2 October – Hanoi
Wake up a bit after 8.00am. Bit of a sleep in, I suppose.
But it hasn’t really helped.
I just feel flat. And disappointed.
We’ve been away now for pretty much four weeks, so I guess at some point it was always going to happen. Probably a little surprised it hadn’t happened earlier.
She’s no doubt missing the kids, and maybe her own bed, as well.
Me, while I’m looking forward to seeing the kids, I know that within two or three hours after we get home, the anticipation and ‘excitement’, will have well and truly worn off.
And as far as the bed is concerned, the Artisan Lakeview’s bed is probably better…..
We head over the road, and, in a slight change from yesterday, it’s back to fruit for breakfast.
I’m not really surprised….
A seat is found on the balcony, and as always, it’s same, same, but different.
The ‘dance’ of the cars, each maneuvering to either get out of the way, or to get past. The gas bottle delivery guy with his cargo, that is almost as big as him, strapped to the back of his bike. As well as the laundry guy, with big bags of laundry similar in size to the gas bottles, also strapped to his bike.
At least in the event of any road mishap, his landing will likely be far less dramatic than gas bottle guy.
Love it all, and it just never gets old.
And, we have another six days of it!
But after yesterday, and without much improvement today, I’m a little worried about being up for it.
The rushed visit to Ninh Binh tomorrow, which was always going to happen, but that was to be followed with a couple of nights in Thanh Hoa. Which all made sense at the time, and actually still does.
But then of course, that all got changed, and ‘that’ decision was made.
While I thought ten days might be a touch too long here in Hanoi, I had no problem in giving it a crack. But to do that, we both need to do it. And I’m just not sure that we have a ‘we’ thing, at the moment.
Breakfast done, we head back to get ready. Not sure for what, as we have absolutely no plans for the day.
And as I sit on the bed, waiting patiently for Lisa to get ready, I’m actually worried about suggesting something for fear of the possible answer.
Two possibilities; Long Bien bridge, which we walked last time, or West Lake, which we saw in 2016. Both involve a fair bit of walking, and I suspect because of that, they’re both likely to be rejected.
Courage plucked up, suggestions given, and it seems we’re going to West Lake.
I’m happy, as well as a little surprised.
We head out into the madness that is Hanoi, and we make our way up to Dien Bien Phu street.
Over the train line, and then up past the Military Museum, and Mr Lenin standing in the park opposite.
We eventually reach the Mausoleum, and Ba Dinh Square. It’s good to see it again, even though we’ve never been inside, and don’t really have any intention of ever doing so.
We walk the length of the square, which reminds me of just how big it actually is.
Past the Presidential Palace, and it’s not long before we get our first glimpse of West Lake.
Through the smog and haze.
It’s not really noticeable in the built up areas of the Old Quarter, but up here where it’s more open, it’s a different story.
We walk the road between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, and the water looks a bit cleaner than I remembered it. There’s even a few guys fishing.
One actually catches one as we walk past, so we stop to have a look. He’s pretty happy with his catch, so I ask if I can take a photo.
Absolutely no problem, and I think he enjoyed the interaction almost as much as I did.
We continue on, stopping for a brief rest for someone’s tired legs, and then up near the pagoda we run the gauntlet of the street vendors gathered around.
Lots of food and drinks available, as well as live fish and turtles. I believe the turtles are there so you can release them back in the lake.
Regardless, we pass.
Leaving West Lake, we start making our way around Truc Bach lake, which, with its size, is much more leg friendly.
Eventually reaching the ‘island’, we head across. It looks very different to last time, but that might be more about our memory, than any drastic changes made since we were last here three and a half years ago.
We reach the water, and that bit does look the same, and we find what is quite possibly the same café that we sat and had a caphe sua da at last time.
And because there’s no point fixing something that isn’t broken, we do the same again.
We sit and take in the world in front of us, which, apart from a lone swan paddle boat, isn’t a great deal.
But that’s okay; looking out over water is always calming and relaxing.
As long as you don’t look too far off into the distance at the incredible haze that has enveloped Hanoi.
