27 October – Hanoi
Actually had a bit of a sleep in, which doesn’t happen too often, and then headed next door for breakfast.
Back on our balcony, enjoying some fruit, but enjoying the goings on down below, more. Loved it three years ago, loved being back 18 months ago, and now, just rapt to be doing it all again.
It’s still the same, but there have been a few changes. There’s now another phó place over the road, and while they seem to be doing a roaring trade, it doesn’t appear to be affecting business with the one that’s always been there.
Yes, the one that I was going to eat at last time, but then things conspired against me, and it didn’t happen.
It’s on the list for this trip, and barring any catastrophes, it will happen. I have four more mornings to achieve that.
Soaking in the street life below, all of a sudden there’s a bit of a commotion. Raised voices and a flurry of activity as the locals start running around.
And the cause of all this?
Yep, the police.
They’re out to clean up the streets of Hanoi by getting motorbikes, and anything else, off the side of the road.
Tables and chairs are hastily thrown back into shops, and motorbikes are quickly wheeled inside as well.
They don’t give them a lot of time to do it, but they also don’t appear to be in too much of a hurry, either.
The police eventually leave the now much emptier looking street, and the locals then roll their bikes back out, and set up their tables again.
Seriously, just a waste of time and effort.
And anyway, the way business is done in Hanoi, and everywhere else in Vietnam for that matter, is one of its great appeals. These police raids are just an exercise in pointlessness…..
Breakfast done, it was time to tick that box that didn’t get done in 2016; find Huu Tiep lake.
While the lake was of no real importance, it was what was in it that I wanted to see. The wreckage of a B52 bomber that was shot down way back in 1972.
Out into the streets, and we begin our walk with my trusty hotel map in my pocket. The very map, that will – not might – get us lost at some point.
While the map will come in handy, it won’t get us the whole way there. Unfortunately, Huu Tiep lake is actually off this map, but I’ve come prepared this time. I have a screen shot on my phone of the last little bit after the map becomes redundant.
Yep, nothing like being prepared, and I wasn’t even a boy scout in my younger years.
Which might explain why we weren’t able to find it last year…..
Part way up towards the railway line, and I realise we’ve walked up the wrong street. I really don’t know how we did that.
Never fear, we just need to now cut across to Dien Bien Phu, which is the road that the Military museum is on.
The extra walk will do us good. I think….
But maybe not Lisa’s knees.
Will have to try a bit harder to keep her happy….
We walk beside the train line, which is on our right, and there’s a bit going on over to our left with stall holders setting up for the day ahead.
There’s a couple of restaurants preparing their specialty, which in this case, happens to be dog meat.
Yes, several thit cho eateries up here.
It’s already been cooked and they’re now laid out on tables on the footpath. It’s funny, I have no desire to eat dog meat, and I don’t really have too much of an issue if others do, but I don’t really like seeing it. If it was a pig, I wouldn’t think twice, but a dog, it does make me feel a little uneasy.
One advantage of walking the wrong way, is that it gives us the opportunity to walk the railway line again.
In the last 18 months I’d heard a lot about the number of people that now had it on their list of things to do in Hanoi. And judging by the number of tourists up here, it has indeed become rather popular.
Which annoys me, somewhat.
Off the train line and finally on Dien Bien Phu, we continue in the general direction of the Mausoleum.
Fortuitously, we come across a small café, and seeing as keeping a certain person as happy as I can is of great importance, a caphe sua da stop is taken.
It’s starting to warm up, so being able to cool down in the shade for a few minutes was nice, too.
Suitably refreshed, we push on. Past the Mausoleum, and we head off towards the left.
There’s a few around, as well as quite a few police, and they seem a little on edge. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with APEC in Danang, but they seemed a little uptight.
A little further up we start coming across all the Embassies that are up here. It has a completely different feel to what you find in the Old Quarter.
We’re now off the map, and while we probably haven’t taken the most direct route; yes, that means we have kind of gotten lost a couple of times; we are heading in the general direction that we have to.
On we walk. And walk…..
The occasional look at my screen shot, and it seems we are still going the right way. Doesn’t really feel like it sometimes, but damn it, we’re going to find this thing.
And I tell Lisa that we are not returning to the hotel until we do.
It’s now become personal.
Eventually, we get to a road that runs off to the right. According to my screen shot, there should be a lake down here.
Well, the good news is that there is. The bad news is that there’s no plane wreckage in it.
Never fear, there’s another small lake on the other side of this road, just down a narrow street.
We head over there, anticipation building, and, well, we find another plane-less lake.
Okaaay……, this is not going the way that I hoped it would.
Remain calm…… Remain calm……
And don’t look at Lisa in case she has ‘that’ look…..
Look at my phone again, and hey, there’s another lake further on.
The road eventually runs out, and we’re now walking along some very narrow lanes with houses and businesses on each side.
