in true Jacqkie fashion, I hopped onto the plane to go somewhere new, somewhere foreign, and made some new friends :) And yes, I flew to Hanoi, Vietnam for my birthday. By myself.

I didn't had the time to update everyone about it (except for mum, sister and bro) and a handful of girlfriends, plus the moment I arrived Hanoi, I was so overwhelmed by the traffic that after a day of out in the streets of Hanoi, I was so beat I can't even form proper updates on Insta...

I have decided that this trip is purely.. FOODCATION. 

Yup, you saw it right. As if I haven't had enough food in my life right? *pinches my chubby cheeks* NO. I LOVE FOOD. I LOVE GOOD FOOD. I LOVE GOOD FOOD WITH GOOD COMPANY. Life is too short for one type of food. Life is too short for the same food. And a good meal, delicious freshly made food is what gets me going!

Okay enough food and caps in one place.

So I did as I promised to myself. There was nothing else in my itinerary except for.. street food. And I mean, by STREET FOOD. Road side, by the pavements delicious street food. I didn't step into any one restaurant or "proper shop" at all, I was just grabbing things as I see from the street and from the street vendors with the help of my instinct, crowd indicator and with the advise and help from my lovely new Hanoi friends!

I roamed freely around the streets of Hanoi (like I always do), and felt the happiest and at ease at everything. I really feel at peace travelling alone these days. It wasn't always like that though I must admit. When I first travelled alone back in 2010, I FELT SO LONELY. Being in the airport terminal alone was still okay, because I can plug into music, finally feel that I could settle my mind at ease after crazy days at work. But upon reaching my destination, seeing interesting things and eating alone - WAH THAT WAS THE TOUGHEST. I mean, look at this beautiful painting? Who to tell? Can you feel this amazing material? Anyone else want to feel this material?? And this delicious food? Anyone wants to share with me? No one??? No one?? No one?!! Okay no one then...

(don't get me started about meeting people while travelling alone, that's a new discussion itself)

It started as boredom, to lonely, to accepting it, to embracing it, to enjoying it! 

^Hanoi beer with fermented fried pork at the Old Quarter

As I get older, as I slowly embrace solitary discoveries I begin to truly, genuinely enjoy travelling by myself. Waking up at any time I want, and being okay with missing all the tourist attractions, yes I travelled all the way to this part of the world to CHILL, so yes we missed a few places, is anyone gonna die? Or what about eating what I want? Do you know how tricky it is to be so diplomatic about eating together sometimes? What do you want to eat? Anything la. I'm okay one. You? Anything lah. (okay, maybe I will be forever alone T_T) Sleeping alone? How is that a problem again...?! You mean I get to starfish and roll around however I want to? *pun may-be intended* The point is, the beauty in being with yourself is limitless if only you choose to see it.

Back to Hanoi, I took the time to eye on things to eat and taste, and experience. With the exception of two afternoons where I spent the loveliest time with Har from HanoiKids roaming around the streets of Hanoi going through history and colours.


My point is: life has been great. It feels great to be older, not sure about wiser, but I have started to learn to think for myself first. This "another coming of age realisation" is refreshing I must say. I am learning to manage my self esteem, this is work in progress. Self esteem is a magical thing. You can look a million bucks but if you constantly feel the need of approval by people, then there's something amiss. You can have a million bucks, but if you constantly feel that things are not enough then you will always feel not enough. When will we ever feel enough? You can look like me (which is terrible in most days) but if you feel content good to go through the day, you would feel just as positive. As I get older, I begin to differentiate between what really matters to me, and what doesn't. I have no time for terrible people in my life. Now I surround myself with the love of my family, my handful of best friends, spending quality time to unwind and talking to God. Yeah, really, like just stare at my walls and speak to him/her about my worries and troubles. I really feel the weight take off from my shoulders when I do that.

Who exactly are we waiting to fix help us? But us? 

Last but not least, thank you everyone for your wishes and for your kind thoughts. I can feel them. I can truly feel them buzzing around me like the warmth of a hot chocolate does to you. I have made some pretty awesome friends throughout the year, and true real friends over the past few years :)

Okay gtg, ttyl back to living life!
More posts about Hanoi coming soon!

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.