In the last three months of living in Hanoi, I’ve accustomed myself to a bunch of new habits and tastes. For one, I’ve tamed my high Banh Mi standards and acquired an appreciation for the classic Banh Mi Trung (fried egg). You can also order grilled pork and various other fillings, but in general the Banh Mis here are a lot simpler with their garnishes and condiments compared with Sydney, though still very tasty.
On other fronts, I drink Tra Da (iced tea) religiously, I have my coffee with condensed milk and I sit on tiny plastic stools without fuss. I text and gram from the back of Grab motorbikes and Joris comfortably navigates our Honda Cub through Hanoi traffic. And we’ve recently mastered the food delivery system for when the monsoon weather hits.
In this time, I’ve also uncovered some of life’s greatest mysteries, like “why am I cutting my nails so frequently”. When I noticed that nail clipping had become a weekly chore, I turned to Google for answers. Sure enough, the people of the internet confirmed my hypothesis that nails grow faster in warmer climates. I then thought, well what hair? But the internet is still conflicted on that one.
Life learnings aside, we’ve assimilated quite well into Hanoi. Joris has established his favourite Bia Hois and identified his favourite Banh Mi and Bun Cha ladies. Everything we need is conveniently situated, including Mark who we’ve moved into an apartment in the same lane as us. When we need a break from the city, there’s plenty of day trips and overnight options only a couple of hours (ish) away.
A couple of weekends ago, we rode two hours west of Hanoi to a beautiful homestay in Hoa Binh, the neighbouring province. Uncle Ty’s Farmstay is a traditional Muong stilt-house situated in the idyllic Dong Bai village, surrounded by rice fields and only minutes walk from its own Dong Bai Lake.
A mix of traditional design and modern facilities, this dreamy homestay is run by Uncle Ty and his three daughters on a community-based tourism model where 100% of the profit goes to the local community. All activities like tractor rides, weaving, trekking and catching ducks while blindfolded are run by the villagers here. Dinner was a delicious banquet-sized meal and Uncle Ty himself joined us afterwards with locally made wine and a bamboo flute performance.
The next morning, I rolled out of bed a little after sunrise and went for my ritual 6am village tour. Following the single road that wound through the village, I made my way along one end of the lake seeking those perfect reflections.