It has a very different feel to it, and it almost feels like we shouldn’t actually be walking through them.
The thought also crosses my mind that we should perhaps be dropping rice behind us, in order to find our way back out.
Finally, we get to our third lake.
Anticipation building, again. This’ll be it!
Aaaaargh……, it too is plane-less!!!!!
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Actually, there was no way I was going to laugh. Fortunately, because it was so warm, the one or two tears that escaped, dried pretty quickly.
Working through my despair, while trying not to look at Lisa, I consult my phone again.
There’s one tiny little lake left that we haven’t seen yet. Could it be there?
I doubt it, but seeing as it’s not far from here, we better go and have a look.
If it’s not, then I’m not sure what we’ll do. I know I said I wasn’t going back to the hotel until we’ve found it, but I’m now starting to lose interest in this whole thing.
Back into the narrow lanes, and while I’m frustrated / annoyed / angry / sad / upset / and anything but happy, I’m actually quite enjoying the local life that we’re walking past.
A million miles from the environs of the Old Quarter, and just that little bit more authentic.
And friendly, too. With lots of smiles and acknowledgements, that you don’t always get when you’re walking around an area filled with people that look just like you.
Up ahead we can see a small lake on the left, again plane-less, but there looks like there might be another one further up on the right.
And there is.
And finally, there it is!
A small dirty little lake, more pond than lake like, with that bloody plane that we’ve just spent the last two hours looking for.
Fortunately I wasn’t expecting much, having read a little about it, and it duly delivered on that.
In the end though, it wasn’t really about the plane. It was, as it usually is, all about the journey.
Well, that’s what I had to keep telling myself….
Photos taken, just to prove that we actually got there, and then we head back the way we came.
And, if nothing else, that walk back to the main road was worth the frustration alone. Having achieved our goal, I was able to take in more of the local life. Past the egg lady, and the chicken lady; not sure which came first…..; like that?; as well as the fresh meat woman.
Past the narrowest, and I mean narrow, of lanes that I would dearly love to have walked down, but didn’t, as I wasn’t sure if it was actually the entrance to someone’s house.
I just loved it all, and perhaps confirmation that it is all about the journey.
Also proof that ‘getting lost’, is just so rewarding.
Back on the main road, and it seems a lot hotter out here. With slight concerns for the resilient one and her knees, I notice an old lady with her nuoc mia da (sugarcane juice) cart.
A potential saviour perhaps, two drinks are ordered.
And while the drink was very much enjoyed, it was the interaction with this lovely old lady that was even better.
We head on down the road, attempting to return to the ‘safety’ of the map, which is all rather uneventful.
Well, until the woman on the bicycle met the woman on the motorbike, with bicycle woman coming off second best.
Bicycle woman wasn’t very happy, and several rather weak ‘slaps’ were handed out. But that soon ceased, as she realised that whatever part of her leg hurt, hurt too much for her to continue her ‘fight’.
She then embraced motorbike woman’s attempts to help her.
I’m not sure who was at fault, but seeing as they were both female, it’s probably fair to say that they were both to blame.
Sexist joke out of the way, we continued our journey ‘home’.
Past all the Embassies, and then finally back on to Dien Bien Phu, up near the Military Museum.
As we got to the big Lenin statue, I noticed a couple of fruit sellers over the road. They noticed us, too, and quickly crossed the road to reach their intended targets.
Maintaining a certain distance between scamming fruit woman, which they kind of are, and Lisa; due to it always seemingly costing me money when they come together; I politely declined the offer of her placing her bamboo ‘pole’ on my shoulder.
But one ‘no thank you’, was never going to cut it, and she followed us for quite a while, even attempting to place it on my shoulder several times.
Eventually she got the message and gave up.
Partly because she realised I wasn’t going to give in, and partly because she spotted three or four other potential ‘victims’.
We kept walking, but at the same time kept an eye on how the sting was unfolding. And sure enough, it quickly became obvious that these tourists hadn’t read up on the fruit sellers, before arriving in Vietnam.
Bamboo pole placed on tourist’s shoulder, happy snap taken.
Tourist thinks that’s it, but request, which is more like a demand, then follows for payment for the overpriced fruit the tourist didn’t know they were buying.
And buy they do.
Oh well, while it will probably be the most expensive fruit they’ll buy in Vietnam, they at least get a photo, as well.
We continue walking, and we’re soon back in the Old Quarter, before finally reaching our hotel. I’m absolutely stuffed, and if I feel like that, then Lisa will be worse.
In the interests of marital harmony, and in the belief that if I don’t know there’s a problem, then there isn’t one, I don’t bother asking how she, and her knees, are.
Ignorance being bliss, we crash on the bed for a rest and recovery session.
An hour or so of that, and it’s time to head out to look for something to eat. And just for a change, banh mi is the goal.
