Cambodia / Vietnam 2019 – Trip Report 32

6 October – Hanoi


Wake up about 8.45am.

The good news?

I actually feel pretty good.

Although I did have some really strange dreams during the night.

Of course I can’t remember them, but yeah, they were definitely weird.

The same thing happened in Can Gio, so apart from beer, there’s only one other common denominator – rice wine…..

So anyway, that’s the good news.

The bad news?

Lisa’s not real good.

But that’s alright, as that’s not really my problem.

Apart from feigning a little sympathy from time to time, there’s not much else I can do.

We eventually get over for breakfast around 9.45am, and while Lisa treads carefully around the food at the breakfast bar, I just go with my usual fruit.

Back sitting on the balcony doing the same old, on this particularly fine and sunny morning in Hanoi.

Although the fine and sunny bit is somewhat missed by Lisa, who, apparently, is never, ever drinking rice wine again.

I’ve heard her say similar many times before, but perhaps not surprisingly, other certain alcoholic drinks are usually inserted in place of ‘rice wine’.

The usual early morning sights from the balcony.

We chat to Sophia, and she tells us that she’ll organise a Grab car for us for about 11.30am.

That sorted, we’re back out on the streets about 10.15am, and apparently, we’re on a mission.

Well, two missions, actually.

First, Lisa wants to buy Sophia some flowers for having us over for lunch.  And second, she needs paracetamol.

With limited time, as well as the way she’s feeling, both things are rather urgent.

We find a flower vendor walking around with her flower laden bike, and while her flowers have probably spent an hour or so too long in the hot sun, we’re running out of options.

A bunch is quickly chosen, money handed over, and then some of that money returned as I misunderstood the amount she was asking for.

Yep, proof again that not all street vendors are out to get you.

Being near our café, and still minus this morning’s caphe sua da, we take the opportunity to rectify that.

It also gives Lisa a chance to Google pharmacies in the vicinity.

She finds one on the actual street that we’re sitting on, and while I continue enjoying my coffee, she heads off in search of it.

Although, with it actually being on this street, then there shouldn’t really be too much searching involved.

She eventually returns; would have been back quicker had she not walked past it several times; and she has her ten tablets of pain relief, for the total of 40 000 Dong.

A little time to now relax and really enjoy our coffees, as well as the usual goings on around us, including the recycle lady who seems to have set up a bit of a recycling yard on the next street corner.  And judging by the amount she has there, she’s certainly been hard at it.

Recycling lady.

With time fast running out, we head back to the Artisan to get ready. Back downstairs by 11.30am, Grab car is called, and then the hotel doorman walks us out to help find our driver.

Down the end of the street, and then left into Optical street, where we see Hai, which has been a bit of a rarity this trip.

Up to the next corner, and a minute later, we’re in our car and on our way.

Through the streets of the Old Quarter, and then onto the busy, and wide, main road, that I do actually know the name of, but never remember.

Across the bridge before Long Bien, and then right, once we get to the other side of the Red River.

Apart from our walk across Long Bien bridge on our last trip, we’ve never really been over this side.  It’s all very local, and it feels a million miles away from the Old Quarter and tourist central, of Hanoi.

I love the Old Quarter, but I do miss this local stuff, and it makes me think about what I want to do on future trips.

Because there will be future trips.

I think…..

The car pulls over just before 12.00pm, and we pay the driver 94 000 Dong, which we knew about before we got in.

That was the easy part, as now we’re standing on the side of a road with very few people about, and none that look like Sophia.

All of a sudden, a familiar face comes walking down the narrow road beside us.

It’s nice to see her, partly because we’re about to meet her family, but also because we’ve now been ‘found’.

A short walk around the corner to her house, where we’re introduced to her husband and young son.  Her brother and sister in law, along with their three young kids, are also there, and it’s no real surprise that they’re all incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Introductions done, we’re soon sitting on the floor having lunch, and as is the usual way in Vietnam, there is just so much food, which includes a chicken hotpot with vegetables and tofu, along with a fried seafood dish.

