Quy Nhon – Hanoi
Seems to be a recurring theme…..
We had been up during the night, though.
Some time just after 1.00am, to be precise.
No, it wasn’t another dodgy pho, or any other food, for that matter. Not even too much beer!
It was music. Very loud music
And not very good music.
But then again, it never is at that hour…..
It took a few seconds to register what was going on.
What’s that noise? Why is this bed so hard? Where is the noise coming from? Why is this bed so hard? Why is this noise happening? And….., why do they make beds this hard?
Finally, through the haze of semi consciousness, things were a little clearer.
Apart from the bed issue…..
The music was coming, not only from our floor, but from the room next door. The very room that we shared a wall with, that at that time, seemed to be around 3 millimetres thick.
I spent the next couple of minutes deciding on the best course of action.
While Lisa just complained and added to the noise. On a positive note, it was a little difficult to hear her…..
Anyway….., I considered contacting reception. And then quickly dismissed that one.
I wondered what the punishment for aggravated assault in Vietnam was. Or even murder.
I decided I didn’t want to find out.
I considered just putting up with it and hoping they would go to sleep soon.
But that option meant putting up with Lisa.
I then came up with a plan, so ridiculous, and so far out there, that it could, just possibly, work.
I got up, opened our door, and knocked on the offending room’s door.
The door was quickly opened.
A young Vietnamese guy stood there; first, with an expression of confusion on his face, obviously wondering who would be knocking on his door at 1.30am in the morning.
This was followed, almost immediately, by an expression of surprise at the fact that some strange westerner was standing at his door.
The look of surprise was instantly replaced with a look of guilt, and was followed with a “Sorry, sorry”, as he retreated to do the ‘right’ thing.
I then retreated to my bed, thinking that if I’d decided to go with the assault, or even murder, option, I’d have failed miserably. Our ‘conversation’ had lasted no more than 3 seconds.
Laying down in, …..sorry….., on, the bed, our neighbour did actually do the ‘right’ thing. Not quite as ‘right’ as I’d hoped, but ‘right’ enough.
Well, it was nothing that turning the fan up to the next speed couldn’t deal with.
As I tried to get back to sleep, I contemplated what revenge I could exact on him the next morning. The best I could come up with was to knock loudly on his door and then quickly run to the lift, as we were leaving the hotel.
Hmmm, a masterful plan, I thought…..
It did hinge on two things though. One, that Lisa would hold the lift open for me to jump in, and two, that the doors would close before he actually got to the door.
Revenge sorted, I eventually drifted off to sleep to the soothing sound of a ceiling fan and muffled ordinary music.
Alarm went off sometime before 7.00am, and it was then a quick tidy up and pack up. The car was booked for 7.30am, and we needed to be at Barbara’s before then.
I then remembered my masterful plan. Yep, let’s do it, I thought. Finer details had been worked out, all bases were covered. Time to put it into action.
I open our door, and move towards his door.
Aaaarrgh!!!!!!! The door is open.
And, he’s already gone!
Hadn’t considered that possibility…..
We made our way downstairs, bid our farewells to the staff / owners and then made our way up the lane for the last time.
Like the previous day, our driver, which happened to be the same guy as yesterday, was there on time.
An uneventful trip to the airport and we were able to check in as soon as we arrived. Now bag free, we walked back outside the terminal building and headed right, towards a restaurant / café that we’d noticed on the way in. It actually turned out to be two restaurants when you had a closer look. It looked like one, as all the tables were together, but half the tables had one type of chair, while the other half had a different type.
Again, just another one of those Vietnamese things…..
We again went with our favoured breakfast of banh mi with egg. “Two”, I said, both pointing and holding up two fingers.
A few minutes later our two bread rolls turned up, as well as two fried eggs on a plate. Simple, but so good. Cut the eggs in half and put them in the rolls. Two minutes later, another plate with two eggs turns up. Hmmm, I’m not sure if banh mi with egg automatically comes with two eggs, or if that was the result of me indicating ‘two’ when I ordered it. Oh well, didn’t matter, it was good.
And so was the equal second greatest drink ever invented (only behind beer and equal with freshly squeezed pineapple juice) that we ordered; caphe sua da.
While we were sitting there, two local guys came up and sat at the table next to us.
I looked at one of them just as he looked at me. A slightly surprised look appeared on his face and he looked away quickly. I’m sure I’d seen that look at 1.30am this morning. Not 100% sure, but pretty sure.
The fact that he never looked back in my direction again, makes me even more sure.
Small world, hey…..?
Breakfast done, we head back into the terminal and do that waiting thing. And Quy Nhon airport is an airport where you don’t want to have to do any more waiting than you have to. There’s not much there…..
Finally on to the plane, and bugger me, we have the emergency row seats. We weren’t even asked this time; we were just given. I suspect this may be a western tourist thing, and perhaps also a Vietnam Airlines directive. Not sure, but it’s nice to have the extra leg room. As well as not having to put up with the person in front putting his seat back 30 seconds after he sits down.
