a little bit of silliness....click on the picture to create a fly for it to eat....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's the final countdown!

Son Khanh...with some lucky Tet money....
Tet has just finished here in Hanoi, it was a week of nothing.  Pretty much everyone shuts down for the week.  Those from outside Hanoi go back to their villages for the holiday to spend time with family.  Much eating and drinking is done!  It can be a lonely time for someone if they don't have family - much like our Xmas can be - luckily I have made two special friends here in Hanoi.  Mr Hung; who I have spoken of often and Luyen Shell; one of the owners of Donkey Bakery.  Between the two of them I was not left to moulder alone during Tet.  I've already told you about the visit to Mr Hung's mother's place to watch her make Bang Chung, well that was followed up with a visit to Mr Hung's wife's parents home just outside Hanoi.  He collected me nice and early one morning and we set off on the motor bike.  Ms Hang's parents; Mr Hai and Ms Trong lived in Hanoi itself when she was a child, but have retired to the country home now.  

Proud Granny Ms Trong

Doting Granddad Mr Hai
 Her brother Mr Truong and his very new wife Ms Dao also live there.  So there were 8 of us all including the gorgeous wee Son Khanh (Mr Hung's 8 month old son)togetherit turned out to be quite a party!  We had a lovely lunch of all my favourites, Bun Ca, Spring rolls, Chicken, and one of the nicest salads I've had here - Kohlrabi and carrot - so yummy!

Ms Dao organising our lovely lunch....
Mr Hai is Vietnam's number one Abba fan...I've never heard sooo much Abba before coming here.  First thing on New Years Day (both of them) some nearby neighbour deemed it appropriate to blast out 'Happy New Year' by the toothsome foursome!!!  I mentioned this in passing to Mr Hung as a bit of a joke and since Mr Hai doesn't speak much English all he heard was...Abba....so - you guessed it - he rushed off to put the album on...just for me.  I had to laugh, what a nice man!  They really were the most generous and welcoming people, I had quite the best day for ages.  After lunch we assembled outside to had a group photo with one of the lovely 'bling' fireworks that are let off at festive occasions here.  It's a long shiny tube that contains a small amount of gunpowder that expels an explosion of glittery confetti...fabulous!  It's a shame I couldn't bring one home to Sydney through customs...hehehehehe.

Tracey and I have been bartering cooking classes, I give her staff some pointers about pastry and she gives me entry to her wonderful Vietnamese cooking classes.  Last Wednesday I was thrilled to take part in her 'Street Food' class.  It starts, as they all do, with a visit to the nearby markets and a bit of an explanation about the concepts of Vietnamese cuisine...Tracey has lived here for years and really knows her subject.  She is an informed and enthusiastic teacher who communicates her love of the country and it's food to us, her eager students.  In the class I was shown how to cook a ripper Pho - the staple soup up here in Hanoi which we polished off piping hot standing round the stove.  Then we learned to make Prawn Cakes - a type of fritter that is enjoyed all over the city - not always with prawn, sometimes with banana or sweet potato.  Ours contained both prawns and julienne sweet potato and were tasty if a little filling. 

We also made Pho Cuon Bo - fresh spring rolls with beef. (The word Pho refers to the noodle, whether cut into strips or left as a sheet it's still called Pho)
The salad was the iconic Green Papaya and dried beef (bit of a beefy menu wasn't it?)

It was all rounded up with a beautiful silky Banana Che - a warm, sweet coconut soup containing caramelised banana, yummo!
My efforts...before we went upstairs to enjoy our food with copious amounts of  Ha Noi

...a sample of the taste sensations that my fund-raising friends will be enjoying in Sydney when I get home....
 I've been spending a lot of time tootling around on my bicycle and despite the apparent chaos on the roads I actually feel a lot safer here than on Sydney roads.  I was riding home from Luyen's at dusk the other night (after sharing a lovely lunch and a walk with her wee pup Mary) when the bats emerged.  Thousands of tiny insectivorous bats appear round the edges of the lake to feast on the myriad of bugs that infest the fringes of the water.  It's a very cool sight that for some reason I'd never seen before so I just had to stop and try to capture them on camera...

Now we come to another in my series of 'hints for happy living in Hanoi'...where to find a great dentist!
About 3 weeks ago a big filling fell out of one of my back teeth and it's been driving me nuts ever since. Seriously the hole was big enough to hold a chicken drumstick!  Anyway, my friends know what a complete baby I am when it comes to dentists...I go once every 10 years whether I need to or not!  Well, Tracey gave me the name of her dentist promising that he was good.  I finally got my  courage up to go and was horrified to find that they don't automatically use numbing injections over here.  I warned them that I would most certainly cry and/or scream without real cause.  They took this as a joke...it wasn't!  He started to drill, no pain, he looked worried - no pain equals a decayed tooth apparently - he continued drilling...then I finally felt a small spasm and jerked like a scalded cat!  He calmed me down and continued drilling;..weirdly enough there was no real pain, just a couple of mild twinges which he worked me through and pretty soon it was all over!  So now the hole is filled and I'm out of pocket the grand sum of $12.50.  I should have gone at the beginning of the three months and had the whole lot done....but at least I have an excuse to come back.  If you ever need a good dentist in Hanoi go to Dr Phuong.  He not only runs two private surgeries but is also a lecturer at the Ha Noi Medical University.  His website is www.nhakhoaphuong.com and I can't recommend him highly enough.  The surgery was ultra modern and hygienic.  The only thing that took a bit of getting used to was the fact that the surgery and waiting room are one and the same...life is lived in public here.
I think Hanoi should replace Bali as the destination for Dental Toursim, it's cheaper here and Hanoi is much more interesting.....as long as you don't just want to laze around on the beach that is.  I'm going back on Sunday so he can check on the filling and I'm going to take photos then so you can see I'm not lying!

For some time my mate John has been trying to convince me that long hair on someone my age is...well, ageing!  I finally took his words to heart and went back to the lovely Mr Dinh for a restyle.  I watched with mounting trepidation as he snipped, and snipped, and snipped...when he was done my head felt a whole lot lighter and hopefully you will agree I now look years and years younger....yeah right! ;-)

I'm off to Donkey Bakery tomorrow for my last class with Luyen's staff.  We are going to do tea cakes, a nice almond cake and a wicked coconut cake.  I will remember to take a photo of everyone so you can put faces to the stories I've been telling. 


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