We make our way up to Ma May street, avoiding yesterday’s banh mi place, and find a small shop that does them. Bit touristy, but it’s now a little past the usual lunchtime, so we give it a try.
It’s alright; acceptable if you like, but not great. I’m actually now starting to wonder if HCMC and Hoi An just do banh mi’s better???
Lunch done, and because it’s still too early for a beer, we head off in search of Café Giang for an egg coffee. We had one last time we were here, but we haven’t been back to Café Giang since 2014.
Starting to become a little bit more of an expert with Hanoi’s streets, sometimes…., we quickly find it and head upstairs.
Yep, up some stairs just to make Lisa’s knees even more angry with her….
It’s good to see the café again, and while I really enjoy egg coffee, and would probably always have one whenever we’re here, I actually prefer a good caphe sua da. It’s nice for a change, though.
It eventually gets to that time, so we walk back to the hotel to drop Lisa off.
This will give her, and her knees, another break, as well as me, seeing as I’m getting a little frustrated by the one sided conversations we’ve been having.
Probably shouldn’t make her walk as far as we have today….
All of us now happy, I head back out. Down the end of the street, and there’s Hai, my book seller. I haven’t seen him since we got back into Hanoi, after seeing him a few weeks ago after the motorbike trip with Toan.
We have a quick chat, and then I’m off to beer corner.
No mucking around this time with trying to find another bar, I make a beeline straight to my yellow plastic chair place.
The English guy from last night, turns out his name is Steve, is there again, so I go over to say hello. He introduces me to an American friend of his, Lee, and I end up sitting with the two of them.
We just sit, chat, laugh, and people watch. Oh, and drink beer, of course. It goes without saying, but it’s always so much better when you add beer.
I got the impression yesterday that Steve had travelled a lot. I now had that impression confirmed. Talk about life experiences! And not all of them ideal.
It’s soon time to head back to see how Lisa’s knees are; well, not really, I can just hear the balcony calling me; so I bid farewell to Steve and Lee. Hopefully I’ll see them again.
On the way back, I notice the streets have a bit of a different feel to them. Ahhhh, that’s right, it’s Friday night, and over the weekends they now block off the streets around Hoan Kiem lake to traffic. It’s something that they started doing not long after our last trip, so it will be interesting to see what it’s like over the next few days.
I grab Lisa, and we head next door. Ahhh, back in my happy place.
Beer ordered, and Lisa even decides she’ll have one. Not sure if that’s a good sign, or not….
Watching the world unfold below me, I end up having two, and Lisa just the one. All too soon, it’s time to do something about dinner, so I head over to pay for our drinks.
It’s then that I find out that it’s been happy hour, and they have two-for-one drinks.
Geez, now you tell me…..
Off to get cleaned up, and we head back out. The streets now are very different. I was going to say they’re so quiet, but they’re not really quiet with the number of people about. But, they are so easy to navigate. And they have a real party atmosphere.
It’s funny, I had my doubts about the streets being closed, seeing as the traffic is one of the things that I really enjoy about Hanoi, and Vietnam, for that matter.
But it’s great, and it does make things a lot easier.
Decision on dinner is made, and we head to our ‘last’ restaurant; Nam Bittet.
I’ve said it before, and it’s probably quite obvious now judging by how many times we’ve been here, but I just love this place. The food is excellent, but really, it’s the atmosphere of the place that keeps me coming back.
Feeling a little adventurous, we go with the pile of tiny bones wrapped in a thin layer of meat in the shape of a pigeon.
To offset the difficulty rating of eating a small bird, we also have a plate of pork. It didn’t look like that much food, but by the end of it, we were more than full.
A couple of beers to go with it, and the 200 000 Dong bill would mean that bun cha would, more often than not, come second to Nam Bittet.
Back around towards Ma May, and there’s live music in the now vehicle-free streets. It’s amazing, it’s just so different.
We find another bia hoi place, fairly close to one of the bands playing, and decide to give it a go. It’s run by a young girl and her parents, and they quickly find us a couple of chairs in amongst the throng of people.
The music is really good, and the atmosphere is brilliant, and Lisa really gets into it. Only taken her since waking up this morning for that to happen….
We meet a German girl and her mother, who haven’t been here too long, and get chatting with them. They’re really nice, and we end up having a great night.
Oh well, two good Germans out of three we’ve now met in Vietnam, isn’t too bad I suppose….
About 11.00pm we decide to call it a night and head back to the hotel. We walk past where the weekend night market is, and they’re in the process of packing it up.
Back at the hotel we sit up for a bit, but the combination of our big walk, along with perhaps a beer or two, too many, has caught up. I’m stuffed.
Pin is pulled, and I let sleep do its thing.
Suspect it might be a bit of a nothing day tomorrow….