i recently wrote a story for the travelettes about ha long bay. i mention that one of the main reasons why i decided on vietnam was because i love fresh spring rolls so much and wanted to eat as many as i could. and no, before you care to correct me, nobody calls them summer rolls there. pastaholic me however was thinking about pho before going there and got ridiculously excited by the idea of travelling to a country where it was perfectly acceptable to have pasta for breakfast. not even in rome did i eat pasta for breakfast, though i should have and next time i go, i totally will. and while i am very well aware of the difference between noodles and pasta, i was still excited and looking forward to 'pasta for breakfast'.in case you don’t know what pho is – pho is a broth with rice noodles, usually served with chicken or beef, and notoriously mispronounced by foreigners who end up ordering a hooker for breakfast. i tried my best not to, but i also think that the vietnamese are used to the stupid westerners now and have learned to differentiate if someone is hungry for one or the other.
so we arrived and i ate pho. i ate pho on my first night in vietnam, i ate it at pho 2000 where clinton ate his pho, and at 6.30am after getting off a night train in nha trang with a dodgy stomach at a little side street cafe, barely avoiding pigs feet and blood sausage in my bowl. so i think i ate my way around and really gave it a fair chance. but in the end i realized again, because i kind of knew that already, that i am not a soup/broth fan. it doesn't get me excited at all, ever. unless it’s lobster broth, but even then i would prefer the actual lobster. but i didn't make a big deal out of broth dislike, i just started to eat only the noodles, the chicken, and at pho 2000 the funny, round mushrooms that looked like exploding shrooms from mario brothers, but that were actually super delicious. this was an okay solution for me, but i always felt a bit bad for leaving all the broth. it felt like i was insulting the chef's pho by not eating the broth.
the other thing that i realized is that eating noodle soup for breakfast is freaking weird. i really don’t want to sound like a horrible tourist here and i don’t think that my breakfast choices are making the world a better place, but for my palate noodle soup was weird. i thought i was going to be in heaven, being allowed to have noodles all day long, but for breakfast my stomach was like “what the heck? ever heard about eggs? ever heard about a croissant? a dry piece of baguette?”. it got very confused by my repeated attempts to feed it noodles at 7am, something it had clearly marked and stored away under lunch and dinner and after midnight snack foods.
then came the morning when we arrived in hanoi. again we had gotten off a night train which for a change hadn't arrived earlier, hurrah, but nobody had woken us up and so we had to get up, get our luggage, and get off the train in less than 5 minutes. then we had to walk to our hotel for about 10 minutes, backpacks and all, through grey morning streets and high humidity. at our hotel we couldn't check in yet, so we freshened up in the bathrooms, and went off to find some breakfast. even in busy hanoi not an easy task this early in the morning and at least the eggs benedict were still fast asleep. we went to a little corner cafe to have a coffee first and wait for the breakfast place to open.
my stomach was still dodgy, but i decided to ignore it and have an iced coffee with condensed milk. why anyone would drink coffee without condensed milk ever is beyond me and since i knew my days in vietnam were numbered i went for it. eventually more places opened and we had the choice of ordering pho from the stall next to the cafe or to have said eggs benedict for breakfast. my stomach and my wallet both decided that a little chicken noodle broth would be gentler for every party involved. i asked tam, our one vietnamese in the group, to order me a bowl. he did and in return i didn't growl at him when he wanted to take my picture eating pho. which i think says a lot about how mellow i am on holiday, because let’s repeat:it was before 8am.
i was not feeling well.
implied that i wasn't wearing any make-up and that i don't like to have my picture taken in general. i think i was temporarily mollified though by my pho and by tam's camera, which is a fancy one in a cool, old school cover. and in the end i must admit i quite like it the picture. blame the filter, i blame the pho. the vietnamese seem to have it right – pho in the morning is good for you.