8 October – Hanoi
Wake up around 7.00am, and feel okay.
Which is good. And even better, I don’t actually need to get up yet. With no real plans for the day, a bit more sleep is the preferred option.
I set about trying to achieve that, with what, in the end, is probably best described as mixed results.
Yep, which just means I didn’t sleep the whole time I laid there. Oh well, some is better than none.
Eventually the urge to get up becomes too much, so we head over the road just before 9.00am to do the breakfast and balcony thing.
Although really, it’s always more about the balcony, than the breakfast.
It’s been raining, but we’ve managed to miss that.
Sometimes being lazy pays off…..
Fruit and a juice, and lots of just sitting there taking it all in.
With the realisation very firmly in my mind, that there aren’t too many of these moments left.
The day where I can say, ‘we leave the day after tomorrow’, has arrived.
And that’s not a terribly happy thought.
Aaaargh……, live the moment, and stop thinking so much….
Gary then comes across, followed by John, shortly after, so like last night, we just sit and chat. It really is great to see them again – can’t believe it’s been two years – and I’m still pinching myself over how this incredibly unexpected meeting, has happened.
A little later Gary’s wife, Vicki, who we unfortunately didn’t meet last time, also joins us. So more sitting and chatting follows, and it really has become a very lazy day.
And one that I’m more than okay with, especially after our adventures yesterday.
With everyone else having plans, we eventually make a move around 11.30am. A bit of aimless walking, and we soon find ourselves up near St Joseph’s Cathedral. And this time, actually managing to not take any photos of it.
We come across a quirky looking café, and, throwing caution to the wind, we decide to try something different to our usual haunt.
Up some narrow stairs, and the choice is either inside, or out on the balcony.
Obviously it’s no contest, and we head outside to pretty much do what we were doing just half an hour ago.
Yep, lazy day indeed…..
The young guy comes up to take our order, and then introduces us to the café’s resident cat, whose name, apparently, is Cuc.
It’s kind of cute, in a cat like way, but like most cats, it’s only interested in you when it wants to be.
We sit and do the usual, and while the caphe sua da / world watching thing is always good, along with the fact that we’re trying some place new, I don’t know if I’d rush back.
Not because of anything they did; the young couple running it are lovely; but it just didn’t really grab me for some reason.
And it had nothing to do with their coffees being 10 000 Dong more than our usual place.
We head off just before 1.00pm; Lisa chasing the cat to make it say goodbye; and make our way up to the laundry to pick up our, now clean, clothes.
The photo I took yesterday to remind me isn’t needed, and I hand the docket over they gave me.
The search then begins for the right bag of clothes, which shouldn’t be too difficult, as while they have quite a few there, it all seems pretty neat and organised.
Well, I be wrong, as the search drags on to the point that I start wondering which clothes won’t be coming home with us.
Eventually they’re found, which probably saved me money, as it was likely only a matter of time before Lisa would have realised how much more space we would have had in our bag, for extra shopping, had it turned out our clothes had in fact been lost.
Now at a bit of a loose end, as well as holding a bag I’d rather not take for a walk, we make our way back to the Artisan.
Feeling a little lethargic; not really sure why, seeing as we’ve done absolutely nothing since we first got out of bed this morning; we decide to try the recovery session thing.
After thirty minutes, I give up, a total failure, which, all things considered, probably isn’t surprising.
Fighting lethargy, as well as what feels like a bit of a hangover; we’ll blame the rice wine; we head back out about 2.00pm.
Again, aimless walking, but this time, up towards the big roundabout at the top end of the lake.
And, just in time, to see one of the largest processions of cyclos, and their clients, I think I’ve ever seen.
Funny, and sad, all at the same time. As it always is.
We eventually, somehow, end up on the big, and wide, busy road, before ducking back down one of the side streets into the Old Quarter. And by chance, more than anything, it’s where the Old Quarter Gate is.
It’s always good to see it, as it just gives a bit of a reminder of how old, and how much history, this amazing city has.
We head around to the nearby street market, that we’ve now found a couple of times, and as usual, it never disappoints.
Aimless walking continues, past Dong Xuan market, and we eventually reach the train line. It’s an area that we found way back on our first trip, and it has a bit of a different feel to the rest of the Old Quarter.
It’s a bit more local. And authentic.
We end up walking both sides of the tracks, which at this point, are above us.
Sheet and towel street becomes plastic container street, before turning into drinking glasses street.
I love it, and it makes me think we really should spend more time up here.
We reach a section of road that’s been blocked off. It seems to be some sort of commemorative celebration of when France was kicked out of the country, with displays of photos down the centre of the road. It’s also an area where there are murals painted on the train viaduct, which are not only interesting, but incredibly well done.
And of course, being art, Lisa is in her element.
Artwork admired, but for not as long as the art obsessed, I walk on ahead, finding a group of young school kids, out on some sort of excursion, dancing in the middle of the road.
