31 October – Hanoi
Our last full day.
And while it’s not as bad as the actual day that you leave, it’s still not a great feeling.
Live the moment. Live the moment….
But that’s not always that easy.
We head next door for breakfast, and fortunately, there’s chairs free on the balcony.
Which is good. Very, very good, in fact. Imagine if that wasn’t the case?
Doesn’t bear thinking about…..
But, it does begin the list of the ‘final’ things of the day.
And I hate that.
Breakfast done, as well as trying to take in the usual morning sights just that little bit more, we head back to the room to begin it.
Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t think about tomorrow….
Back outside, and we head down to the southern end of the lake. We have a rough plan of having a look at the Vincom Centre, which is a shopping centre, apparently.
No real desire to actually see it – it is a shopping centre after all; it’s probably more just about walking through an area that we haven’t seen before.
Trusty hotel map in my pocket, but like a few days ago when we were looking for that bloody plane, the Vincom building is actually off the map.
Hopefully, what I think will be a rather large building, will stand out a little more than a small part of a plane in a pond.
Now past the lake, the streets are much wider than the Old Quarter, but still very busy. Along with the usual congested footpaths.
There’s also a lot of construction, or maintenance, being done to the footpaths, which makes walking extremely difficult. It is a real mess, and it’s rather frustrating and uncomfortable.
Probably best if I don’t make eye contact with Lisa.
At one point, and just to add to the uncomfortable-ness, an ambulance goes past. Now, if an ambulance with its lights and siren on at home makes you pay attention, well, in Vietnam, it most certainly does the same.
Only it also adds a degree of pain to the whole experience.
It has to be one of the loudest, most shrillest sounds I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I’m surprised my ears didn’t start bleeding.
It just penetrates your head.
One of the last things on the map is a lake, just off to the right of where we are, so feeling rather adventurous, and perhaps potentially quite foolish, we make a slight detour to check it out.
We find it, and yep, it’s a lake. And obviously not a tourist destination, not that I was expecting it to be, as there’s no one else here that looks like us.
Just a whole heap of locals out enjoying the morning sunshine. Including one guy on a park bench, who happened to have an appendage of his out, also seemingly enjoying the sunshine. Not totally convinced he knew about it, but then again, maybe he was just showing off.
Which, judging by what I could see, he could afford to do….
Lake, amongst other things, seen, we attempt to get back to the road that we need to be on. And, it seems to go well.
Down what appears to be bike street, and then onto peanut street. Gee, I love the way the Vietnamese set up their businesses in clusters of the same.
A bit further on a shoe shine girl walks towards us. A kilometre or so further back, you’d avoid eye contact, seeing as in the Old Quarter, more often that not, they try to ‘scam’ you with trying to ‘fix’ your shoes.
She gives us an acknowledging smile, and we give one in return. And just like the café at the other end of Long Bien bridge, I love these seemingly insignificant interactions.
Our walk continues, and just as I start to doubt my navigation skills, a couple of rather large buildings come into view. A Vincom sign then confirms my hopes.
We head inside, and yep, it’s a shopping centre. But a very expensive one.
Pick just about any multinational, high end, exclusive type brand, and you’ll probably find it in the Vincom Centre.
It just feels so weird seeing a place like this in Vietnam, and it really makes you think about who, as well as how many, actually shop here. And there weren’t too many there when we were, with the staff far outweighing the number of customers.
Just another one of those contrasts of Vietnam, things.
Shopping centred out, and a little sick of scratching my head at what I’d just seen, we head back outside to begin our walk back ‘home’.
Back onto the road we walked down, and up ahead, there appears to be some sort of dust storm. But being in a big city, and with no real wind to speak of, that doesn’t really make sense. All of a sudden there seems to be quite a commotion, with people coming out onto the street. It’s at that point that I realise the ‘dust’ has a smoky aroma.
Hmmm, a fire. And a rather significant one, it seems. On the road that we’d ideally walk back on, too.
More than happy to have a sticky beak, but not wanting to get too involved in case things get way out of hand, we head off to the right to bypass the activity by walking up the next road across.
A couple of blocks up, we head back to the road that we need. The smoke seems to have lessened somewhat, but there’s still plenty going on with fire engine sirens and heaps of traffic caught up in the whole thing.
I’m not sure what it was, but it seems to have been brought under control pretty quickly.
We continue our walk and about hallway back we realise that we’re yet to have a caphe sua da, today. We really need to rectify that.
And of course, just when you realise that’s what you want, we struggle to find a coffee place. I tried a local guy with a couple of chairs on the footpath, who looked promising, but unfortunately, no luck.
We kept walking, and then, a couple of blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake, there’s a rather large chain like coffee shop.
Knowing it won’t be ideal, but becoming rather desperate, and because it is our last day, I relent. We head over and take a seat outside, which makes it a little better seeing as I’ll have a pretty good view of the world going about its business.
