Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 22

Wednesday 28 September – Hanoi

Just after 7.00am, eyes open.  It’s becoming a routine, and one that I’m really not that interested in, nor overly happy with.

It’s light, which is good, as it was a very dark night without power.  Thankfully the phone designers of the world thought to put a torch into the equation, so as to make things like trips to the toilet in the middle of the night, far easier, and far less messy.

But 7.00am-ish just isn’t happening, so we go back to the usual dozing thing.

Bit after 8.00am, with the power still yet to return, it’s time to make a move, so as to not waste any more of the day.

It’s also time to think about whether that idea I had last night, that one that seemed like a really good idea, is in fact still a good idea, in the cold hard light of day.

It is!

Which kind of surprises me a little.

But I still have my problem of what it’s going to be.

Lisa, being the helpful one that she is, decides to see if Google can help, and sets about looking at Vietnam related images and symbols.

She actually finds a symbol that represents Hanoi, which strangely, has been pretty much under our noses the whole time, whenever we’ve walked the streets of this amazing city.

While I’d seen it before, I’d just never stopped to consider it.

A drawing is done on the iPad by the arty one, which is then emailed to me so as to show the tattoo people of the design, assuming this all still feels like a good idea after a much desired caphe sua da, and we head downstairs around 9.00am.

Jenny is at the desk, and she looks a little stressed.  The power is still yet to be turned back on, and unfortunately, it seems she’s been on the receiving end of some upset hotel guests.

We sit and chat for a bit, until one of those guests comes down from upstairs.

He’s annoyed that the power is still off, and begins venting his frustrations at Jenny.  Jenny apologises, even though she really has nothing to apologise for, but this guy continues on with his ill directed whining.

Eventually he realises that no amount of whinging and complaining is going to make any difference, and he settles down.  Which was good, as I was about to step in, even though I really didn’t want to.

He leaves, and Jenny returns to continue our chat, but now looking far more stressed and upset than she was.

I feel really sorry for her, and I just can’t believe the way some people behave.

She keeps apologising to us, which she really doesn’t need to do, and offers us a complimentary airport transfer to make up for the inconvenience.

I tell her it’s really not necessary, but she insists, so we reluctantly accept.

Outside, and up towards St Josephs, and it begins to rain.  We reach our café from the other day, and with that rain now getting heavier, we give up on the idea of sitting on the street, and head inside.  Our lady recognises us straight away, and I think she’s pretty happy to see us again.

Coffee enjoyed, it’s time for a decision to made.  And with it still feeling like a good idea, it’s a rather easy decision.  Although, there is a small element there of, ‘what are we about to do….???’.

20220928_103022 (2)

Yep, walked past it again. But this time I’ll mix it up by going black and white.

Back down Hang Manh, and with Jenny standing at the door of the Emerald, I already know the answer before I even ask the question.

The sub-station they’re working on is around the corner, apparently, and seeing as we’re walking that way, Jenny asks us to tell them to hurry up, giving us the phrase in Vietnamese.

I laugh, and think of all the ways that that could go wrong, even if I do happen to get the pronunciation right.

Around the corner, and yep, there’s a number of workers there.  And while I’m no electricity expert, it looks like they’ve still got a fair bit to do.

We head off in the direction of Ma May street, and while the rain has eased, it’s still heavy enough to be an issue, so the direction of the walk is determined by where we can find cover.

Including making use of the toilets in Underwear Lane.

Finding cover though, which I’ve not really had to do too often here, is not the only thing I’m noticing.  Having now pretty much decided what this tattoo will include, should I not chicken out, I’m surprised at how often I’m coming across my symbol, merely by being out and about walking the streets.

It’s weird, as I’d obviously seen it before, but just never stopped to think about it.

We eventually reach Ma May, and then up ahead, we find the place that is mentioned on my newly acquired cigarette lighter; 1984 Tattoo Studio.

Now rather wet, the leap of faith is undertaken, still with some trepidation, but slightly less than what I thought I might have had.

Upstairs, and while I’m feeling more out of my comfort zone than I think I ever have, we’re soon made to feel more at ease by two incredibly helpful girls.

