Vietnam 2016 – Trip Report 14


Up reasonably early, and feeling reasonably okay. But not great.

I consider the possibility of sitting over the road with a bowl of pho, but feeling a little so so, I decide I need something a little more substantial. Less liquid-y, I guess.

Maybe tomorrow……

So anyway, back to the routine of breakfast on the balcony next door, it is.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably keep saying it, it just never gets boring.

Watching Hanoi, and Hanoians, begin the day. I never tire of it.

Sitting, watching, learning, appreciating.

So simple, so interesting, and oh so much fun.

Breakfast done, which didn’t make me any better, but also didn’t make me any worse, we head back to the hotel to get ready for our ‘tour’.

And interestingly, we didn’t know what the tour would be of. But it didn’t matter, because the tour is secondary to what I think it’s all about.

Back downstairs by 9.00am, and a few minutes later our tour guides turn up.

Tino and Thuy from Hanoi Kids.

We sit in the foyer for a few minutes and just chat a little. They seem like really lovely girls and they’re incredibly friendly.

They ask where we’d like to go.

We don’t really care. Like I said, it’s more about the interaction with a couple of locals, than the tour itself.

They suggest the Temple of Literature, and while it’s not something that overly appeals to me; I probably have it in the same basket as pagodas and temples; we decide that would be good.

It’s a bit grey and murky out there, so we grab an umbrella from the hotel, and jump in a taxi.

A few minutes later and we’re out the front of the Temple of Literature.

Entrance to the Temple of Literature.

Hmmm, it’s old looking, and very Vietnamese looking. Which is probably not too different to what I thought it would look like.

It also looks fairly temple-ish, which is probably not surprising, seeing as what it’s called…..

Lisa seems to like this sort of stuff, and as soon as we walk through the entrance she wants me to take photos. Which would be fine, but I forgot the camera. Idiot…..

Fortunately, I have my phone, so mobile phone photos will have to do.

Lake at the Temple.

Anyway, it’s interesting, and the girls explain a lot about it’s history, as well as the meaning behind a lot of the various statues and artifacts.

It really is a place that I think you need a guide if you visit. Walking around by yourself, you just wouldn’t understand the significance, or the meaning, of the things that you were looking at.

A tour group!  On a very small scale…

Temple of Literature done, we headed off.

But rather than get a taxi back to the Old Quarter, we decided to walk.

We’d mentioned to the girls earlier that we’d like to be shown a bit of the Old Quarter that we may not necessarily had seen, so we just walked.

I had no idea where we actually were, and I didn’t have a map, which was probably fortunate for everyone involved.

The girls however, knew exactly how to get back.

And it was a really enjoyable walk. Yes, taking in the sights, but more importantly, just talking to them about their lives.

And they were as interested in us, as we were in them.

Although, at times, it was difficult to explain about things that were either specific to Australia, or just not familiar to Vietnam.

Australian Rules Football was one, and cricket was the other one. I’d tried to explain cricket before in Vietnam. It was in Hue in 2014, when we got talking to a young girl that worked in a restaurant there.

I didn’t do a very good job of it then, and let’s just say that I hadn’t improved any…..

In the end I resorted to Google.

We also talked about the streets of Hanoi, and what the traditional product was that was sold in several of them.

I then asked a question that I’d often thought about, but had never actually got around to asking someone.

Many of the streets in Hanoi begin with the word, ‘Hang’.

As in Hang Hanh, Hang Bac, Hang Bo, Hang Gai, etc.

“What does the ‘Hang’ bit, mean?”, I asked.

“Street”, was the reply.


Yep, I’m not terribly smart……

So, dumb question out of the way, we headed on down towards Hoan Kiem Lake.

We soon ended up on Ma May street; or is it Ma May Hang?; and the girls took us to the ‘Traditional House’.

It’s a traditional house of Hanoi, and it’s been restored to how it would have been when it was built at the end of the 19th century.

It was quite interesting, and if you’re in the area and have a few minutes, it’s worth a look. I can’t remember how much it cost to get in, but it would have only been a dollar or two.

After the house we walk a few more streets, before heading down towards the lake.

We’d mentioned that we were planning on buying a couple of phins (coffee filters), and that we’d also want to buy some coffee. The girls then took us to a rather large café / coffee selling place over the other side of the lake, near the water puppet theatre.

