After a lie in (til 7 30!!) and the travellers staple – banana pancakes we headed into the streets of Hanoi for (in ascending order of priority) : visas, replacement bike parts and street food.
The search for 9 speed chains and Thai tourist visas did take a while longer than we had planned due to the wealth of distractions on every street corner : small groups of 70 year old women exercising/ dancing chaotically to disco beats in quieter squares, business men sitting on tiny plastic stools outside bia hoi joints sipping on an early morning (9 am) cold beer, and women crouching over small stoves frying, steaming and simmering delicious pork buns, shrimp dumplings, clam porridge, and multitudes of other amazing but unidentified delicacies.
After finally making it to the Thai embassy we rewarded ourselves at a street side Bia Hoi stall – these street side pop up café/bar/restaurants are all over Hanoi and ridiculously popular with the locals. Consisting of a few plastic stools and tables on the street and some frenetic and harried staff, they serve up delicious tapas size plates of yumminess – we had some amazing pork ribs, and, more importantly, freshly brewed ice cold beer – made without preservatives so that each batch was brewed and served that day. Given that it was only 1pm, the place was packed with people who all disappeared back to their office at 2pm after several beers – rather different from working for the NHS!
The rest of the day passed in a happy haze of more street food, more bia hoi, a token dose of culture (at the Temple of Literature) and a lazy walk around the bustling old town. Each sprawling street sold a different thing – there seemed to be a “lock street”, a “plug street”, a “chimney street” – you get the picture. As night fell we headed for cocktails and, you’ve guessed it – more street food before a midnight finish – the biggest night out we’ve had since the start of the tour!