I left Trang An for Hanoi late yesterday and arrived at this cute little pension off a teeny alley (itself off another small alley so narrow only motorbikes can enter.) It's so charming and and cosy and in many ways I was drawn to it from photos for it distinctly resembled a Peranakan shophouse in Singapore, in the colour scheme, the use of Portuguese influenced tiles, the little aesthetic details of its decor, and that feel of being part home and part business.

It also turns out to do a very creditable breakfast - not the large spread of a grander hotel, but there were five kinds of fruit and two cheerful bowls of jam (pineapple and I believe papaya or persimmon) to go with two kinds of toast, a stack of thin crepes, yogurt, watermelon as well as orange juice, strong tea and coffee from a heated dispenser, and they would cook you eggs any style or pho on demand. I have seen far less impressive breakfasts at 4 starred places in this city (and this one is only 2 stars and the people run it with a lot more heart). I had intended only to have a quick fortifying coffee and some fruit before going out to look for a plate of banh cuon on the street for breakfast, but I stayed and ate two crepes (trying both jams) and fruit and juice and then happily slurped my way through a whole bowl of pho ga and ended with more fruit and tea besides. Charm and heart go a long way more than stars and glitz, everytime.