Lisa shows them a photo of what she wants, while I show them the drawing that Lisa did on my phone.

Neither seems to be an issue, and straight away they recognise the Hanoi symbol, with one pointing out that the symbol represents the Temple of Literature.

I’d never stopped to think of what it was based on, but now knowing, I find it kind of ironic that something associated with learning and intelligence, could end up being permanently marked on my body.

And ironic to the point of making me question whether this is in fact a good idea.

During the discussion we mention about our chance meeting last night up at Bat Dan street, explaining that that’s why we are now here.  She loves the story, and Lisa points out that one of the guys sitting at another desk, was actually one that was there last night.

When he looks up, he gives us a knowing smile.

They give us a quote for each of them, with mine, which is a little surprising to me, being a little more expensive than Lisa’s.

So, we’re here.  We now know what it’s going to cost.  We know that it will take somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hours.  Lisa knows she wants hers on her forearm, and I believe I want mine on my shoulder blade.

So, are we doing this?

What the hell, we’ve come this far, and I have been thinking about this for a while.

Sort of.

Deposit is promptly paid, appointment is made for four days’ time, which is a little disappointing, seeing as I now want this done sooner, rather than later, and it’s all locked in.

Back outside, and that rain is now really heavy.  Like really heavy!

We stand under a nearby shop awning and contemplate both what we’ve just done, and what we’re now going to do.

20220928_111813 (2)

Initial consultation done, we now have a few days to wait.

But I’m at a loss, as we really haven’t had enough rainy days here in Vietnam, to have a list of things to do when you find yourself in this situation.

About the only thing I can actually think of, is the one thing that we now have to wait four days for.

It’s weird, I can think of nothing I would rather be doing right now, than laying down while someone repeatedly pricks my skin with an ink filled needle.

But, with that not going to happen today, we need to come up with an idea. 

A small convenience store is spotted across the road, and I can see they sell ponchos, which interestingly, and while we have certainly worn them before, we have never actually bought.

Over the road, and two are purchased, along with a bar of soap, which was on the shopping list before the rain started, for the grand total of 35 000 Dong.

The ponchos are, eventually, and much to the amusement of the lady shop owner, put on in store, and straight away the awareness of plastic induced sweat build up, becomes apparent.

We head back in the general direction of the Emerald, with no real plans other than we’ll walk, as we usually do, regardless of this rain.

Finding ourselves, more by accident, in Hang Bac street, we come across a mobile phone place.  Remembering that I’m yet to fit a screen protector to my new, but now something like two and a half year old, phone, we drop in to see if we can tick it off my to do list.

We can, and all for the price of 100 000 Dong, of which I have no idea, nor really care, if it’s a good price, or not.

Back outside, and a bit further up, we come across a gold shop, which is essentially a jewellery store.

Of all the times we’ve exchanged money in Vietnam, I’ve only ever used a gold shop once, and that was in Saigon on our second trip.

It’s not that I have any issue with them, it’s just that I’ve tended to use tour agent type places, simply because they seemed to be nearby when I was wanting, or needing, to do it.

We head in to get an idea of what they offer, and the helpful, and friendly, guy tells me 15 600 Dong, to one Australian Dollar.

I’m blown away, as when I checked earlier this morning, was saying the rate was around 15 200.

I come to the realisation that I may have been doing it all wrong over the years.

Not having anything to exchange on me, I make a mental note of where they are.

Back to the hotel a bit before 12.00pm, and Jenny still has that concerned and stressed look on her face, as the power is still not back on.  She’s certainly doing it tough.

A quick toilet stop, along with picking up some Australian money that will soon become Vietnamese money, and then it’s back downstairs to try and get some help to complete a small job we would like to do.

20220928_115315 (2)

Well, it keeps you dry. Sort of….

The catch up with Cammy yesterday reminded us that it’s her birthday in a couple of days, and as such, and Lisa being Lisa, she wants to organise a birthday cake for her.

Jenny, along with one of the other girls, gives us the address of a cake shop, that isn’t too far away, so we head off in search, still covered, and still sweating, in our plastic.