While it’s not bothering me physically, it does make you think about what you’re actually breathing.
To deal with that, I’ll just assume that the smog is only in the distance, seeing as I can still clearly see Lisa sitting next to me…..
Coffees done, 40 000 Dong bill paid, we head off. No real plans except to see what we can find on our way back to the Old Quarter.
Off the island, and just down the road is the market we found last time. And because I can’t walk past a market without having a look, we head in.
And yep, it is exactly how I remember it. Even the frog vendor is there from last time.
I found it fascinating back then, and this time is no different.
Although it does have a bit of that gruesome element.
We stand and watch for a few minutes, and I think the guy is happy that we’re so interested. He even gives us a ‘xin chau’, as we leave, while I give him a ‘cam on’, for allowing us to watch and take a few photos of the whole thing.
Back out in the streets, and we walk down the road one block down from the Mausoleum, dodging broken pavers and ridiculously big tree roots.
Ever the challenge, is this walking caper in Hanoi.
Eventually back onto Dien Bien Phu, and then down to ‘train street’. And just for the hell of it, we walk down it to see what’s become of it.
And yep, like the other night, as well as what I’d read, it’s just madness. So many people just like us, and now so many food and drink places catering to them.
It annoys me at what it’s become, and rather than fight the crowd, we turn off at the next crossing. Which just happens to be light globe street.
Down upholstery and umbrella street, and then onto door lock and padlock street. We find a very busy nuoc mia da vendor, and seeing as it’s been a while, as well as the fact it’s quite warm, we splurge the 20 000 Dong for two of them.
Not really knowing where we are, but not at all being concerned about that, we come across Bat Dan street. I wasn’t looking for it, but now that we’ve found it, I know where we are, and how to get back.
And getting back is reasonably important, seeing as the amount of walking we’ve done, as well as the heat, means that a certain someone will no doubt be starting to struggle.
I just hope we can get back before she finishes her nuoc mia da…..
We find a woman doing some kind of fried thing, and seeing as we haven’t had lunch yet, Lisa buys one.
It looked like it was some sort of sweet thing, and it turns out it is. Not totally sure what it is, but it seems it might involve sweet potato. Anyway, at 10 000 Dong, it was worth a try.
We eventually reach Hang Hanh street, and for the first time this trip, we see Hai on the corner. And like last time, he recognises us straight away. It’s great to see him again.
We have a bit of a chat, and then, with Lisa really struggling now, we get back to the Artisan around 1.30pm for a much needed recovery session.
It’s been a reasonable morning, and it’s certainly been an improvement on the way it started earlier.
Hopefully it lasts….
Recovery, somewhat, achieved, we head back out a bit after 3.00pm.
Around the corner to my banh mi lady, and then down to the lake for a bit of a walk. We bump into Shinegi and Jack who are doing the same, so we have a quick chat.
Lap of the lake complete, I say goodbye to Lisa and start my way up towards beer corner.
Through the busy roundabout, and past more Grab bikes and their riders than I’ve ever seen congregated in one place.
It wasn’t all that long ago that that wasn’t even a thing…..
Up through beer corner, and onto Ma May street. My beer lady isn’t there.
Not being interested in walking any further than I have to, I head back to yesterday’s beer place to do beer in bottles again.
Taking a seat, and once again, happy place is found. Yesterday my beer lady had her little cat out, which was trying, halfheartedly, to catch flies.
The cat is nowhere to be seen today, and instead, she has her Chihuahua out sitting on the bench seat.
They’re dogs that, while I don’t spend too much time thinking about, interest me somewhat whenever I come across one.
Obviously that has a lot to do with their size, but it’s also their overall appearance. They’re kind of cute in a weird sort of way.
And when they have painted toe nails, well that just adds to the ‘cute-ness’.
An English girl sits down nearby to do exactly what I’m doing, and I’m tempted to start up a conversation. But quickly remembering that I’m much older than I feel, I decide against it for fear of being that strange old guy.
