In Thailand, you can wake up in your hotel room at one pm (two hours after checkout), stagger to the reception clerk and say, “I think I’ll stay another night, cool?” The clerk will usually smile and nod, graciously murmuring something like, “I guessed you would.”
Being a George Bush style genius, I decided to try this tactic in Hanoi, Vietnam. The result? As I swaggered out the hotel door, all excited for my chicken Pho breakfast, the clerk sharply yelled, “You need pack and move. We give your room away because you didn’t say you want stay. New people come in one hour so please go.”
And thus there I was, homeless, heartbroken, and desperately typing in the hotel’s lobby on G-chat to my friend Derian’s friend Liz’s friend Ahmar, who had mentioned he and his housemates had an extra couch, should I need a sanctuary in Hanoi. Kindly and miraculously, Ahmar offered to pick me up from the hotel on his motorcycle within the hour.
How nice it was to be in a house again! Ahmar lives in the gorgeous four story pad of a witty Irish ex-pat who has lived in Hanoi for nine years. I luxuriated on their home’s couches and marveled at the fact that the people who lived there weren’t just tourists who moved on in two days. Oooh—stability!
“Where do you want to eat?” Ahmar asked, as we puttered down the street on his motorcycle. I left it up to his brilliant judgment, and fifteen minutes later was inhaling a bowl of nirvana: Bun bo nam bo.
Bun bo nam bo is a heavenly mix of noodles, beef, lettuce, coriander, basil, beansprouts, and crushed peanuts, with sweet sauce joyously doused on top. The best place to get it in Hanoi is a store by the same name, which sells only Bun bo nam bo… for about a dollar a bowl. Ordering is easy; just say how many bowls you want! No choices needed beyond that. YUM. Thanks, Ahmar!
It is truly a gift for a person who knows a city well to take a wandering visitor by the hand!