President Obama & Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi

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President Obama and Anothony Bourdain talking in the rain
President Obama and Anothony Bourdain talking in the rain
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President Obama & Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi Enjoying Bun Cha

President Obama & Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi
President Obama and Anthony Bourdain enjoying “Bún chả” and a beer

President Obama & Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi to share a rarer lunch in the both there busy schedules. So why Vietnam? Why Hanoi? “That smell is the first thing to hit you”, Graham Greene shared in his book “The quite American” in 1955. Anthony Bourdain’s love affair with Vietnam is well documented. His latest series did not disappoint showing the famous visit by President Obama to Vietnam and the sharing of a meal with Anothony Bourdain. While enjoying a meal of Bún chả and no doubt a cold beer, they chat about the wonders of Vietnam.

The strong sense, chained with a beautiful memory, linked all the conversations Bourdain had in Ha Long Bay and Hanoi. He walked in the heavy rain in Hanoi, Vietnam and just joked “This is just another beautiful day in this paradise.” In the heavy downpour, a crowd had formed, a President’s limousine with Vietnamese and American flags arrived. The President of the U.S, Barack Obama hopped out of the car, carried his umbrella and waved happily to the cheering crowd.

When Anthony Bourdain sent his greetings to President Obama, sharing his views of the intoxicating aromas of Hanoi. “Sure, there’re some certain spices, which you can only smell in a certain country that you cannot smell when home”, President Obama agreed. “And there are some smells, which are not attractive; however, that is part of the mixture.”

Among the less pleasant smells is that of the exhaust fumes. Hanoi is a city of eight million people and it is also the home of four million motorbikes. Bourdain appeared on the motorbike and mentioned that the capital of Vietnam was nothing but a paradise of motorbikes.

Vietnam, the Old Quarter and Ha Long Bay

Anthony Bourdain also shared his love for Vietnam which started some  15 years ago, when he first visited the country. Highlighting Vietnam’s dramatic transformation, with living standards rising dramatically and more and more tourists arriving every year. Much of this episode was filmed in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, although it does not look as old as it once did.

Anthony Bourdain eating Street Food in Vietnam
Anthony Bourdain eating Street Food in Vietnam

Just a few of years ago, in the mornings, Vietnamese would fill city parks with joggers and Tai Chi lovers. Today, Zumba takes pride of place. Bourdain met a Zumba instructor and friend for noodles for breakfast. They talked about the changing demographics of Hanoi. Together, they went to a stall, which is called “Cussing Noodles”. This strange name comes from the amazing owner. She does not hesitate to order her customers to get out of her stall if they do not know what they should order. Bourdain with no hestitation orders a bowl of hot noodles, drowning in a tasty broth with pig’s snout, pork knuckles, and chillies.

He also met another friend to enjoy “Bia Hơi”, which is a common draught beer of Hanoi. His friend explaining there was only 3-4% alcohol in this “Bia hơi”. Anthony Bourdain replied that they had better drink more.

Anthony Bourdain Sharing meal with Vietnamese Fisherman
Anthony Bourdain Sharing meal with Vietnamese Fisherman

From there, the scene changes to Hạ Long Bay, which is a location recognized by UNESCO as a “World heritage site”. Ha Long Bay has experienced a boom in tourism in recent years. The crew chartered an antique steamer ship in the French style and stayed overnight to cruise the magesty that is Hạ Long Bay and enjoy a local delicacy, squid.

Bun Cha, Conversation and the Transformation of Vietnam

On returning to Hanoi, Bourdain was waiting for the U.S. President. “Bún chả Hương Liên”, which is a very “bình dân” (or for locals only) food stall located in the Old-Quarter. “Bún chả” is a genuine Vietnamese meal, which all travellers need to try at least once. This dish is quite complicated and requires perfect assembly.

“Let’s ready for the greatness!” Anthony Bourdain tells, Obama when they walked into the restaurant,  “Bún chả” with cold rice noodles, vinegar sauce, and rice patties was on order.

Obama and Bourdain not only talked about Vietnam but also discussed the acceptable age limit for using, ketchup, the hot dogs in Chicago as well as being dads. The total cost of beer and dinner was amazing six dollars.

Vietnam and America forging new Relationships, President Obama & Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi

Also if travelling tn Hanoi, the American War Museum is a must-see site. “Do you think that one day, the War Museum won’t be as essential as it is now and in the future, it can be removed from the tourism list of Hanoi?” – Bourdain to his friend, who used to be a tour guide.

The guest telling Bourdain, that it would be better if the war museum could remain. To remind them of what had happened so that they would not repeat the same mistakes. Bourdain’s guest also talked about an American vet who used to be a soldier in the Vietnam War, going back to Vietnam as a traveller. He was very eager to find that Vietnam was making meaningful connections with America, former foes. Another famous example is John McCain, a prisoner of war, who also returned to Vietnam.

As a result the episode finished with Vietnam’s beautiful landscape, Bourdain appreciating the spirit of deeply understanding and generously forgiving your enemies as well as contemplating the wonderful aromas that leave lasting memories.

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