Not exactly the type of place I had in mind, but, oh well, it’ll do.

Suspecting I’d paid a little more; rather, hoping it was only a ‘little’ more; for some coffee, we headed off to find some coffee that was already mixed with water in the cup.

On we walked; still feeling so so, but managing; and eventually we turned into the street where St Joseph’s cathedral is.

The girls chose a café that was on the corner, opposite the cathedral. I can’t remember it’s name, but it has a bit of a military type feel to it. I suspect it has a bit of a name amongst the locals; particularly the younger ones.

Our Hanoi Kids guides – Thuy and Tino.

It was at this point that I realised that what I was looking for, wasn’t actually what the younger generation of locals was looking for.

I was looking for authentic, basic, perhaps rustic?, experiences. Street food, street coffee places, type of things.

They, on the other hand, were looking for more upmarket, ‘image-y’, type places. Which, of course, there was nothing wrong with.

And really, they are no different to the vast majority of the younger people in Australia.

Geez, I’m sounding old……

But, it just goes to show that Vietnam is changing.

Anyway……., when you’re sitting in a café, you need to order a drink.

And yep, no prizes for guessing; caphe sua da! But this time, with coconut milk.

Tasted as good as it looked!

Any good?

Yep! As I knew it would be.

Coffee, completely and utterly enjoyed, but conversation with two strangers; enjoyed even more. It was a lovely way to finish our tour with them. Tino and Thuy, really were incredibly friendly, young girls.

Our tour done, they walked us back to the hotel. Even though we’d only known them for three hours, it was still difficult to say goodbye. And you know how much I love goodbyes…..

We headed upstairs for our usual rest and recovery session. And I really needed this one, today.

I was really starting to feel a little ordinary.

Rest and recovery done, but not terribly successfully, we went off in search of lunch.

Up the street and past Hai in his usual spot, and we headed back to yesterday’s banh mi shop.

With the usual pointing we ordered a pork banh mi.

We then headed back to Hoan Kiem Lake and found a bench seat at the northern end, where we could sit and eat. As well as people watch.


Well, almost…..

Feeling average wasn’t helping, and the fact that the girl had put pate on the banh mi was also contributing.

Now, normally, I don’t mind pate, but today it just wasn’t helping.

Lisa, not being a friend of pate; ever; was being impacted as well.

So yeah, just a little short of ‘perfect’.

Banh mi finished; Lisa’s almost finished; we headed off around the lake towards the southern end.

As we passed a café on the other side of the road to our right, we noticed a bit of a commotion.

It took a minute to work out what was going on.

Ahhhh, it was the police doing their thing.

Dealing with that heinous crime of shop keepers having tables and chairs on the footpath for their customers.

That crime which is so rare in Hanoi, that you hardly see any shop have the audacity to clutter up the area in front of their establishment.

And how do the police deal with such flagrant behavior?

They pick up anything, and everything, that is on the footpath belonging to the shop, and throw it all in the back of their truck. Tables, chairs, fans; whatever is there.

While they’re doing this, the shop owners are frantically moving as much of their stuff back into their shop to avoid it being confiscated.

It’s kind of funny to watch, but I also find it sad.

And in my eyes, kind of pointless.

We continue our walk south, now past the lake, and headed down Hang Bai.

Our mission; well, probably more my mission – I was just dragging the intrepid explorer along for the ride, who incidentally was struggling with her health as well, by now – was to have a look at Hom market.

Which I’ve just realised, now looking at the map, was quite a walk away.

To placate her somewhat, we stopped at a small street side vendor and bought a couple of cold drinks. The thinking being that that should take her mind off things for a little while.

The drinks were actually very much required, as even though it was quite overcast, it was still very warm and humid.

Yep, it just slowly, and sometimes quickly, just eats away at you. Grinds you down…..

Anyway, we continue on, past nothing much in particular, apart from normal everyday Hanoi street life. Which as I’ve said, is more than interesting in itself.

Finally, we reach the market and cross the road to go inside.

We walk in the main entrance, and continue straight. Up ahead is the fresh food part; the various meats and vegetables. It’s around 2.30pm, so all the major activity is over. This makes it easier to walk around, but without the hustle and bustle, it is a little lackluster. But it’s still good, as markets always are.

Bit quiet, but still good.

