Vietnam – Perfume River and Hanoi – January 2011
We hit up the perfume river near Hue before our last stop of Hanoi in Vietnam.
Again, the weather wasn’t the best for the perfume river tour, but it was an interesting boat ride up the river in a rowboat, followed by a decently long hike up to a cave where some forest nymphs or something interesting was supposed to live. I’m making this up because I honestly can’t remember what the significance was. But it was a good hike. Preparations were in full swing for the festival season, and bamboo constructs were going up everywhere.
We moved onto Hanoi after this, and were greeted with bone-chilling cold (30 degree F). We certainly didn’t expect it to be this cold, and had to purchase some warmer clothing the first day. Hanoi is big and bustling, had the craziest/busiest market that we had seen yet and also the best food. We found a Pho restaurant around the corner from our hotel and ate at it every day!
Our most memorable experience was hoping a taxi to visit a snake restaurant, which specializes in snake, choice of cobra or common tree snake, picked live and then killed and prepared 12 ways. It’s supposedly quite a delicacy and seemed to be a popular stop for drunken parties of businessmen. Before the snake is fully dispatched, they cut the heart out of it and, while still beating, chuck it into a shot of vodka for drinking. The same is done with the gall-bladder. Apparently consuming this does wonders for your virility! The snake carcass is then taken back to the kitchen and, one by one, every part of the snake (including the bones – salted and sauteed, and skin, deep fried like pork rinds) and cooked and brought to the table.
It was a crazy experience and while it’s a story that I won’t ever forget, I kinda regret the fact that I ate the uncooked organs of a snake which came from god-only-knows where. I developed daily migraines (which I still suffer from to this day) the same week that I ate at this restaurant; and while I now know and am pretty certain that they didn’t develop as a result of this experience, it makes me a little queezy to think about it.