The hotel in Hanoi in Vietnam, just Rs 1750 per day, is great. Clean with good fittings, mostly new and in good condition. Well maintained. Young, friendly, uniformed, smiling hotel staff, about half of whom speak reasonably good English. Much better English and vastly better appearance and training than most budget hotels and small town hotels in India. Got upgraded to an 8th floor family suite at no extra cost. Quite luxurious. Delighted! This would have cost not less than Rs 8-10,000 in India, and not with such fittings.

I rushed to the Military Museum in Hanoi in Vietnam, for a quick 2 hour tour before it closed. Taxi from big taxi company. Totally GPS. Printed receipt. 30,000 VND for a 3 km drive. About Rs 94. Slightly more expensive than Bombay. For dinner, short walk to the money changers and street eating. Made the mistake of taking a taxi. He took a chakar and dropped off midway. 25,000 VND. Ripoff!

The walking street in Hanoi in Vietnam, is reminiscent of Bombay’s Crawford Market, Mohammad Ali Road area, minus the Muslims. Oh yeah, relatively clean. Very little litter. Not super clean like Singapore but not at all filthy and filled with garbage like India.

This is the country of the petty trader and street restaurateur. Shops and street hawkers mostly sell garments, sports shoes, leather or fake leather belts and shoes, food and the ubiquitous mobile phone and accessories, phone covers, cables, chargers and the like.

You sit on small plastic stools at a low table on the pavement or street side with an ingenious table top stove fueled by cakes of margarine which heats a hotpot of a soup with seafood, beef, pork, chicken and assorted vegetables. No sheep or goat meat here. Or have these grilled on aluminium foil on an iron griddle. Had the hotpot. You keep adding ingredients, pork, beef, clams, fish, prawns, sprouts, different vegetables, pour in stock, lots of a leafy spinach type greens. Soup flavour kept changing. Meal by itself. Just had a single lukewarm Hanoi beer. So so. Magnificent restraint on my part. The single beer, I mean.

About Rabindra Hazari

Rabindra Hazari is a lawyer by profession, with a passion for travelling and writing.