We eventually find it, but only after looking on the opposite side of the street to the one we were looking at, and we make our way over the road to see if we can get our point across as to what we actually want.

We walk in, the owner looks up, and I know immediately that she wasn’t expecting to see a couple of Westerners at her doorway.

I also know, by both the look on her face, and the way the way she moves towards us, that she’s extremely nervous and uncomfortable about having to deal with us.

That’s okay, and while it’s not a simple beer transaction, I’m sure we can work out cake.

They have a small range of birthday type cakes on display, so that gets handled with finger pointing.  The rest, like the minor details of occasion, pick up date, and price, are done with the help of Google translate and a calculator.

We eventually get there, and in the end I think it was far easier than all three of us thought it might have been, when we first walked in.

So, cake design sorted, pick up in two days, and rather than paying the requested deposit, we just pay the whole amount up front, which came to 130 000 Dong.

Back outside, and it’s still raining.  I’m also still wearing my poncho, which is starting to wear a little thin.  And I’m not just talking about the thickness of the plastic.

It’s almost 12.30pm, and with my annoyance at the uncomfortableness of rain, plastic coverings, humidity and sweat, growing, I decide the money exchange can wait.

Time for lunch, so we head back in the direction of St Joseph’s, eventually finding a small place with seating inside, which is obviously important today.

Extricated from our plastic, which is a huge relief, we take a seat and end up with a plate each of fried glass noodles with beef and egg.

20220928_125659 (2)


It’s nice, and something that I don’t believe I’ve had before, but being a little chewy, I’m not sure I’d be wanting to have it all the time.

While having lunch, Quan messages about our meet up later this afternoon, and he suggests 5.30pm at a place he frequents up towards West Lake.  No problem, and all I need to do now is work out the finer details, like how to get there, which I can do later. 

Lunch done, slightly more dried out, but not for long as it’s still drizzling, we head back to the Emerald after paying the bill of 50 000 Dong each.

Into Hang Manh, and like when we first woke up this morning, the street still appears powerless.

We see Jenny outside the hotel, and yep, my suspicion is realised.  With it now being well after 1.00pm, it’s now six hours past their initial time estimation, which is confirmation of my fears yesterday, when I was told that they ‘promised’ it would be back on by 7.00am.

We walk around the corner to check on their progress, even though I’m not really sure what I’m looking at, and while they are still working on it, it appears they are starting to pack things up.

But a few of the workers do have slightly concerned looks on their faces, which ends up putting a similar look on my face, and I’m starting to wonder if it will ever be switched back on.

20220928_131910 (2)

Getting there. Slowly…..

While I find the whole lack of power thing frustrating, I know it’s far worse for the locals, who are trying to run nearby businesses.

With not much left to do, and with it being about that time, we head back to the darkened hotel to do the rest and recovery thing.

Half an hour later, and celebratory noise from out in the street, along with the gentle hum of the bar fridge, signals the return of power.

It’s nice to have it back, and confirmation of just how much we’ve all come to rely on it.

Somewhat rested, I head back outside around 3.30pm to complete the money exchange thing that I didn’t do earlier.

Up to Hang Bac street, and a quick walk down to see if there’s any other possibilities, but with little in the way of foreign exchange advertising, I make my way back to my earlier place.

Head inside, and the guy, along with his wife, recognise me.  Exchange rate is once again confirmed at 15 600 Dong, and $500 is promptly turned into several million Dong.

And it’s done very professionally, as in with far more care and checks and balances than I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy.

Both sets of notes are counted twice, they’re then put through a note counting machine, and then my newly acquired Vietnamese notes are placed inside an envelope.  All under the watchful gaze of the man’s wife.

Transaction complete, and more than a little impressed with what just unfolded, I head off in the direction of Bat Dan Street, for my usual afternoon ritual.

Seat taken on the footpath, beer quickly in front of me, and my beer lady appears pleased to see me back.

But she also seems concerned it’s only me, so I use Google translate to explain that Lisa is back at the hotel, while Kerstin has returned home to Germany.

