Hanoi, Vietnam! Bonus: new photos

New photos posted again at www.flickr.com/markrbeattie. Please enjoy as each upload is a dedicated act of love involving very low bandwidth, 10 year old computers, Windows and a hubby gnawing hungrily on his arm upstairs in the hotel room.

There’s one photo set for Laos, including the epic Mekong River ride (though we later found out another boat had it worse when they hit bottom, sprung a leak and promptly sunk) and beautiful Luang Prabang, with its myriad temples and quaint French Colonial architecture.

There’s a new set from this week in Hanoi, about half of the shots are of food, which has been amazing. We’ve been relying heavily on the street food guide SavourAsia.com and have sampled some pretty delicious variations on noodle, broth, meat and greens/herbs.

When we first arrived in Hanoi we were suffering our first bout with stomach bugs and stuck to mild pho and a delicious, eggy, challah-like cinamon raisin bread we found at a local bakery for 50 cents a loaf. We’ve since recovered and now venture further afield, and Mark is happily well enough for the famed Vietnamese coffee (usually black and sometimes with sweetened condensed milk on the bottom).

Hanoi itself is an interesting city of colonial facades, thriving commerce, and Communist propaganda. Colorful government billboards and red and yellow banners line the streets, which light up at night with Christmas lights in hammer and sickle shape. We arrived in time for the end of the lunar new year celebration with many locals making offerings (burning incense and fake money) at temples and shrines around the city for luck, prosperity and good health in 2010.

Probably the biggest hurdle we’ve faced is that there are almost no price tags on anything, so haggling skills become essential. Typical tourist price inflation is between 200 and 500% for the initial price quote; the pineapple and banana ladies seem to be the worst but it’s everything from bottled water to shoes (it’s cold enough that Zoe finally needed sneakers) and of course, taxis.

We’re going to spend a few days in Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba island relaxing, possibly rock climbing. It’s only a two hour bus ride from Hanoi, we’ll see about that.