Vietnam 2016 – Trip Report 12


Well, we had a sleep in!

It was actually the first sleep in since, well……., since the last time we had a sleep in.

Which I think may have been a few days before we left Melbourne.

And it was a long enough sleep in that we missed breakfast on the balcony next door.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like we slept till lunchtime or anything. I think we’re up and getting ready by 8.30am.

First job; sort out our dirty clothes.

Which happened to be every piece we took to Pu Luong.

We opened the plastic bag they were in, then we opened the door on the balcony to get some fresh air.

Geez, three days of perspiration mixed with dirt, dust and whatever else was on them……

Yep, not real good…..

We headed downstairs, handed the laundry bag over to a suitably warned Sophia, and headed out to……, well, just walk the streets of Hanoi.

Apart from finding something for breakfast, we had no plans.

Headed up towards beer corner, which was now far quieter than last night, and eventually found ourselves on Ma May street.

Up ahead we see the typical Vietnamese street food cart. Yep, a banh mi one.

It’s a young girl, maybe early twenties, and she has her cart set up in front of a very narrow ‘passage way’ (that might be the entrance to where she lives???), between a gift shop and a bar.

She’s talking to her friend, with her back to us, and it takes her a second or two to realise we’re there. When she does see us, she seems surprised.

Not sure why, seeing as we’re in a pretty well tourist populated, area. Maybe her banh mi’s are no good and she’s surprised someone wants to buy them? Or maybe we just look like crap, and we’ve shocked her with our appearance???

Now slightly self conscious, as well as wary, we order two banh mi opla’s.

She seems very eager to please, which again, is slightly worrying, but also nice, and she grabs us two small plastic stools to sit on while she prepares our breakfast.

Now, when I say the stools were small, they were actually slightly smaller than small.

So while she cooked the eggs, I sat on the footpath on my smaller than small stool, and watched the world go by. As well as counting each individual hair on my knees…..

While we’re sitting there, the young girl comes out with a couple of drinks for us.

It looks like dirty water, which means it’s tea. It’s a bit different to other ‘teas’ we’ve had, though; this one is a slightly different colour, and has quite a distinctive taste. Not unpleasant, but just different.

She really seems to be going out of her way for us, which is nice, and I think even if the tea gives me Hepatitis C, well, it’s been a very pleasant experience, anyway.

Our banh mi’s are soon ready, and yep, they were worth waiting for. Simple, but good. And that, combined with her friendliness and attitude, makes me want to return.

Stomachs happy, we head off.


Doesn’t matter.

Which is good, because we got lost. Again….

We just walk for a while, taking in the sights around us, and eventually work out where we are. We then head back to the hotel to cool down and freshen up. It’s pretty hot already.

Back out into the heat, and this time we do have a plan.

Last time we were here we crossed the train tracks up near the Military History Museum. I took a couple of photos, and also considered walking down the track for a bit, but wasn’t sure if you were allowed to do that, or not. So I didn’t. Which as it turned out, was just silly western thinking.

So this time, I was putting health and safety aside, and running the gauntlet of the one or two trains that travel this particular section of the track.

Up our street we go, and at the end; there he is.

“Want to buy a book?”, he asks. As he always does.

I’m sure it’s him. Absolutely positive.

I think…..

No, I’m convinced it’s him. It is the guy from our last trip in 2014.

Or wait, maybe he just looks familiar from when I saw him on Tuesday.

No, no, it is him.

“No thanks”, I say, with my usual smile, wishing I’d just go and ask him if it’s him. But not really sure how I’m going to do that anyway.

We walk on up towards the train tracks, taking in the usual sights of Hanoi wherever we look. Including a squirrel in a cage on a running wheel, outside a shop.

Even squirrels need to take a break occasionally…

Yep, just another case of expecting the unexpected…..

We eventually reach the train tracks, and I’m rapt. Not only am I ticking something off my list of things that I wanted to do in Hanoi, but I’m also ticking off one of my regrets from last time.

But now I have one other small regret. My plan was to take photos at each road the track intersected with and to list the street name. Well, I took the photos, but didn’t write down the street names, as I stupidly thought that I’d remember them.

I’m reasonably sure we began our walk at Nguyen Thai Hoc, and then headed North away from the station.

Train track.
If you hear a train coming, you might want to move…
Work can be done anywhere.

