My venture to America didn’t start with a complimentary package of pretzels and weak coffee. It started with a four-hour speed train from Kunming to the Vietnam border ($15 USD) to hop to Hanoi (six hours from the border) where the flights are cheaper, faster and tastier. For instance, this authentic Cup of Vietnamese coffee. It will keep you buzzing faster than the traffic.
I did order a few vegetarian Hindu meals on the flight just to shake things up. I’m guessing the food I’ll eating on my way to the airport promises to be a lot more interesting than that slimy chicken in tin foil on the Delta flight. However, I’ll pass on the Mr. Ed with Lemongrass.
I think even Anthony Bordaine would have vetoed that. But in the mountains of Sapa, just a quick windy bus ride from the border, you can savor many spices dishes that you can’t find in Hanoi or Saigon. And more importantly, you will not run into one Starbucks or FKC.
One of my favorite meals, for about a buck fifty, is Bún Chả Giò Chay. these slippyer noodles or thinly rolled pancakes are made to order with a batter resembling wallpaper paste. The kitchens are not hidden in the back but are open to the street. Batter is stored in buckets.
Instead of thinking about germs, I take a quick trip to a temple and say a few prayers. You got to love a country there they send offerings of beer and twinkies to their deity.
Since my curiosity is more hungry than my gut, I stop a Red Zhao woman for a bucket of colored rice. Looks a bit like an art project if you ask me. The ethnic minority women, regardless if they are red or black Zhou, wear colorful turquoise or hot pink scarves on thier heads. As for her pants?
The rice is not sweet but had a nutty taste with a tinge of pork fat. Reminiscent of the glue sticks my first- graders lick.
Some lunch buffets are getting set up, their meals consisting of a lot of BBQ. There is an assortment of meat, vegetables, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, and a few pestering flies. Okra is often stir-fried or BBQed in Asia with a hot sauce. You don’t need to fly to the flip side to try that!
There are food delivery guys who have a lot of courage on slippery wet days like today.
And, a lot of old women who could bench press Captain America.
Then there are there are a few who need a wake-up call.
I moseyed to the Catholic church in the center of town, where you can always find a group of women doing handicrafts.
And cute kids who don’t seem that cute when they drive a hard bargain for whatever they are selling.
The Blank Hmong women dye cloth with indigo. They will never make a living as hand models.
The best part of Sapa was meeting with my friend Trinh. She has the same birthday and manages a few hotels. I will meet here again in July for some hiking and fun!
Goodbye Sapa for a month. I will stop again on my way home from the states. The flights from Vietnam are are a lot more aromatic and tasty than those flying out of China during this post Covid era. And with a lot more adventure!