I don't drink as much alcohol as it might seem from reading my blog but I probably eat way more ice cream than you'd think. I've stopped traveling with a bottle of booze in my pack and I almost exclusively drink when invited to. On our first day in Hanoi T and I met up with one of her friends named Chien. I like Chien a lot; he's very funny, considerate and has an expressive countenance. After getting drinks, going bowling and enjoying a nice dinner we ended the evening sitting on tiny stools at a curbside restaurant/bar drinking "fresh beer" which is what they call beer on tap. Chien insisted that we have 10 glasses each since it was the 10th of the month. The city closed down around us and a group of young men moved into the intersection to play a game of keep-away with a soccer ball.
The next night we met up with Chien again and finished the evening drinking cans of local beer in front of the opera house. T had worried me a little when we were in the south by telling me that it's really cold in the north of Vietnam this time of year but I find the evenings to be very pleasant. Our perch on the long stone steps provided an excellent vantage point to watch the city go by. As we sat there drinking a young couple came to do their wedding shoot in the middle of the intersection at around 11 o'clock.
The next night we met up with a woman named Kate who I met at the frisbee tournament in Phnom Penh a couple weeks prior. Kate lives in Hanoi and works at PATH, an international organization bent of making the world healthier. Kate invited me to the Hanoi pickup ultimate game which was a little ill-attended on account of the light mist in the air, but was a bunch of fun nonetheless. Over dinner at Kate's apartment we each had a glass of whiskey, then another, and another, until the bottle which was previously two-thirds full was now empty and my phone told me it was almost 4 in the morning.
I think a big factor with the locals is that they're all curious to see how much I can drink. During our last night in Hanoi Chien had T and I over for dinner with his family. His father—who had also fought in the Vietnam war—was very generous and welcoming and encouraged me several times to "drink as much as [I] can". I managed to escape after drinking only a couple beers but I was not let off the hook so easily with the overflowing table of delicious food they'd prepared for me.
On one of our nights with Chien we went to a dessert place for their dish of mangoes with cream. While we were there I noticed that they were selling an absurd amount of flan—I'm talking several hundred per night: people were buying them to go by the half-score. T and I went back there the next day to try some of the flan when I noticed something served in a dish made out of coconut. The coconut ice cream topped with shredded coconut and chopped peanuts proved to be as delicious as it looked. I had ice cream at least five times in the four days I was in Hanoi. On one occasion T and I went to a local ice cream shop that was selling ice cream like the delicatessen sold flan. They only had cones of vanilla ice cream but it had a unique flavor—perhaps it was a hint of citrus—and texture—I suspect it was that of ice cream made without a modern ice cream machine—and came in a cone made of rice. In Indonesia I got addicted to a pre packaged ice cream cone made by a company called Cornetto. The Cornetto chocolate cone features chocolate ice cream with swirls of dark chocolate, topped with a large disc of chocolate in a chocolate cone with the bottom full of chocolate: truly the greatest accomplishment of humans to date. Several people have commented recently that I don't seem to be gaining weight despite how much I consume: I had a chance to weigh myself recently and I can assure that I have gained wait unfortunately.Soundtrack: Moondance (Van Morrison)