"Ohhhh. You a foreigner?" said the middle-aged Vietnamese man wearing a wrinkled suit. He sat down across from me at the child-sized blue plastic table along one of Hanoi's narrow, crowded streets in the old quarter.
"Yes, from Canada," I replied. He flashed me a friendly smile, displaying a mouth full of crooked, yellow teeth.
I picked up my chopsticks and began plucking at the noodles in the bowl of pho (soup) I had purchased from one of the many street vendors selling it for breakfast outside my hotel. The man took a liking to me and tried to engage in conversation with the little English he knew.
He ordered a clear alcohol and poured it into a shot glass, taking a few tiny sips. When a wave of panic spread across my face from biting into a chilli pepper by mistake, the man pushed the shot glass toward me and calmly said "Here. Water."
I smiled, noting the potent smell coming from the glass was hardly water, and continued to slurp my noodles amongst the three locals now sitting with me at the miniature table.
There's no better start to the day in Vietnam than by eating pho for breakfast from a street vendor with the locals. The narrow streets of Hanoi date back more than a thousand years and are a hive of activity despite the cool, overcast weather that blankets the northern skies throughout January.
Bicycles, scooters and motorbikes — some carrying three or four people wearing surgical masks — slowly make their way through the congested streets packed with an array of food vendors and interesting shops that lure wide-eyed travelers inside.