As we took our seats, one of the flight attendants came up to check if we were alright. “Yep, all good”, I said. She then asked me not to open the emergency door during the flight.
Oh, okaaay……. Not sure I’d have thought about doing that anyway, but, yep, no problem……
As with the flight in, there were no more than five or six westerners on the plane. There were however, something like 48 kids. Who just happened to all be crying at the same time.
Well, may have only been one or two, but it sounded like 48.
I even caught the flight attendant rolling her eyes at the noise. She then realised I’d seen her and we both had a bit of a chuckle.
A bit over an hour later, and having resisted the temptation to open the emergency door, we landed in Hanoi. Bag retrieved, we then walked out to look for the driver that our hotel had promised us. Complimentary too, by the way!
Can see plenty of other drivers holding name boards, but none with ours. Maybe he’s just running late???
So, we wait. And wait…..
Now not sure that this is going to happen without a phone call, I ring the hotel.
A quick chat, and I’m told he’ll be there in five minutes. A slight hiccup, but all sorted in the end.
Finally, we’re on our way, and it’s not long before we’re entering the Old Quarter. It was one of the things that got me so excited on our first trip, and it was the same this time. So distinctive, and so fascinating. I love it!
We turn into the little street that the hotel is in, and then pull up outside our hotel.
The same door man is still there, and one of the girls, Sophia, is also there, behind the desk.
I feel like I’ve come home and I’m so happy to be back.
We make our way up to our room and drop our bag off. The realisation then hits; it’s the same room we stayed in last time, on the first night we spent in Hanoi, before heading off to Halong Bay the next day.
Makes me feel even more at home.
Bag dropped, and I’m like a kid on Christmas day. I need to get out and see ‘my’ Hanoi.
We walk across to Hoan Kiem Lake and as we’re nearing the southern end, a local makes his way towards us. English practice time!
He asks politely if we’d mind talking to him. No problem at all!
Stretching the memory here, so it must have been important, because I only remember the unimportant stuff…..
He’s in his thirties, married and has at least one child. Maybe two??? He works nearby in a government job and rather than have a nap in the office at lunchtime, like a few of his colleagues do, he comes down to the lake to work on his English.
He’s a really nice guy and we enjoy speaking to him and learning about his life.
English lesson done, we walk on, eventually coming to the café beside the lake.
Someone wants a caphe sua da. Well, we both do, but someone wants one from this café.
I don’t, as it’s a tourist café. It’s about as ‘authentic Vietnamese’ as something that’s not ‘authentic Vietnamese’ at all. It also has prices that aren’t ‘authentic Vietnamese’, as well.
50 000 dong each! 100 000 dong for the two of them! That’s just over $3 AUD each, at the current exchange rate. Getting close to Australian prices. I could have bought six of them at that little coffee shop we went to in HCMC.
The intrepid explorer now has a far better understanding of where we’ll be going from now on. Or more to the point, of where we’ll not be going.
Coffee drunk, ice eaten, and inside of the glass licked, we continue around the lake.
On our way, we come across a bride and groom having photos taken.
One of us is incredibly excited to see this and the camera is quickly brought into action.
Another 30 seconds of my life lost, we walk on.
Lap of the lake complete, obligatory photo taken standing on the red bridge across to the island, and we head into the greatest thing that Hanoi has to offer. It’s streets.
We find, what I call ‘underwear lane’, because that’s what is sold there, and we continue on, eventually coming to beer corner. That kid at Christmas thing, again!
It’s a bit early, but at least I’ve had no problem finding it.
For the next hour or so, we do my very favourite Hanoi thing. We just walk the streets. We have a map, but it’s not needed.
Well, it is, but only when you want to head back.
We come across, by accident, the restaurant that we went to on our very last night in Hanoi on our first trip. We loved it then and it’s something we planned to do again if we could find it.
On we go, and all of a sudden there’s something I recognise from photos. It’s the Old City Gate. It was something that I’d written down that I wanted to see, and here it was. And I wasn’t even looking for it!
Geez, I love Hanoi!!!
On we go, just walking aimlessly. And we’re now officially lost. Which is good.
In some street, somewhere, we walk past a woman cooking something on the footpath. It reminds me that we haven’t had lunch yet. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s a pastry looking thing that is frying in oil. I don’t even know if it’s savoury or sweet. We decide to find out.
It’s savoury. Kind of like a small pastie, but the stuff inside is not as dry. It’s good; a bit oily; but it’s alright.
It’s also hot. Tongue destroying hot. It takes a while to eat it.
Heat, coupled with kilometres walked, starts to take its toll. The map finally makes an appearance and we head back to the hotel for a recovery session. A short nap is the plan.
Lying on the bed, which is nothing like our Quy Nhon bed, the plan begins to unravel.
