Vietnam is a food lovers paradise. There’s no need for fancy restaurants, although there are plenty of them. Sidewalks are packed with people eating at small tables on chairs suitable for 4 year olds, slurping down noodley concoctions that you may or may not like. Beef broth and vermicelli noodles, yes! Pork heart and blood broth with noodles, no thank you. The system of picking the fullest place may not work here since people have many interesting palates. Thanks to Shane and Arielle we had some recommendations already, but exploring new foods is our favorite hobby so we were thrilled to venture out for more.
Hoi An gave us an introduction to one meal restaurants. Balewell has been open for 22 years and has served the same exact 4 item menu, that is printed on their napkins, each and every day. You actually don’t order, you sit and are served each item. We had a lesson in proper eating techniques by the sister of the owner who treated Amando like her son, even feeding him. Rice paper, herbs/lettuce/cucumber, chicken or pork off the stick, shredded carrot and radish, finish with spicy peanut sauce. Repeat all of that but add an omelet made with bean sprouts and you’ve now got what sort of resembles a taco. But wait, there’s more!
Hanoi Cinematheque during July and August featured “Vietnam on Film” every night. We decided to stop over one evening and see a film they were showing on Laos, “The Most Secret Place On Earth”. Here is the short bio on the film:
“The Vietnam War was the most intensely mediated war ever. However, next door in neighboring Laos, the longest and largest air war in human history was underway, which eventually made Laos the most bombed country on earth. This “secret war” was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA, yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it. Candid interviews with past and present players combined with previously unseen footage from the war as well as the current struggle in Laos tell a story that hasn’t been documented in history books. As we journey into Long Cheng for the first time since the end of the war in 1975, the film tells the gripping story of the operation. The film features interviews with State Department, CIA and Air America officials, as well as Hmong general Van Pao and some of his critics – Fred Branfman and Professor Alfred McCoy.”
For anyone at all interested in Southeast Asian history, has been to Laos, or curious as to why at one point Laos had the most remote, yet busiest airport on the planet, I recommend the film (made in 2008). However I’ll need to follow up with more reading when I get home because it left me with a lot more questions than answers.