While there weren’t a lot of people around, I still found the walk incredibly interesting. We ended up getting to the part of the track where it starts to become slightly elevated; around Nguyen Van To; and headed off to seek some shade back in the streets.

We found a small café, and it didn’t take too much convincing to order a caphe sua da.

I’ve said it before; it truly is one of the great pleasures to do in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi; just sitting there, watching the world go by, with a caphe sua da, or a beer.

I could quite happily do it all day.

Mangosteen vendor

Suitably cooled, we headed off. Next stop was a place that we’d been to last time we were here, which, incidentally, we’d loved. Dong Xuan market.

To achieve this from where we were, which we didn’t really know, we needed to use the map. Walking aimlessly around Hanoi, finding things by accident, is one of my favourite things to do. Finding places in Hanoi, with the help of a map, is not really one of my favourite things to do.

I don’t think it’s me, as I don’t have ‘map’ issues elsewhere, so I’ll have to blame the map creator.

Bamboo street.

Anyway, I eventually figured out where we were, and now knew that the market was just around the next corner. As we got close we passed a narrow alley way. Something caught my attention and we doubled back to take a closer look.

It was filled with people eating at various little street food places. Very local, as well as very busy, although one stall stood out a little. It was the only place that had vacant seats. Maybe it was no good? Or maybe their last customers had just left?

Funny what goes through your mind…….

I decided to try and wind up the intrepid explorer a little.

“We’ll go and have a look around the market, then we’ll come back here for lunch”, I said, expecting at least some resistance.

“Yep, okay”, I received without hesitation.

Hmmm…..seems to have gained a bit of confidence……

Spent a bit of time in the market, and just like last time, it didn’t disappoint.

It just doesn’t matter what it is that somebody could need, it will be in Dong Xuan. It has everything.

Food, both processed and, umm……, not yet processed; some areas could be mistaken for a pet shop…..

Quintessential market!

Clothes, cloth, shoes, hardware, souvenirs, toys, electronic gadgets; you name it. Everything.

Need shoes?

Being a wholesale market though, some stall holders may be reluctant to sell to you. But it’s certainly not the case with all of them.

Market fix achieved, we headed out to find our food alley.

Walking down it from the other direction, I tried to remember which was the quiet stall. I’d decided I was going to avoid it, just in case other people knew something that I didn’t.

Damn it! I couldn’t remember which one it was.

We slowed at one of them and were quickly offered a welcoming look. A couple of customers just finishing up told us the food was really good.

Okay, this’ll do, I thought.

I did have that lingering doubt however, that this was the place I wanted to avoid, for quite possibly no good reason.

I then realised I didn’t even know what it was we were about to eat. The sign above the stall mentioned bun cha. Okay, that’ll do, I thought. Still not really sure what I was about to eat….

Time for lunch.

Told you before, I’m no good with the particulars of food. Definitely an ‘eat to live’ type of person.

Anyway, it was nice. And pretty cheap, too. 110 000 dong, which included more food than we could eat, as well as two Cokes.

Lunch done, we head back to the hotel for the afternoon recovery session. I really would much prefer to be out and about all day, but the heat just gets to you. It saps your energy, and is just so draining. The scary thing is, it’s only May. June and July must be unbelievable.

The locals know how to deal with the hottest part of the day.

Energy levels, kind of restored, I left Lisa to do whatever Lisa does when I’m not there, and headed off to do my most favourite afternoon thing in Hanoi. And no, it doesn’t involve water puppets or green tea….

Up through underwear lane, on to beer street, and then to beer corner. Because I wasn’t overly enthralled with beer in plastic cups on Tuesday, I decided to go back to the place I went to first.

You know, just give it one more go. Maybe I was too hasty in my initial assessment, kind of thinking….

Nup, I wasn’t.

The welcome, and the vibe, was cool. In fact, it was cooler than the actual beer.

Damn it, this just isn’t working.

I walk around the block, hoping to find another place that appeals, but I’m unsuccessful.

Not wanting to waste anymore beer drinking time, I bite the bullet and head back to the plastic cup place. It’s not perfect, but it appears to be the best I can find.

It’s probably not just about the cups; the whole atmosphere is, well, not really annoying me, but probably more frustrating me.

It’s just too touristy, and too full on. The constant in your face touting for business from the shop owners, and the steady stream of, sometimes rude and arrogant, tourists.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying it, but it’s just not how I remember it.

Has it changed?