Walking past them, I then notice something off to the left.
And that something, is a certain thing that a lot of people struggle with.
It’s a BBQ place, which isn’t a problem, but it’s what they cook, that is.
Laying on a table, beside the road, in all its cooked glory.
It’s not something that we’ve seen a lot of, over the journey, but it has been there occasionally. In fact, we have actually walked down this street before, and seen it, but that was from a distance. And at the time, the street was busy with people and cars, and as such, didn’t really stand out.
But today is different; very different; and there is no mistaking what it actually is, out on display.
I manage to take a sneaky photo; I’d read that the vendors get very annoyed if people try to photograph it; and then push my luck with a second one.
The girl notices me and starts yelling and waving her arms about, so I angle my phone away while saying, “no, no”, and making out I was photographing something else.
It was all rather funny, but perhaps not for the dogs.
With Lisa having finally had her art fill, and me with a photo that, while it wasn’t something that I was particularly targeting, I was now kind of glad I had, we headed off back in the direction of the hotel.
Down bamboo street, and eventually onto Hang Trong, where we come across an ATM. Taking the opportunity, card is inserted, and then promptly spat out with a ‘declined’ message.
Not sure why, and not sure why this ATM withdrawing thing has become more difficult than it used to be….
Frustrated, we find our way to our banh mi girl around the corner from the hotel, for a rather late lunch.
Eating, while walking, we make our way down towards the lake.
Seeing the Chinese bank that used to be the ANZ bank, I decide on another attempt to try and relieve my ATM frustrations.
But also knowing that I may just possibly add to them.
Card inserted, maximum withdrawal of 8 million stated, excitement levels rise.
But only for a moment.
Five million, entered.
I then notice that the limit for foreign cards is only 3 million, so I try that.
Card not compatible, or some such thing.
Great, frustrations now added to…..
Actually needing money, we head back up to Hang Trong to use one of the few ATMs that I know will definitely work. Seeing a SeA bank ATM a few doors down from the HSBC one we used the other day, I decide to give it a go.
Three million maximum; 49 500 fee. Giving up on actually finding anything better, that’ll do.
Now very close to beer o’clock, we head back towards the hotel. Turning into Pho Bao Kanh street, and there’s a bit of a traffic jam. It’s only a two lane street, and there’s already two cars blocking it, along with several large rubbish bins on the side.
A police car, coming up the street, seems eager to get through. Even though there really isn’t any room to do so.
But, as is the way here, he somehow manages to pull off the manouvre.
I almost lost some toes because of it, but that’s okay, as he was able to achieve his objective.
Leaving Lisa at the hotel, I head up to beer corner to see Mike. Through underwear lane; very aware that the final of that particular walk is fast approaching; and then up to Ma May street. Mike quickly found, and, fortuitously, my beer lady has already set up.
All is once again good with the world, with beers, chatting, and just generally watching the everyday stuff, going on around us.
Including the day’s second group of cyclos, going past. Still with the same bored, and embarrassed looking, passengers.
All too quickly, it’s time to make a move. And unfortunately, that meant a final goodbye to Mike, who was leaving Vietnam tomorrow. With a bit of luck, hopefully there will be another opportunity down the track to catch up again, at some point.
On the way back, I check out a couple of souvenir places for that elusive green Tin Tin picture.
As with previous attempts, I’m unsuccessful, but I now consider it a challenge.
But in the back of my mind, is the thought that I may be looking for something that doesn’t actually exist.
On the balcony by 6.00pm, trying very hard not to think about the fact that, after tonight, there’s only one more of these left.
It’s an awful feeling, and the rather quiet, and sombre, sounding music being played through the speakers, isn’t really helping.
Beers, and far too much reflection, done, I head back for a quick shower.
Back out in the streets, and realising we should probably stretch our wings a little more than we have been, we set about finding a place for dinner that isn’t Nam Bittet.
We head up Hang Bong, and then down the lane that I stayed in last time. While there’s quite a few food places in there, it seems they’re more lunch places, rather than dinner ones.
Down onto Hang Manh, and apart from the overpriced Bun Cha place, including the ridiculous number of tourists eating there, there’s not too many other options.
Our walk continues, finding stainless steel street, which always makes me think about brewing beer, and then we eventually end up at the bottom of Bat Dan street.
And there, pretty much right on the corner, is a pho place.
Both the ga (chicken) and bo (beef) varieties seem to be on the menu, and as soon as they see we’re interested, a couple of stools on the footpath are quickly found.
We decide to go with bo, and then I ask about getting a couple of beers. No problem at all, and we soon have beer on our table.
But only one, which is a little worrying, as sharing isn’t a strong point of mine.
They seem to imply that another is on the way, so we wait as patiently as I can when I am waiting for beer.
Again, that also is not a strong point of mine.
We wait some more, and then thinking that we may have been forgotten, a friendly reminder is given about the missing beer.