More watching of the world, along with contemplation of painted dog toe nails, and then a couple of young Indian guys sit down at the same table.
Hearing them order an egg beer, a conversation really needs to be had. Because while I know all about egg coffee, egg beer is completely foreign to me.
We get chatting, and apparently they had heard of it, but had never tried it. And today is the day they are going to rectify that.
Seems it’s not too bad, but I suspect it’s a ‘once is enough’, type thing.
I decide I’ll remain ignorant to any perceived flavour benefits….
They’re only here for a week, and they’re splitting their time between Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Saigon.
We talk about what they’ve been doing, and like me, they’re big fans of Hanoi. I give them a few ideas about what to do and see in Saigon, but due to the fact that they’re a fair bit younger than me, I imagine they’ll be spending far more time in and around the main backpacker area than I would.
They were really easy to talk to, and it’s always nice when you get to hear from openminded travellers.
Beers done, stuff learned, it’s time to head back for the balcony thing. Lisa gets there a bit later, and we do the usual to finish off the afternoon, while chatting with a Belgian woman and her daughter. Again, nice couple who were easy to talk to, but often the whole tourist thing can be a bit hit and miss.
Back to the room to get ready, and then it’s out to do something about dinner.
We end up near St Joseph’s, and while there’s plenty of options, Lisa’s struggling to make a decision.
After walking past more possibilities than I can count, and knowing that the longer this goes on, the more chance we’re going to end up somewhere I don’t want to, I make the decision for her.
It’s a small, but very busy, local place, that seems to have pho ga (chicken) as its main dish. They also do some other dishes, but seeing as none of them ring any bells, we’ll stick to their main one.
We head inside, with only one of us a little apprehensive, and we’re quickly found a table. And judging by the lack of people in there that look like us, I’m already happy with the decision.
Pho arrives, and while it’s not our always preferred beef pho, it’s pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. But that’s okay, as again, it’s where we are, and the locals we’re enjoying it with.
And one of those ‘locals’ provides one of those little unexpected moments.
Not expecting to find anyone in there with any great English, she surprises us when she asks where we are from. We tell her, and she then proceeds to tell us she’s lived in Moscow for 18 years, while her husband has been teaching in Brisbane, Australia.
Not sure how all that works, or how current it all is, but I really wasn’t expecting to hear a story like that in a restaurant like this.
Regardless, it was nice to talk to her.
Pho at 30 000 Dong each, two Saigon beers each at 20 000 Dong each, and two Hanoi beers at 15 000 Dong each – really need to stick to the local beer….. – for the grand total of 130 000 Dong.
I’ve paid more than that for one beer at home…..
Time to find beer corner, so we head off via the Artisan for a quick toilet stop. Up to Ma May, and my beer lady is there. She’s pretty busy, but as usual, room is always found.
We end up having to impose on a couple of young girls and a guy, by sharing a table, and we’re quite apologetic for making them squash up. They actually apologise to us for taking up too much room.
We get chatting and it turns out the two girls are sisters, and they live in Melbourne. The guy is English, and they’ve met up over the last couple of weeks and are now travelling around together.
It was great to talk to them and hear of their adventures, with some of the adventures not always going so well.
But that, as we know, is all part of the journey.
Several beers had, lots of stories told, as well as lots of laughing; it really was a great night. And one that was totally unexpected.
Eventually, and regrettably, we have to call it a night, bidding our fellow bia hoi drinkers goodbye, and heading back to the hotel about 10.30pm, for the usual beers on the bed.
It’s been an interesting day, and one that has finished in a far different place to where it started.
Yep, it had its moments throughout; a bit of a rollercoaster if you like; but it ended up in a pretty good place.
Friendly tourists on the balcony, great local restaurant experience, and then three great kids to talk to up at beer corner.
I’ve loved it, and more importantly, I think Lisa has too.
And tomorrow, the next adventure begins. As well as meeting up with some old friends.
I’m really looking forward to that, however the fact that it’s almost midnight, means that the 5.00am alarm in the morning is likely to be rather painful.
Oh well, we’ll worry about that in five hours’ time….