We woke up early on our third morning in Vietnam. Determined to beat the heat and humidity, my sister and I grabbed a taxi from the Old Quarter to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, about a ten minute ride. Along the way, I made a mental note of the shops and food stalls I wanted to stop at on our walk back.
Constructed in 1070, the Temple of Literature was dedicated to Confucius and also houses the Imperial Academy, or what was Vietnam’s first university.
Several (and I mean several) bottles of water later, we finished walking through the maze of courtyards that houses the temple’s lake, lush park, and high gates. The temple is still used today for cultural events, and both Vietnamese and foreign tourists flanked the temple’s many gift shops selling souvenirs bearing the temple and Ho Chi Minh’s image.
Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at KOTO, a nonprofit restaurant and vocational training program that trains disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. Every six months, KOTO takes around 25 young people off the streets. These trainees participate in a two-year program, and are provided with uniforms, meals, accommodation, medical care and a monthly training allowance. I remembered seeing KOTO featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so I was excited to visit.
We sipped our watermelon juice alongside shrimp spring rolls that were served with creamy avocado and salty, pungent nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Next came our bun bo nam bo, or wok-fried beef on rice noodles with fresh mixed herbs, peanuts, lime, chili, and garlic. This was one of my favorite dishes that I ate during our trip — the beef was tender and juicy, and the flavors hit that perfect balance of salty-spicy-sweet-sour that I love so much.
Fortified and cooled down, Melody and I spent the rest of the evening exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter. For dinner, we took a taxi to Restaurant Bobby Chinn, another No Reservations-featured restaurant that I came to learn had since moved from the Hoan Kiem Lake neighborhood to the outskirts of Hanoi.
It was a quiet evening at the restaurant, and the very dim lighting made so that it was difficult to see our meal (let along take photos). Service was attentive, and if you’re looking for a fusion-centric, high-end splurge of a meal in Hanoi and don’t mind driving a bit to get there, Restaurant Bobby Chinn is your place.
We took a taxi back to the hotel after dinner, and called it yet another early night. The next morning we planned on heading to the Perfume Pagoda in the mountains, and we knew we’d need all the rest we could get.