We then finish off with various fruits, some of which I’ve not seen before.

Including sugarcane, but not your usual juicing type sugarcane.  This one you can actually chew, and then suck, the sweet flavour out of, before discarding the remaining husk.

It’s actually really nice, and something that I’d never had before, which is always a good thing.

And while the food was great, as well as the beer we had with it, as is always the way, it was where we were, and who we were doing it with.

I feel incredibly lucky, and privileged, that we occasionally get the opportunity to experience stuff like this, and it’s something that I could never have envisaged ever doing way back in 2014 on our first trip.

Lunch done, followed by a few photos and Facebook link ups, and Sophia orders us a Grab car to take us back to the hotel.

Sophia’s extended family.


Up to the bridge we crossed on the way there, and we’re soon in the familiar surrounds of the Old Quarter.

We get back to the Artisan a bit before 2.30pm for a quick recovery session from eating too much food, as well as messaging Mike to arrange another beer corner meet up later this afternoon.

That done, we then head off down to the lake to see the last of ‘weekend Hanoi’.

There’s heaps out and about enjoying the last of the day’s sun, with plenty of kids giving the model cars a workout, as well as several sets of street dancers doing their thing.  There’s also an area where there’s lots of Jenga tower building going on, with a couple of the structures now at such a significant height, it’s taking a fair bit of willpower from some of the kids not to knock them down.

Weekend fun in Hanoi.

Our walk up the other side continues, and there’s so much going on, and so much to see.  There’s even a girl who’s brought her cat out with her to enjoy the day, although with it being stuck in a bag, it’s not really out getting any exercise.

‘Walking’ her cat.

We get to an ATM up near the Northern end, and decide to top up the cash situation.  Card inserted, buttons pushed, amount entered; ‘No money’ appears on the screen.

Not sure why we had to go through the whole process before getting that response…..

Away from the lake, and up near our café, we try our luck at the next one.  Two million is the maximum, which is not great, and it says it will be given in 50 000 Dong notes.

A bulging wallet of forty 50 000 Dong notes fills me with dread, but worse than that is the fact that the ATM won’t tell me the fee that I will pay for the privilege.

‘Cancel’, is promptly pushed.

Over the road, and down a bit, we find a HSBC ATM.  Again, two million limit, which is annoying, but at least this time I’m advised of the 50 000 Dong fee.

I’m still frustrated, but I relent and decide to do the transaction.

It used to be all so much easier, before ANZ first sold out, and then Citibank went and removed their ATM……

Wallet slightly heavier, I drop Lisa off at the hotel, and then head up to meet Mike at beer corner.  I find him at the same beer place as yesterday, which is the same place that I sat at the day we arrived in Hanoi a week ago.

I prefer my beer lady a bit further down the street, but one advantage of this guy is that he serves his beer in glass, rather than plastic cups.

He is, however, a rather grumpy bloke.

Although, that can actually add to the fun, by watching him get all worked up over the smallest things.  And Mike takes great pleasure pushing his buttons over the next hour or so, by doing little things like not using a plastic cup that he’s been given to use as an ashtray, as well as placing his beer on a table next to him, that doesn’t belong to our beer guy.

We sit, chat, and watch the world go by, while declining the countless street vendors offering the usual cigarette lighters, donuts, souvenirs, fruit, and shoe services, on a fairly regular basis.

Well, we do, until Mike decides he might be interested in a new hat, of which, one of the girls is carrying quite a few.

Two dollars, is the answer to Mike’s initial question, which, seeing as we’re in Vietnam, annoys me somewhat.

I think it also annoys Mike, as he then asks the obvious question of how much that is in Dong.  40 000, apparently, which, surprisingly, is a pretty good rate.

It should be up around 46 000 Dong, but it seems multiplying by 20 is easier than multiplying by 23 000.

