Vietnam, Day Five

Ever since we’d arrived in Hanoi, Melody and I wanted to do some shopping beyond the Old Quarter. We’d heard there was great shopping to be had at the nearby Trang Tien plaza, so we set out on foot, only to find out once we arrived that the plaza had been closed for renovation. Undeterred, we spent our morning walking through the French Quarter, famous for its wide, tree-lined boulevards and eclectic French-Vietnamese architecture.

French Quarter

We were hungry for lunch, but after a less-than-palatable meal of fried vermicelli and crabmeat, we wandered back to Hoan Kiem Lake to grab a snack at Fanny Ice Cream. Fanny Ice Cream is a Hanoi specialty, with a twenty-page menu of every ice cream concoction you can imagine, be it tropical or traditional. Twenty pages of ice cream! Sounds like a kid’s dream, right? I ordered an ice cream cyclo, while Melody had the ice cream lotus.

Ice cream cyclo

Ice cream lotus

The ice cream flavors and gelato-like texture were top-notch and we had to stop ourselves from going back for dinner. Fanny is expensive ice cream, even by American standards (think five to ten dollars per item) but it remains among the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

We spent the rest of the day taking it easy, stopping to grab a Vietnamese coffee or to do some shopping. For dinner, at HanoiHanoi, an upscale restaurant near Tran Tien and Hoan Kiem Lake.

Spring rolls

We started with the spring rolls, which were fresh and crispy, though I wasn’t crazy about the filling. The friendly staff showed us how to mix the variety of dipping sauces at our table so that we had the right proportion of salty to sweet, and sour to spicy.

Steamed clams with herbs

Next came the steamed clams with herbs, my favorite dish of the meal. I’m not sure what the mystery herbs were (Thai basil?) but they lent a terrific aroma to the briny clams, which I dipped in a tiny dish of salt and oil before eating atop a bowl of rice.

Stir-fried water spinach with garlic

Lastly came our stir-fried water spinach with garlic, which was crunchy and super fresh. The long strands of water spinach, or ong choy, were fun to eat and best of all, healthy.

We spent the rest of the evening lazily perusing the Old Quarter and avoiding the intermittent rain showers from an approaching tropical storm. Happily sated, we called it a night before the rainstorm kicked it up a notch.

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