1 October – Hanoi
Awake at 6.00am.
That’s not going to happen.
Surprisingly, I actually manage to get back to sleep for another couple of hours.
A very lazy start, and I’m more than okay about that.
Twenty five years ago today, my life changed. As did Lisa’s.
And if someone said way back then that we’d be spending our 25th anniversary in Hanoi, I would have thought they were mad.
First it would have been, ‘you actually think we’ll reach 25 years!?’
Followed by, ‘Hanoi? Vietnam? Really?’
Yep, something more unlikely I would have struggled to think of.
But now, it’s here, and I can’t help but think of what we’ve done, what we’ve seen, and how it’s evolved over the journey.
And while this whole adventure was never planned with the anniversary thing in mind, I’m not sure there’s a place I’d rather be for the occasion, than here in Hanoi.
So yep, a lazy start to the day, and we head across the road a bit before 9.00am. Upstairs, and back onto the balcony. Happy place once again found.
And as an added bonus, I feel really good this morning. So good in fact, that breakfast today consists of something a bit more substantial than just fruit. Some bacon, sausage, a rice paper roll, as well as some chicken and noodles.
Yeah, it’s a good start to the day, and life is pretty good at the moment.
And down below, as per usual, it just never disappoints.
The woman pushing the rather large cart. She seems to be the Aldi of street vendors, selling anything and everything, including towels, cleaning products, kitchen utensils, and even bras and undies.
She actually makes a bra sale to another woman sitting on the footpath, and the same woman then purchases some vegetables from the next street vendor who comes along. Supporting undergarment and some of tonight’s dinner sorted, and she didn’t even have to leave her little stool.
I love the way Vietnam works.
We sit some more, and just take it all in. It’s all very enjoyable, until the guy next to me decides he really needs a cigarette. I’m not keen on sharing his smoke, so the move is made, and we head back to the room to get organised. Not that we have too much in the way of plans for the day, well, apart from attempting to buy some train tickets.
Down to the lake, and across the road to the coffee shop down at the bottom end that we went to last time. Two take away caphe sua da’s at 30 000 Dong each, ordered, and then back to the lake to just sit and watch.
While the trip is entering the final stages, we still have a bit more to look forward to. Another two nights in Hanoi, and then we head down to Ninh Binh for a night to catch up with Toan and Toan. Toan 1 I haven’t seen for two years, whereas with Toan 2 it’s been almost 3.5 years.
There’s been lots of fantastic memories over the years, and it will be great to catch up with them again. After Ninh Binh, it’s then back to Hanoi, and while that will signal the beginning of the end to our trip, we still have another six nights.
So yep, still a bit more to do till that dreaded final day.
We sit, watch, savour, and chat about our next few days. In particular, about the Ninh Binh bit.
Lisa says that she too is really looking forward Ninh Binh, but she then also proceeds to tell me that once we get back to Hanoi, she’ll be looking forward to going home.
Apparently, it seems, that another six nights in Hanoi might be too much.
I’m stunned, staggered even, that it appears she’s had enough.
Our conversation becomes significantly quieter, and all I can think of is that day in Chau Doc when the decision was made on how to deal with our altered Thanh Hoa plans.
We move to a different bench seat to get closer to the water, giving us a slightly better view, but it doesn’t improve how the day now feels.
Coffees done, we begin a slow walk around the lake. Reaching the red bridge, Lisa, while still somewhat somber and subdued, wants to take a selfie to stick on her Facebook page.
The idea is to take it while standing on the bridge, but it seems you now have to pay to enter the pagoda on the island before you cross the bridge.
Seeing as I don’t pay for photos, that is not going to happen.
Plan B is put into place, with the bridge just being in the background.
Photo done to commemorate the occasion; although the occasion seems to have lost some of its shine; we head back to the room to get our passports.
Quickly out to do our one and only chore, and we begin the walk up to the train station. It’s really starting to warm up, and that’s not helping with the somber one’s mood.
I walk a little ahead, trying not to make too much eye contact, while checking Maps.me occasionally.
We eventually find the station and head inside to attempt the ticket purchasing thing, fully expecting to utilise lots of pointing fingers and Google translate.
Finding where we need to be, we make our way over to one of the girls at the ticket counter. It turns out she actually speaks some English, and the whole process is very simple. Passports handed over, 6.00am train on 3 October selected, and two soft seat tickets are handed back for the price of 96 000 Dong each.
Yep, it really couldn’t have been simpler.
Back out into the hot streets, and I’m treading carefully. But not just around the broken pavers and cluttered footpaths that is Hanoi.
Back in the general direction of the lake, and we reach a juice vendor. Trying to make an effort, and trying to remain even moderately upbeat, the question is asked.
With no real enthusiasm, the answer is ‘yes’.
Two pineapple juices at 30 000 Dong each, and we’re soon sitting on the footpath cooling down. They’re sweet, but a little tart at the same time, and nice and cold.
With the cold bit mimicking our relationship at the moment.
Drinks done, we head off. Down car tyre / car / bike repair street, which then turns into alcohol street. Lots to look at, including what appeared to be the leg of an animal hanging in a shop window.
Seemed to have once belonged to some sort of farm animal, judging by the still present hoof.