Two caphe sua da’s eventually ordered; it was listed as caphe nau da on the menu, which is the Northern equivalent; and the first thought is that they better be good. 45 000 Dong each, plus a 5% service charge.
Geez, it’s an expensive business keeping someone happy….
Fortunately, they were pretty good. As too was the ambiance and people watching.
Although, I could have done without another ambulance siren trying to perforate my ear drums. I think that was the third one for the day, and with the fire engines earlier, it hadn’t been a terribly good day for the things that help keep my spectacles on my head.
Coffee done, we headed back to the hotel for a recovery session. As well as to begin the packing thing.
Geez, and you don’t think I hate that….
Now recovered somewhat, we head outside again to try and make the most of our final few hours.
On the way out, we see Sophia, and find out she’s about to finish work for the day. Because we leave pretty early tomorrow, we now have our first ‘goodbye’ of the day.
We do the photo thing, and then try and make the ‘goodbye’, more of a ‘see you next time’.
Hopefully we’ll be back, and hopefully she’ll still be here.
Back outside, and up around the corner. Time for another ‘final’ thing; a caphe sua da at our coffee place.
Coffees ordered, but kind of done in a way that meant we didn’t really have to order them, because they knew what we wanted as soon as we walked in.
Great, they know us now, and now we’re leaving tomorrow…..
We manage to get a seat outside and just try and prolong both the coffee and the people watching thing, as long as we can.
It just never gets boring, especially when you have the occasional tour group walking past.
There’s just something about watching people following a guide, who’s holding a stick with a flag on top, above his head.
Funny, but somewhat sad, at the same time.
Final caphe sua da done; gee, this is getting tough; we head back down around the corner in the direction of the hotel. And there, right on the corner of our street, is a girl with a banh mi cart. It’s about 3.00pm, and it seems she’s only just set up.
Hmmm, take a chance? Or stick to my anti Northern banh mi stance?
One look at Lisa, and the decision is made for me.
“Two banh mi’s, please”, are the next words from my mouth.
Turns out it’s chicken on skewers, with pickled vegetables and chilli. And all for 20 000 Dong each.
No pate. No sandwich press. Just an oh so simple banh mi. Exactly the way I like ‘em.
Faith is somewhat restored, but also a bit annoyed that we didn’t find this till our last day.
Oh well, will have to remember for next time.
Because there will be a next time. Won’t there….?
Across to underwear lane, and it’s time to try and buy some stuff. Pants, or dresses, or whatever, for a couple of nieces.
My eyes glaze over as Lisa begins the process. Aaaargh, I hate shopping….
Sitting back, just taking in the sights and sounds, hoping that it will all be over sooner, rather than later. While wishing I was somewhere else, I must have looked more intelligent and knowledgeable than I thought, as a German couple came up to ask me about withdrawing money from ATMs.
I’m not really sure why they picked me, but at least it gave me some respite from the pain and discomfort that I was going through.
Lisa eventually makes a decision, and the time has come to complete the transaction.
Turns out she’s picked a place that has fixed prices, so really, there was no need for me to be there.
Geez, there’s 15 minutes I’ll never get back….
Eyes now unglazed, we go for a walk. Nowhere specifically, just that aimless walking thing.
Onto button / ribbon / thread street, and then down any tiny lane we come across. Yep, the tiny lanes that three years ago we would never have walked down.
Sometimes there’s nothing of note; sometimes there is.
Past the reasonable sized Husky dog out the front of someone’s house, and then the shaking chihuahua dog two doors down.
Not sure why he was shaking, it certainly wasn’t cold. Perhaps it was just because he lived so close to the much bigger Husky.
Down the next lane, and this time we have to navigate the chickens.
God, I love Hanoi!
We eventually find our way back to the hotel and I drop Lisa off. While our day is almost done, I do have that one final beer corner thing to do. And while it will be difficult to say goodbye to the guys, in particular Steve, I’ve been looking forward to it all day.
I head outside and up to the corner. Hai is there, and it’s now time to say goodbye to him.
Geez, it doesn’t seem that long ago since we first saw each other after I returned from the North with Toan.
This ain’t getting any easier.
Through underwear lane, and up to the usual place.
Mick, from last night, is there, but there’s no sign of Steve. And Mick hasn’t seen him today.
Lee turns up a few minutes later, and he too is not sure where Steve is.
We have a beer, and I still live in hope that we’ll see him walking down the street any minute.
But that’s perhaps more wishful thinking.
Lee leaves after one, and it’s just Mick and I, now.
He’s a nice guy, but perhaps like Steve, his life is somewhat complicated. And at only 24 years old, I think he’s seen a bit.
One of those shoe repairer guys turns up, and seeing as my thongs don’t require any maintenance, he offers to work on Mick’s shoes.