I can’t think of anything else but bia hoi.
I resist the urge to get up for a good two minutes, before finally succumbing to the irresistible calling of the beer.
Leaving Lisa to do the nap thing, I make my way downstairs and up the street. At the end of the street I’m approached by a guy selling books.
My usual response to something like this goes along the lines of – take a deep breath, smile nicely and say no thank you. Which is exactly what I did this time.
But this time, I was rapt to be asked.
On our first trip, I’d been hassled by a book seller at the end of the street so often, that in the end I’d struck up a relationship with him. I even, eventually, bought a book from him.
But I had a regret; that I never asked him his name, and that I didn’t get a photo with him. And I’d thought about that quite often over the last year and a half.
Now, finally back here, hoping I’d be able to make amends, here was a book seller.
Was it him?
I thought it was, but I wasn’t sure.
Perhaps I just thought it was him. But only because I wanted it to be him……
The walk continued towards beer corner, both happy because I’d found a guy selling books, but also a bit disappointed because I wasn’t able to recognise immediately that it was him.
Anyway, up through ‘underwear lane’, and then finally to beer corner. I turn right hoping, actually, expecting, to find my choice of bia hoi establishment, from last time.
It’s not there.
Ok, we’ll just find another place.
I walk all the way along the street and see a couple of places that might do as a replacement. But not too many selling traditional bia hoi. That is, beer straight out of the keg.
I walk around the block and come down the main beer street. There’s a place that looks like it might be alright. But it’s in an area that doesn’t really appeal. Far too many people that look like me, as well as too many pushy restaurant / bar owners touting for business.
I return to the first street and find a place that I think was a couple of doors down from my last beer place. No kegged beer, but it looks a bit more local. I’ll give it a go and make some new memories.
It’s ok. But that’s all.
It’s just not the same drinking from a bottle. I can do that anywhere.
I try a second stubby. It doesn’t work.
If two beers can’t turn it around, then it’s not turn aroundable.
Decision is made to go up to the place round the corner. Tourists and touts central.
5000 dong a glass. Good.
But it’s not a glass. It’s a plastic cup. Not good.
It was at this moment that I may have sensed a tear, trying to escape one of my eyes…..
I suck it up, like the man I am, and persevere.
The beer is good, the cup is acceptable, but only just, the location is tolerable, and the people are watchable. It will have to do, for now, I think.
A beer or two down, and a couple sit at the table next to me. They’re American; Ross and Allison; and are in their late 20’s, I think???
Anyway, they’ve been in Vietnam for a few weeks and they’ve been working their way North. They’ve only just arrived in Hanoi.
Over a few beers, we chat about our respective holidays. They’re going to Sapa the next day, and I explain that we’re also leaving for a few days to visit Pu Luong. We’ll both be back in Hanoi for the weekend, and I suggest that if they’re looking for something to do, then we could perhaps catch up.
They don’t have a phone (well, not for calls) so we try and work out a way to make contact.
Finally, I come up with the option of using TripAdvisor. They can send me a personal message.
Is there no end to the usefulness of TripAdvisor……?
We part, and I head back to the hotel. Hehehe, done this walk a few times…..
Back at the hotel, happy as a pig in the proverbial, and I grab Lisa to go next door to ‘our’ balcony. It’s where breakfast is served for hotel guests in the morning, and it’s where I spent an hour or two each late afternoon / early evening last time we were here.
Having breakfast on the balcony, watching the world go by, is good.
Having a beer on the balcony at the end of the day, watching the world go by, is brilliant.
I come up with an idea. It’s a nasty one, but it’s funny. Well, I find it funny.
One of the main reasons we stayed at the Artisan Boutique last time was because of a recommendation from Pamela on TripAdvisor. She had stayed here a couple of times and highly recommended it. She’d ‘sold’ it well, and it had more than lived up to our expectations. That’s why we were back here. And she also loves this balcony.
So, my nasty / funny idea?
Text a selfie photo of the two of us, on the balcony, with the street below in the background, to Pamela sitting at home in Sydney.
Ten minutes later, I get a reply.
Hehehe, it’s not complimentary.
Fun at Pamela’s expense, and beer done, we head upstairs to get ready before going out for dinner.
Decision is made to go back to the restaurant we’d found earlier in the day. The one that we’d been to on our final night, the last time we were here.
Our memory of the place was that the food was very good, the prices cheap, and the atmosphere amazing.
Exactly as we’d remembered. I love the place.
Two meals, one beer, one Coke. 130 000 dong. What’s not to love!
We go for a bit of a walk, visit an ATM, then head back to the hotel to get organised. We have an early start in the morning. We’re getting the 6.00am train to Ninh Binh.
And the intrepid explorer is more than a little nervous.
Three days of riding pillion on the back of a motorbike. Coupled with two nights staying in homestays.
Even the 2.5 hour train trip worries her a little.
Yep, more than just a little nervous……..