We pass lots of small local food places, and while I’m not terribly hungry, I know that Lisa is likely to need something soon. Still being a bit further away from the main tourist area, I suggest that maybe we have something for lunch up here.
That’s not met with the positive answer I was hoping for, but knowing that I was zero chance of receiving, anyway.
A banh mi, apparently, is the preferred option, which, judging on past experiences here in Hanoi, hasn’t always been met with much success.
We keep walking.
Knowing that we’re not too far from St Josephs, I suggest perhaps something around there.
She seems to like that idea, so we turn right down the next street.
Back at my church, and then into the lanes nearby. We keep walking. And walking.
Having become both a little sick of offering unwanted suggestions, and walking in circles, I eventually tell her to feel free to pick something.
She doesn’t know.
We finally come across a banh mi cart, which we’d probably walked past three times, and she decides that that will do.
25 000 Dong later, she has her lunch. I, on the other hand, having not been hungry earlier, am now even less hungry, so I pass on having anything.
I think that both surprised and annoyed her.
Back to the room, picking up our 3.5 kilos of laundry for 103 000 Dong along the way, and it’s time for a recovery session.
Which, unsurprisingly, is a rather quiet affair.
I do actually get an apology, which was nice, but I can’t help but feel that the day is irretrievably lost.
Recovery session had, but not much improvement in the overall feel, I head out a bit after 3.00pm.
Which is probably best for both of us.
Down Hang Hanh, and I find the banh mi lady on the corner that I found on our last trip. Two meat skewers in a roll with some pickled veges and a little chilli sauce, (20 000 Dong) and just like two years ago, it’s good.
Over to the lake, and I get approached by a local who appears to want to practice English. Unfortunately his English is about as good as my Vietnamese, so it doesn’t go very far.
Up the other side of the lake, and towards the top there’s a bit of a commotion. A Western female tourist, probably mid to late 50’s, is walking after, and yelling at, a cyclo driver.
I’m not sure how it all started, but it appears his only crime was that he asked her if she would like a cyclo ride.
Seems she is sick of being asked, and she now wants him to know all about it.
While I have absolutely no desire to ride one, and while they can be a little persistent, a simple, and pleasant no thank you, usually does the trick.
Anyway, as her tirade continued, the cyclo guy, and now some of his mates, began to laugh. This just added to her annoyance, and she continued her over the top reaction.
Seriously, an exercise in pointlessness…..
I walk up shoe street, and then make my way around to my bia hoi lady’s spot. She’s not there.
A bit more aimless walking, and I come across the Old Quarter Gate, before heading back down to Ma May street. Being that it’s now after 4.00pm and she’s still not there, I suspect she has the night off.
Dejected, and thirsty, I head off to try and find an alternative place to deal with both those issues.
Up on the same road as Nam Bittet, but just down a bit, I find a small café / restaurant that also has a beer menu. It comes in bottles, but seeing as I’m struggling to find the kegged variety, it will have to do.
I soon have a beer in front of me, and while it’s a different street, the people watching is just as good.
Yep, the world now seems a slightly better place.
The constant stream of tour groups walking past, following the guy with the flag on top of his stick, is always good to watch. If not a little sad.
Same goes for the procession of cyclos, with their bored and embarrassed looking customers.
And then there’s the tourists in the ‘Made in Vietnam’ shop next door, who after negotiating a price on some clothes, give the owner several ‘cam ons’.
Which is always nice, however you really need to know how it’s pronounced.
And no, it is not ‘come on’.
My beer lady had obviously ordered some more supplies, as a guy in a small hatchback pulled up in front me.
He then proceeded to empty his ‘delivery vehicle’ of more crates of beer than I could count, before heading off significantly further away from the road than when he’d arrived.
Beers done, at 20 000 Dong each, it was time to head back to the happy one.
Soon back on the balcony, and then Lisa comes over. My happy place doesn’t feel as happy as it normally does, and right now I’m struggling to actually want to do anything about that.
Fortunately, Sophia comes upstairs for a chat. It means we don’t have to talk to each other at the moment.
She asks us if we’d like to visit her place for lunch next week, and meet her family.
I’m blown away, and once I get over the shock of the offer, the obvious answer of ‘absolutely!’, is given.
Time to do something about that special anniversary dinner, that now won’t be, we head back for a shower.
Nam Bittet was always penciled in as the likely place, and seeing as I have no desire to spend time coming up with an alternative, Nam Bittet it will be.
Off through Underwear Lane, and up to Beer Corner, and we’re soon there. A couple of beers are ordered, along with a dish of beef and fried rice, which I’ve not had before. And continuing the whole theme of the day, it’s pretty disappointing. But to be fair, I’m not sure anything I was going to order was going to be that great tonight.
At least the beer is good.
We sit, eat, drink, and just generally bask in the ordinariness that today has become.
We don’t normally make a big deal about anniversaries, but this one probably really should have been different.
Maybe that’s it? Maybe it was because I didn’t make a big deal?
Or maybe we’ve just been away too long?
With little else to do, and no real way, or urge, to fix it all, we head down to our beer hoi lady who has now set up.
Have several, and just contemplate life for a while, before giving in and heading back to the Artisan.
A couple of beers on the bed, along with the usual Trip Advisor stuff, and then the desire to finish this whole disappointing day becomes too strong.
Hopefully, although I’m not that confident, tomorrow is a better one.