“Yes, yes, coming”, is the reply, and sure enough, a few minutes later, a slab of beer is promptly delivered to the restaurant.
How I love Vietnam!
Sharing issue averted, we now both have a beer. One is warm, as in very warm, but that is easily rectified with some ice.
Our pho bo soon arrives, and it’s good. It’s not the best I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly better than anything I can get back home.
And as far as location goes, well, it doesn’t get much better, or authentic, than sitting on a footpath in Hanoi.
I probably should have asked the price beforehand, but seeing as we’re a bit away from tourist central, I felt pretty confident that it was probably unnecessary.
Turns out to be 120 000 Dong, which was likely 40 000 each, plus 20 000 for each beer.
A touch more expensive than a week or so ago, but still pretty good.
Dinner done, we head off in the direction of beer corner.
Onto silver street, which is Hang Bac, and then up towards Ma May.
Lisa still has no idea of where we are, and which direction we’re actually walking in.
“Impressed with my street knowledge?”, I ask, but not really expecting any type of positive response.
“I am, actually!”, is her reply, which is both surprising, and nice.
We keep walking; now with slightly more pressure on me to actually get us to where we want to be; stopping briefly to pat a chihuahua wearing a pearl necklace.
I mean really, how could you not pat it?
We eventually get up to Ma May street, find our beer lady, and we’re soon back doing what we do.
It’s not an overly busy night, but there are a few around. Unfortunately, however, none of them seem terribly interested in talking to us.
While it annoys Lisa, it just makes me feel old.
It also makes me hang on to the last remaining rice wine, which I’d brought along should the right opportunity present itself.
With that not happening, I’ll have to try my luck tomorrow night.
A few beers had, mostly in quiet contemplation of our surroundings, as well as making use of ‘that’ toilet again.
And, as an added bonus, my foot again remained dry.
It’s a nice feeling….
We head off around 10.00pm, deciding that quiet beers on the bed might be more comfortable than quiet beers in Ma May street.
Back down to underwear lane; well aware of the final walk coming up tomorrow; and as Lisa races on ahead to reach the comfort of the hotel room’s toilet, I drop into the new convenience store at the top of optical street.
A couple for now, as well as one that will grace the bar at home; Saigon bia has a new can design; along with a packet of chips.
Large packet is 60 000 Dong, which doesn’t seem right, so I get a small one for 12 000 Dong.
I just can’t go back emptyhanded. Or ripped off, for that matter…..
Back out in the street, and as I walk down towards Hang Hanh, a guy on a motorbike approaches me.
Knowing that I’m not going to be interested in what he’s about to offer me, even before he’s offered it, I keep walking as he starts talking.
I don’t know exactly what it is – he seemed to assume that I could understand Vietnamese – but it was definitely drug related.
I politely decline, and he heads off in search of another customer.
It’s weird, I’ve been offered drugs several times in Saigon, and at least once when we were in Hue on the first trip, but I’ve never been approached here in Hanoi.
Even though we have easily spent the most amount of time here, over the journey.
I’m not sure why, and I’m not even sure if that’s significant.
I get back to the hotel to drop things off, and because that small packet of chips will never be adequate, I head back out to check the Circle K over the road.
A couple of doors down from the hotel, and about to cross the road, another guy on a motorbike pulls up beside me.
“Hello, how are you?”, he says.
While I just think, ‘Here we go again…..’
But, humouring him, I give him a “I’m good thank you, how are you?”
He pulls out his phone, and shows me a photo on its screen.
Again, still humouring him, I take a look.
I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but the full frontal, totally nude, photo of a female, wasn’t it.
“Very beautiful, just down here”, he says, pointing towards the end of Hang Hanh street.
“Hmmm, not sure my wife would be that happy with me”, I respond, still a little shocked at what I’ve just been shown.
Realising I’m a lost cause, he quickly rides off.
Into Circle K to try and complete what I’d come out here for, but now finding that rather difficult due to all the questions that are now racing through my mind.
Things like, which building is she actually in?
And, if I had been interested, what would the cost have been? And, like with a lot of things in Vietnam, is the price negotiable?
The questions, quite rightly, remain unanswered, but the chips do finally get purchased; medium sized packet 26 000 Dong; and I head back to the room to tell Lisa all about my encounter.
Like me, she’s shocked.
“Well, was she beautiful!?”, is her first question.
“Ummm, I’m not sure, as I didn’t really spend a great deal of time actually looking at her face”, is the best I can come up with.
We finish the night off doing the beers, note taking, and Trip Advisor thing, on the bed, while also enjoying a few of those chips.
It had been a day that couldn’t be more different than the previous one; a day that by comparison, could perhaps be considered rather boring.
But, it had been a day that had thrown up little snippets that were memorable in their own right.
Including that final encounter, which really, was just another one of those little Vietnam moments that I love so much.
And all just because of a desire for a larger packet of chips…..