I’m a little surprised when Mick agrees to let him have a look, but when I see the state of his shoes, I understand why.
Even the shoe repair guy is rather taken aback by their poor condition. It doesn’t stop him from trying to work out a solution, though.
In the end it was decided to let nature take its course, which was probably best for all concerned. It was actually a nice little interaction, as well as a bit of fun.
Eventually, and unfortunately, it was time to end my final beer corner visit, and while I’d enjoyed chatting to Mick, I was absolutely gutted that I never got the chance to say goodbye to Steve.
I still am.
I headed back to the hotel to grab Lisa, and apparently Huyen, from yesterday’s walk around the lake, has messaged her. She wants to know if we can catch up tonight?
Would love to, but I really want to keep the tradition of having dinner at our ‘last’ restaurant, Nam Bittet.
Huyen is happy to do that, so she’ll meet us at the hotel about 7.30pm.
We then head upstairs to begin our final balcony session.
Sitting there, still loving it, but hating that it’s the last one. Where has that time gone?
The realisation kicks in that our third trip is essentially over, and now I’m not sure if I can actually see a fourth one. I think I can, but at least with the previous two trips, by the time we got to the last night, I knew that we’d return.
I don’t have that same feeling, mainly because I don’t think I can justify it to Lisa. While she loves Vietnam, I think she’s had enough.
I’m just not ready to say goodbye, yet.
I decide to broach the subject of a potential return at some stage. She gives me nothing.
Not a ‘yes’, or a ‘no’, just nothing. I’ve known her long enough to know what that means.
So we sit there. In silence.
At least I have my beer.
God, I’m pissed off!
After more silence than I can handle, I suggest she goes off to get ready. She does, which is a good result for both of us.
I continue with the beer and watching thing, just trying to make it last as long as I can.
A couple of Aussie women then end up sitting next me, so we get chatting.
They’re normally Bali people, and this is their first trip to Vietnam. That being the case, and seeing as Vietnam is quite possibly my favourite subject, they’re in trouble.
We just sit and chat, and I try and give them a few tips to help them get the most out of their trip, which they were very appreciative of.
We must have had a good time, because before I knew it, there was a call from down below.
“Scott, she’s here!”, said in that way that leaves you with no doubt at how she’s feeling about you at that particular moment.
“Oooops”, is about all I can come up with, as I say goodbye to my new friends, and head downstairs to face the music.
A sheepish hello to Huyen, while avoiding eye contact with Lisa, and I head upstairs for a quick shower.
Quickest shower complete; not for Lisa’s benefit, solely because I felt bad for Huyen; and we’re on our way up towards beer corner for the final time.
We get to Nam Bittet, and as per usual, they find us a table pretty quickly.
Have they ever turned anyone away????
The girls have stir fried something or other, while I go with the dish that looks remarkably like a pigeon.
Our food quickly arrives and there’s a small mix up. I’m not sure what the actual issue was, but seeing as Huyen is the only one of the three of us that understands Vietnamese, she gets it sorted.
The food, as it always is, is good. So too is the beer. But the ‘dinner’ wasn’t really about either of those things, it was about spending time with a local that, even though we’d only met yesterday, was just incredibly kind and friendly.
And I think both Lisa and I were both very happy for the company. Could have been a very quiet night, otherwise….
Dinner done, and nowhere near close to wanting the night to end, we head off to beer corner.
A few beers, heaps of chatting, a few of the obligatory selfies, as well as lots of people watching; which was a little different from the usual, seeing as it was Halloween and there were quite a few really getting into it.
It was just a great night, and really, just a great way to spend our final one.
Unfortunately, that time arrived that I’d been dreading all day, and we began the walk back to the hotel with Huyen, so she could pick up her bike.
Through underwear lane for the final time, and then into our street.
Yep, it was now time for another one of those ‘goodbyes’.
And yeah, it wasn’t easy.
Upstairs to get a few things sorted, and then back down to fix up the account, seeing as we’re leaving at 6.30am tomorrow.
Outside for a quick beer and snack run; keep putting the sleep thing off….; and then back up to do the usual beers and Trip Advisor thing on the bed, while spending some quality time with Lisa.
Interestingly, she seems much happier now, which, going by her demeanour earlier, wouldn’t have been that difficult to achieve.
But I suspect it’s more than that. While I think she’s always known it, I think tonight just confirmed to her again that it’s far more than just about the place. It’s also most definitely about the people.
So, who knows, maybe we will be back here again at some stage.
Lisa crashes about 11.00pm, while I fight the urge a little longer. I just don’t want to go to sleep, because once I do, Vietnam 2017 is essentially done and dusted.
And about the only positive I can take from that, is that tomorrow we’ll begin a whirlwind 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur.
Yep, a third country in the last month. (yes, I’m counting China)
Who would have thought….