Discussion then ensues over whether he really needs the hat, as well as if he does, which one, and then, as is the way, a final agreement on price.

And unlike my experience yesterday, it was done in a fun and lighthearted way, with lots of laughing and lots of feigning disappointment with what was being offered.

It was fun to be a part of the interaction, and in the end, both Mike and the vendor were happy with the outcome.

As it should always be.

A few more beers, as well as chatting about the possible incense village visit.  Mike’s done a bit of research on it, and seeing as neither of us have plans for tomorrow, it’s decided that tomorrow will be the day.

With arrangements made to meet at our café at 8.30am, I bid him farewell and head back to do the balcony thing.  A quick stop off at the new convenience store that’s just opened at the top of optical street for beer supplies, before dropping them back at the hotel.

Apparently we’re meeting up with Shinegi and Jack for dinner at 7.30pm, but this time, fortunately, at a place that also serves beer.

And even more fortunate, is that this particular place just happens to be Nam Bittet.

I leave Lisa to have a shower while I make the most of my hour or so over the road.

Back in my favourite spot, looking down on my favourite street, drinking my favourite beverage.

Yep, happy.

But being, for some reason, in a rather contemplative mood, I start to wonder if there’s somewhere else in Hanoi that I could be just as happy?  If not happier???

I love the Artisan Lakeview, but I do miss the Artisan Boutique.

And I love the area, but after again seeing a snippet of local life today, as well as all the local stuff we’ve seen on this particular trip, I wonder if we should try and get a little further away from everyone else that looks like us?

Have we, or perhaps just I, outgrown this part of Hanoi?

Is it time to make some new memories?

I really don’t know, and it actually annoys me that I’m feeling this way.

To try and deal with that annoyance, mainly by attempting to stop thinking about it, I do the logical thing and order another beer.

Lisa eventually makes an appearance, and because she’s still dealing with last night’s rice wine, she settles for just a Coke.

She really doesn’t back up very well…..

We sit and watch the usual, and then, perhaps surprisingly, and with very little nagging, I do the right thing and head back to get ready so we can meet Shinegi and Jack on time.

Up to Ma May, and then across to Nam Bittet by 7.30pm, and as usual, it doesn’t disappoint.

Dinner done, the four of us head back down to our beer lady.  Lisa actually attempts a beer, and while the first one may have been a bit rough, she seems to have finally come good.

We sit and chat while watching the goings on, before Shinegi and Jack call it a night.

We then get talking to a woman from Perth, who is there with her 18 year old son, Finn, her 14 year old daughter, and a friend of her daughter’s.  They’re all lovely, and the kids are just so down to earth and incredibly easy to talk to.

I get up to use the toilet, finally managing to do it without getting a wet foot, while keeping an eye on the rather large spider on the wall in front of me.

If concentrating on one thing, wasn’t enough……

Nice to have some company…..

I get back outside, and the girls decide they too need to use the toilet.  I make the suggestion that the backpackers over the road, assuming they’ll be allowed in, might be a better option for them.

They say they’ll be fine, and head off, before returning a few minutes later.  I’m not sure what they expected to find, but judging by the looks on their faces, it wasn’t that.

But they handled it well.

I then ask them if they noticed the spider in there, which they hadn’t, and judging by their reaction, that may have just been a little too much to deal with, had they known.

More beers, more chatting, more fun; it became one those nights that delivered far more than was expected, when it began.

My beer lady.

Really not wanting it to end, but realising that a reasonably early night because of what we have planned for tomorrow would probably be a good idea, we head back to the hotel a bit after 11.00pm.

While the good intentions were there, the desire to sit on the bed, with a beer of course, checking out Trip Advisor, while also contemplating our day, proved too much.

A day that involved little more than eating lunch, drinking beer, and talking to people.

But it was also a day that confirmed just how lucky we are, that we get to do the things that we do, here in Vietnam.




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