Or have I changed?

It may be a bit of both, but I suspect it’s mainly me.

Even the tourists sitting there drinking Budweiser beer. I mean really, you come all this way and you drink the beer you drink back home!?

Geez, live a little, for……….., never mind……

And another thing with them? They don’t, or should I say, very few, actually acknowledge you.

Hell, I don’t want to sit down with you for an hour and discuss in intimate detail everything about your life. But how about a smile, a nod of the head, a wink, or even, god forbid, a hello???

Bia Corner / Street

I must be getting old. Which I am. And Lisa is obviously right; I’m a grumpy old man.

I quickly order another beer. That’ll fix things.

Well, it would have, if the old western tourist bloke with the younger Vietnamese girlfriend hadn’t sat at the table next to me.

Dead set, I have never heard so much garbage and drivel spill from a person. The biggest self centred, egotistical, know it all, pain in the you know where.

Seriously, I almost got up and dragged his girlfriend away. I don’t even know her, but she is far too good for that moron.

The speed at which my beer consumption is happening, is increasing. But it has to, and eventually it begins to work.

Finally in a much better place, I head back to the hotel to do the balcony thing.

As I get to our street, there he is.

“Want to buy a book”, he asks.

I smile, shake my head, and say no thanks.

But here’s my chance. Damn it, I’m going to sort this out once and for all.

I walk towards him.

“How long have you been here selling books?”, I ask him.

I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like ten years.

I explain to him that we were here 18 months ago and he sold me a book back then. He actually seems to remember me, which I find hard to believe, but he does seem very genuine.

We spend a few minutes chatting, and I find out his name is Hai. I’m actually very happy with that as I shouldn’t have too many problems remembering it.

Much, much happier now, I almost skip back to the hotel.

I grab Lisa and we adjourn to ‘our’ balcony. The beer almost becomes secondary to the ‘people watching’ down below. I love it, and never, ever tire of it.

But, all good things must come to an end, and apparently we need to eat.

And tonight’s choice?

The BBQ place we found by accident last visit. Even the kids loved it back then.

Doing the work yourself makes it even better.

Back up to beer corner and onto Ma May street. We’d found it the other day so knew exactly where it was.

As good as last time?


And it’s not just about the food. Although the food is very good.

It’s the whole experience.

It’s busy, with a lot of locals, it’s noisy, and it’s basic and simple.

And cooking your own food on small burners on your table, just adds to the whole thing.

Enjoying a cold beer or two, while doing all that…..; well, it just makes it even better.

As we were finishing up, we got an added extra.

A police raid.

The police were out and about enforcing the rule that forbids restaurants from having tables and chairs set up on the footpath. There’s obviously a good reason for that, but unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to know what that is.

Anyway, the waiters usher everyone into the restaurant itself, and very quickly move all the tables and chairs in as well. Anything left out can be confiscated by the police.

As we were sitting to the side of the restaurant, one of the guys there got us to ‘hide’ in a little alley way.

It was all very entertaining, and just added to the night.

Food, a few beers, and a police raid, all for 260 000 dong.

Yep, good value!

Another life experience ticked off, we decided that seeing as it was a Saturday night, we’d go and see the night market.

An incredibly good plan, and would have been executed perfectly, if not for one small thing.

The market wasn’t on.

Not sure why, but I came up with two possibilities.

One was that Vietnam was currently going through Government elections, and for some reason had cancelled the market for this weekend, and two, the US President, Barack Obama, was going to be visiting Vietnam, including Hanoi, in the next few days, and for safety reasons the market wasn’t going to be held.

Obviously there was also the possibility of a third, but those two were the only ones I could come up with. But knowing how good my presumptive powers are, I would probably put money on the third possibility.

Whatever that may have been…..

Anyway, end result was that, for some unknown reason, the night market wasn’t on. So all that was left to do, was go for a bit of a stroll around the streets. And being a Saturday night, that wasn’t such a bad thing.

It has a bit of a different feel to it. It’s a bit busier, and there’s a certain extra vibrancy to it.

It’s always busy, but sometimes…

Don’t get me wrong, Hanoi is always good. But sometimes, it’s even…… gooder…..

Walking done, and suitably stuffed, we headed back to the hotel for nightcap beers on the bed, as well as tentatively planning our next day.

And the plan?

Just for something different, it would involve walking.

Yep, the intrepid explorer really does love me…..




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