A Trip to Hanoi Inspires Bánh Mì Crostini and Vietnamese Pâté

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We had a wonderful four days. They say four days is not a vacation, just a few days off. Short as it may be but perhaps more importantly, in a symbolic way.


banh mi


These few days to Hanoi marks our first family trip; together in a big troop, now with little ones and a few new family members.We begin each day slow, never in a rush. In the mornings, Me and Michael would wake up earlier than usual, rolling out of bed still half awake, sliding the balcony door open. We stood outside in the stillness for a moment, looking out the balcony to the lake with our sleepy eyes. Inhaling the morning air, the air smells earthy and dewy with the overhauls of traffic fumes from yesterday, a distance away. Listening to the bird and the trees rustling.The lake is dreamy with the morning haze. In a distance, blurry without my glasses, I will point out a fisherman or two fishing by the lake as the sun is just about to come up. We will watch them throw out their fishing rod and reel in, In awhile, our tummies will start to grumble. That was just a brief perfect moment of togetherness before we get change and head out for strong coffee and big hotel breakfast.


In the afternoons, we would head to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the reminiscences of the French colonial stood heavy on the building architecture, unscathed from the decades of war. We will roam the narrow and wonderfully atmospheric streets. There's a kind of romantic nostalgia to it. The streets are impossible to cross. It's a leap of faith and one must embrace with the bravest heart to do that. Somehow we managed to cross them each time, me holding my breath and squeezing his hands each time. We zigzagged through the roads. Me, trusting his lead. Most of the time we found ourselves totally lost. That was good because we discovered new things along the way. There was no rush, because I have all the time in the world to have him hold and lead me. Anywhere will do.Sometimes we would bump into my brother and my sister-in-law on the streets along the way, and we would all agree to find some street snacks or hunt for a quaint street cafe for some Vietnamese dripping coffee. Balancing on small stools (it's so tiny that the stool only covers half of your butt), we sipped coffee facing the streets, like everyone else, we watched the humid day pass, There's a kind of stillness to the coffee ritual, very much like the way the French do. The Vietnamese take the coffee ritual seriously. Drinking coffee are made more special in that sense when you take notice of the surroundings not just the book or the screen on your laptop like we are so used to now living in cosmopolitan cities. Oh... the civet-cat coffee, I must say, the aromas of coffee was wonderfully rich and smoky with hints of chocolate. We should all take time with our coffee. Shouldn't we all? 

After all, the day starts only after coffee.

We bought many things along the way, tagging along the mother hen like how we used to be when we were little. I realize how much I miss those family shopping days. My mother would go shop for souvenirs and dresses. We would murk around, never roaming far, maybe sometimes a few shops down the road  in search of Vietnamese popsicles. But waiting for her to do the her shopping and comment fervently on her choice when she called for one.In the late afternoon, the weather settled for humidity. We will merge back to the hotel for a dip at the pool, playing water games with the little ones till it's time to refuel for dinner. Food was the highlight as well. There are a few things we sought after. And had walked miles in search of good food with an untrustworthy map, confused road signs, directions from the locals we done understand. Pho Bo, the light Vietnamese noodles with beef broth was my brother's usual call. He ordered that at every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner without fail. I suspected his extra room service bills were all Pho Bo for supper as well. Michael needed his fresh spring rolls. He said it's a delicious little salad rolled up in one two bites. Mine was Banh Mi, anyone from the street will do, because they all looked so amazingly delicious.


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