I think it all made sense, and it was nice that she cared enough to enquire.

20220928_161015 (2)

My thing.

Beers had and world watched, it’s all a little rushed as I need to be back at the hotel to do the shower thing by 5.00pm.

That done, and now running a few minutes later than I’d like, we’re quickly back downstairs and outside in search of a taxi.

Can’t see one in Hang Manh, so we walk up to Hang Bong where there is far more traffic, and therefore far more opportunity to actually find a taxi.

Turn right into Hang Bong, now sort of, but not really, heading in the right direction to West Lake, and yep, there is far more traffic.

But, as is the way when you want one, there are none.  I keep walking, while Lisa, who is far better at multitasking than I, walks and complains.

I’m really not sure what she wants me to do….

We get to the next intersection, stop for a moment, see a taxi that’s heading in the direction we want it to, and attempt to wave it down.

It doesn’t work.

But it kind of does, as all of a sudden I have a young guy in front of me offering his services as a xe ôm (motorbike taxi).

We hardly ever, like pretty much never, get transport around Hanoi, and the xe ôm thing was never considered as an option.

But now that he’s here, it may just solve our problem.

100 000 Dong is the rate, for the two of us, even though I’ve only told him the West Lake area, as opposed to an actual address.

I return with an offer of 80 000 Dong, even though I’m not sure how this whole thing is going to work, seeing as he is one, his bike is one, and not a terribly big one at that, and we are two.

While all this is being contemplated, another xe ôm suddenly appears.  He wants to know where we’re going, so I show him, as well as the original xe ôm, the address on my phone.

The first guy says 60 000 Dong, to which the second, scoffing slightly at the 60 000 offer, responds with 50 000 Dong.

The 50 000 each sounds alright to me, but not so much to the original guy.  His protests fall on deaf ears, however, as Lisa is led to the second bike.

It was a funny, and enjoyable, little interaction.

We’re both quickly on the bikes, helmetless, and with feet dressed only in thongs, and I absolutely love it!

20220928_173107 (2)

Through the streets of Hanoi, xe ôm style.

Lisa disappears from sight, which causes me only slight concern, before we catch up with her, and her guy, at another set of traffic lights.

A few minutes later we pull up outside some sort of building, and apparently, we’re here.

I’ll take their word for it, as I have absolutely no idea.

50 000 Dong is handed over to each, and we bid them farewell.

There’s a security guard sitting nearby, protecting some unknown thing, so I show him the address on my phone.

He shakes his head, and points further off down the street, in a way that doesn’t fill me with great confidence.

I message Quan with a photo of where we are, just as he messages us.  And yep, we ain’t where we need to be.

Directions given, and we walk on a bit further, before coming to a sporting complex with tennis courts out the front, that may just be it.

A guy soon appears, and yep, and we’ve made it, it’s Quan.

Quick introductions are done, and first impressions are that he’s an incredibly friendly guy, which, seeing as he’s a friend of Khoi’s, isn’t really surprising at all.

Past the tennis courts and inside, and yep, the place is a sports club.  It’s also huge, as well as rather busy, with heaps of locals sitting down at various tables, enjoying the non-sporting pursuit of drinking beer and eating snacks.  And even better, is the fact that I cannot see one other single person who looks like me.

We head out the back to sit outside, and Quan disappears to organise some beer.  He returns a few minutes later with beer in hand, but rather than it being the three bottles, or three cans, I was half expecting, it’s just a single bottle.

But a larger one.

And it holds five litres!

Oh, how I love Vietnam!!!

And even though we’ve only just met, I think I love Quan, too.

Beers poured, the chatting begins, while also trying a couple of snacks that Quan brought along, including some pork which comes with a dipping sauce, which is absolutely beautiful.

It begins to rain, so we head around the corner to an undercover area, and continue what we’ve already started.

Those first impressions are well and truly confirmed, as Quan really is a lovely guy, and one who is just so easy to talk to.

I’m also incredibly appreciative that he thought to bring us here, as while it’s certainly no upmarket establishment, well, not the bits that we’ve seen, it is so authentically local that we would never have seen it as an everyday tourist.

