I've been feeling like one of the luckiest people on Earth these days. A few weeks ago, I was invited to go on a press tour sponsored by Sofitel Hotels and Cathay Pacific airline to China and Vietnam. Our Vietnam visit was in Hanoi. I have not been to Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam, since winter of 2003 – one of the coldest winters they’d had in years. This trip was the polar opposite.
It was sweltering, around 100F with humidity. But I really didn’t mind as Hanoi is now a more modern yet still charming place. The airport is bigger and the immigration people smile. The patina of slight neglect adorns many Hanoi structures.
We only had 2 full days in Hanoi and I could have remained at the Metropole Hotel, which was recently renovated and expanded to launch Sofitel’s Legend brand of historic properties. But that was out of the question! I couldn’t wait to hit the streets at 7am to stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake and see people exercising, playing badminton, and visiting with friends.
I’m on my way home and jet lag lingers, but I couldn’t wait to share a few snapshots and notes with you.
Hanoi food remains remarkably fantastic and pure in that simplicity that is so very northern Vietnamese. I made it to the Hang Be wet market and Dong Xuan wholesale market to see what kinds of food products and sundries Vietnamese people purchased these days. I had pho, bun cha rice noodles, freshly steamed banh cuon rice noodles, and cha ca fish and rice noodles at the famous Cha Ca La Vong restaurant. Those are all must-have Hanoi specialties.
Hanoi people are graceful as ever. I met Quyen, a distant cousin that I didn’t know I had until a few weeks ago. A founder of Vietnam’s preeminent PR firm, she was a power woman who dressed to the nines and traveled internationally. Quyen took me to visit the restaurants that she and her friends own. The décor was chic Vietnamese that echoed the traditional and modern. I was duly impressed by Wild Rice, Wild Lotus, Seasons and Moon River.
The images above give you a glimpse of the sophisticated Vietnamese restaurants. The menus are a combination of modern Vietnamese and western dishes. Check out the restaurant site for a sense of Vietnam today.
My cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, was displayed for sale at the Metropole Hotel gift shop. We took a property tour and I nearly fell over when I saw the book on their shelves. Of course, we needed a commemorative photo!
Traveled to Hanoi lately? What were your impressions?