We head back from where we’d come, and turn left into the main building. On this floor there is more fruits and vegetables, but upstairs is the cloth section, for which this market is probably more known for.

As ‘upstairs’ requires actually walking up some stairs, the intrepid explorer declines the opportunity to take a look.

I think the cold drink is beginning to wear off……

Oh well, I’ll head up on my own.

And yep, there’s cloth.

Stacks.  Literally.

Heaps of cloth…..

And there’s just enough room to move between the stacked piles.

Well, if you’re a small Vietnamese person, there is….

A-maze-ing cloth…

I squeeze my way through, and around, and at one point I come to five or six girls who look like they’re in the process of buying and selling.

I ain’t getting through.

This now worries me a little. I need to go back the way I came, but the way I came was like a maze, and I didn’t have the foresight to bring a pocket full of rice.

Slightly disorientated, I kind of guess my way back to the stairs.

For the first time in my life, I actually guess right.

Down the stairs I go, and there’s Lisa waiting for me.

And yeah,……. she’s not looking the best.

Another drink is not going to remedy this.

Not sure even chocolate could help……

“You okay?”, I ask, already well and truly knowing the answer.

“No, I feel like I might be sick”, she says, with that kind of look that tells me she’s pissed off with me.

She’s actually quite good at that look…..

We make our way towards the exit. Rather briskly. But not really together.

My thinking being, that if this goes bad, I don’t really want to be in close proximity.

She gets to the exit first, so I take the opportunity to take one last photo.

This gives me both a good photo, as well as a little more distance.

We begin our walk back to the hotel. She still looks a little green, but eventually the fresh air of 34°C and 95% humidity, starts to work it’s wonders.

She’s still not feeling that good, but at least I’m reasonably confident now of not seeing her pork banh mi with pate, again.

We eventually get to the lake, and seeing as we have to walk past the ANZ bank, I decide to stock up on dong.

Now, the important bit. Perhaps the only important, travel related tip in this whole Trip Report. If not all of the reports……

5 000 000 dong is what I was able to withdraw from the ANZ bank next to Hoan Kiem Lake.

And the fee was 40 000 dong.

So there you go, after however many trip reports, there’s something that’s actually relevant and useful.

Wallet bulging, eyes darting (and that’s the problem when you’re able to withdraw large amounts), we head back to the hotel for our second rest and recovery session of the day.

And it’s something I could really do with. I’m knackered.

And the intrepid explorer is, too.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me. I just can’t sleep, even though I give it a good two to three minutes, or so.

I give up, and decide that beer may be my answer.

Leaving Lisa to do her thing on her own, I head up towards beer corner.

Through underwear lane and out onto what will become beer street. Up to the corner itself, and I stop myself from going direct to my usual ‘plastic cup place’.

I turn right to see if our place from last night, with the little kid, is open.

It’s not…..

Yes, we sat where those red stools are, on the roof, while having dinner last night.  Looks very different in daylight!

Around the block, and I soon have a plastic cup in my hand.


A couple of beers there, and while it’s not making it worse, it’s not really making it better.

Craving beer in a glass, and a better view in front of me, I head back to my balcony.

I see Hai on the way, and fortunately manage to greet him without actually saying, ‘Hi’.

Stopping for a brief chat, I tell him that I have something I want to show him in the next day or two.

I then realise it has to be in the next two days, as that is all we have left in Hanoi.

Live the moment. Live the moment……

Back up on the balcony, and I feel a little more at home.

The beer is going down, well……, not too bad.

The scene below me, well……., that’s always good.

It doesn’t matter how it’s stuck to the bike; it just needs to be stuck…

The combination kind of works, but it’s still harder than it should be.

I’m not going to let it beat me, though.

I head back to the room and we get ready for dinner.

I find it a bit of a struggle to decide what I feel like eating. I need to eat, and I kind of want to eat, but I don’t know what I want.

Although I do know that I don’t want anything too ‘out there’.

We decide to return to New Day restaurant, where we went with Stefan on Friday night.

Once again the food is good, but it’s just not doing it for me.

I soldier on though, like the trouper I am…..

Dinner done, we head back to the hotel for beers on the bed, as well as some TripAdvisor updating.

The updating goes well. The beers do not.

That wall is particularly hard, and I hurt. Aches, pains…..

There really is no point flogging a dead horse.

I pull the pin for the night; hoping, really, really hoping, I come good in the morning.



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