And not surprisingly, this is confirmed by the looks we receive from a number of the locals sitting nearby.

Including one guy, who appears to have been partaking rather enthusiastically during the afternoon, and has now reached the stage, or probably passed it, where he’s had enough.

He’s keen to engage with us, which as always, I’m more than fine with, but I’m not sure how successful that’s going to be.

We have a bit of a chat with him, and no, it wasn’t that easy, and we find out he’s the head of security here, which makes me wonder where his second in charge is right now.

He then, somehow, tells us he is back at work tomorrow, which, judging by the condition he’s in, will be an impressive effort if he makes it.

We do a few photos, a lot more chatting, and of course tackle that five litre bottle, and it really was just a great night.

20220928_190255 (2)

With Quan.

The time comes to call it just after 8.00pm, and Quan helps us out with a taxi.  Plans are made to catch up again on Friday morning for a coffee, which is good, as we can put the goodbye off for a couple of days.

Back to the Emerald; taxi fare 35 000 Dong – which makes the xe ôm’s seem expensive – but nowhere near as much fun; and with it still being relatively early, and with not much else to do, we head up to Bat Dan to continue what we’ve been doing.

A couple more beers while that world thing is watched, along with a Coke, and, rather embarrassingly, a plate of fries for some reason.

That done, and with the bill coming to 104 000 Dong, I give the young guy, who has actually given me very little over the last few days, 504 000 Dong.

He initially looks confused, but then laughs, when he finally realises what I’m trying to do.

I think I may have him now.

We head back to the hotel before 10.00pm, and getting into Stainless Street street, and seeing my convenience store already closed, I leave Lisa on her own to complete the journey, while I head up to the convenience store around the block, that is opposite Hang Da market, for a few supplies.

It’s actually quite busy with customers, including a guy who looks like he’s doing his weekly shop, and that coupled with some staff who would struggle to work any slower, results in a promise to myself that a return visit to this particular store, will not happen.

Back to the room, finally, and it’s the usual on the bed, but this time with more reflection on our day, as opposed to the Trip Advisor stuff.

Another kind of nothing day, but a day that was far from nothing.  And a day with a number of firsts.

Some significant.

Some not so significant.

First time in a tattoo studio, with first tattoo ‘ordered’.  Yep, that’s going to happen, and up until 24 hours ago, it wasn’t even really on the list.

First time buying a poncho, which is probably in the category of not so significant.

First time ordering a Vietnamese birthday cake, which again is probably not so significant, although it hopefully will be for Cammy.

First time exchanging money at a gold shop here in Hanoi, which while not sounding that significant, kind of is, when the transaction appears to have confirmed that up until that moment, I’d actually been doing it all wrong.

Well, not completely wrong, but just not quite as right as I would have liked.

The xe ôm’s; not actually a first, as we did use a couple in Hue, by sheer luck, or chance, on our very first trip in 2014.  While I struggle to remember the finer details of that little contract, apart from being delivered to The Citadel, I believe we may have paid well over the odds for what that short trip should have been.

Anyway, today’s xe ôm trip could perhaps be described as the first, because I’m not sure we actually knew we were using xe ôm’s, on that particular day in Hue.

And, finally, meeting a new friend for the first time.

Speaking to Khoi (from Water Buffalo Tours) in the lead up to our trip, he was adamant that if we had the time, it would be a great opportunity to meet a Hanoi local, in Quan.

It was always something I was happy to do, if we could make it work, as I trust Khoi implicitly, and if he thinks it would be well worth it, then that’s good enough for me.

In the end, I’m absolutely rapt that we got the opportunity.  I said before, Quan really is a lovely guy, and seems to be as genuine as they come.

And then with the location he picked, well, that just topped it off.

A place where we could enjoy a beer, with the locals, while watching them do their thing, all without another tourist in sight.

Yep, my kind of place, and the type of thing I covet.

So yeah, a ‘nothing’, but at the same time, very memorable, day.



2 thoughts on “Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 22

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s