“Before you check in, first – Im afraid I’ll have to see your dong” giggled the girl behind the counter. Sigh, I guess it doesn’t matter how long you live here it never gets old. “I dont think I have enough” I reply shrugging my shoulder and displaying my upturned empty palms like some kind of hapless pauper, its a gesture I’d have practiced to perfection before Id arrive home, “Ok well there is a bank machine around the corner”. Predictably it didnt work, the next one refused my credit card for some reason, finally after trans versing far more moto frogger runs that I would have liked, I get my hands on some more of the unfortunately named Vietnamese currency. Every single note depicts a benign smiling Ho Chi Minh, a grandfatherly gaze belies the man who would defy a superpower, I quickly note the similarities between some large denominational notes and some of those of smaller value, I wonder if countries deliberately design their currencies to trick unwary foreigners.
The hostel seems like a real party zone with loud music pumping from the rooftop bar filtering down somewhat annoyingly into the dorms beneath, luckily I have my ever trusty earplugs on hand should the need arise.
Hanoi is particularly famed for its cuisine, blending elements from two great culinary traditions namely the French and east Asian. I was particularly excited about this especially considering how cheap Vietnam was relative to the west, for about three or four dollar I could eat an entire family sized meal and did so on an alarmingly regular basis. In fact looking back on photos from Vietnam its inexplicable how emaciated I look give that I regularly consumed as much food per day as an entire multi-generational Vietnamese household.
After dark i wandered down past the big lake in the center of the city to seek out some of Hanoi’s best restaurants, in particular to try the far famed green papaya salad and the Vietnamese spring rolls.
I decided that I would visit the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison the next day, apparently they still have the jumpsuit John McCain was wearing when he was captured.