Friday 30 September – Hanoi
Sigh…… 7.00am. Again.
That same old, same old routine. Seems I’m stuck with it.
The world does not need me yet, so the urge to get up is resisted, which not surprisingly, is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.
8.00am is reached, with some sleep achieved in the previous hour, and it’s time to begin the day that will see my appearance altered forever.
Well, until I meet someone who wields a laser tattoo remover, should I ever reach that desire.
But if I did, at some point, reach that desire, would the laser tattoo remover guy be working behind me, or in front of me, with my arm outstretched?
I still don’t know, and unfortunately, it’s absolutely no clearer this morning.
We get organised, bagging up clothes that need a date with a washing machine, and head outside by 9.00am.
Up to Hang Bong, turn right, then wait at the lights at the first street on the left.
The lights are green for Hang Bong traffic, but the green man is also illuminated, indicating that you can cross Hang Bong. I noticed this not long after we arrived, and it’s not yet been fixed.
We wait, but an old local guy in front of does not, and he steps out on the road. Fortunately, the car he stepped in front of was going slow enough to stop, but the old guy is not happy, and starts angrily pointing his finger at the driver, while he continues to cross.
It was actually quite funny, but the old guy had absolutely no idea he was in the wrong.
Anyway, one of the rare occasions where I’m happy to commend a particular local driver.
Lights eventually change, and with the green man now telling the truth, we head across.
Up ahead, and on the left, our laundry from the other day is where we left it, and the bag is handed over.
3.1kgs, apparently, for a cost of 60 000 Dong, and it’ll all be ready by 2.00pm, which is far quicker than what Lisa would be able to do back home.
Around the corner to our café, but she’s rather busy, so we move on. Around the next corner, and because someone needs food, we stop at Banh Mi Mama’s.
She too is rather busy, but this time, moving on is not an option. The wait is going to be done, and while the woman running it is lovely, she can be a little slow at times.
Money handed over to Lisa, she can do the waiting, seeing as it’s her banh mi, while I stand on the footpath and watch the goings on.
A guy comes down the street carrying a fairly long ladder, which he then places against a power pole.
He’s putting up some sort of advertising, or promotional, banners on the poles along the street, and now that he has his ladder against this particular pole, I’m intrigued as to how this is going to work.
Knowing the power pole is round, as they tend to be, and knowing that leaning a conventional ladder against a round surface can be a slightly, or very, risky proposition, I’m curious as to whether there is some kind of ladder attachment that will make the whole thing less risky.
I’m always interested when I see stuff in Vietnam that I never see in Australia, so I go to take a photo as the guy climbs the ladder.
He gets halfway up, and then yep, the ladder slips. He manages to hold on to the pole as another couple of locals come to his rescue, just before I can get to him.
My initial thought is that I feel guilty that I was about to take the photo, but I honestly wasn’t expecting him to slip. I was just curious to see how he was going to do it in a safe way.
Well, I got my answer.
I help hold the ladder with one of the rescuer locals, while he completes his task, and then I even receive a cảm ơn in return, which was nice, as he makes his way back to the ground.
Good deed done for the day, I head back to Banh Mi Mama, just as Lisa receives her breakfast.
Back towards the Emerald, and then past it, and into Stainless Steel street. A guy walking in front of us is carrying a woven basket with handles, about the size of a chicken. There ends up being a very good reason for that, as that is exactly what’s in it.
A basket for every purpose, I guess.
We walk in the direction of the Old Gate, the aim being to try and do something about that caphe sua da, and on the way, I can think of very little else, other than the tattoo.
I’m nervous, which annoys me, and I still don’t know where it’s going to go, which also annoys me.
We eventually reach the Old Gate, after having to check the map a couple of times, and luckily, there’s a couple of seats available.
Two caphe sua da’s (25 000 Dong each) ordered, and then savoured, while watching Hanoi go about its thing.
Lisa does some parenting with the girl back home, and as expected, she’s the one doing all the cleaning, as well as all the responsible stuff that needs doing when you ‘have’ a house.
The boy, on the other hand, is doing very little, which again, is exactly as expected.
Coffees done, and now a bit after 10.30am, it’s time to do it.
I’m still nervous, but there’s no turning back now.
Well, there is, but stuff it, I’m doing it.
Down to Ma May, and there it is, 1984 Tattoo Studio.
We head inside, and are then directed upstairs. Pleasantries exchanged, which are sort of forced on my part, but only because I have too much else going through my mind, and then we’re asked for the paperwork that they specifically asked that we brought back with us, the other day.
Not once did I think about that this morning, and of course, that paperwork is sitting back in the hotel room. I offer to go back and get it, but apparently they can deal with things without it.
We sit and wait, and I’m not sure about Lisa, but I just sit there and generally feel sick.
And yep, I still haven’t made up my mind on the position of it.
Eventually it’s time, and we head up to the next floor. Lisa is introduced to the girl who is doing hers, and I’m introduced to my guy.
The moment has well and truly arrived, and that triggers the making of a snap decision. I now know, or at least I think I know, that I don’t want it on my shoulder blade, and I actually want it on the inside of my forearm.
I tell the girl who has just introduced me, and she then translates it to the ink guy. He may, or may not, have raised an eyebrow, and I then understand why, as he begins to adjust the ‘couch’ from a laying position, to an upright position, as well as turning it around, because I have gone from right shoulder blade, to left forearm.
I now feel guilty. And I also wonder how wise it is to annoy a guy with a very sharp instrument, that will inflict a mark on my body, that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
Damn my inability to decide on matters in a timely manner…..
Adjustment made, I take a seat. My guy is fussing around with stuff on the bench, and while I don’t really know what he’s doing, for obvious reasons, seeing as I’ve never found myself in this particular position, I do recognise the needle.
It’s big. Well, bigger than I thought it would be.
And it’s not helping with my general feeling of sickness and anxiousness.
A girl walks in; another customer; and judging by the colour of various parts of her skin, this is most definitely not her first time.
We acknowledge each other, but we don’t speak. Partly because I’m not sure of tattoo protocol yet, but mainly because I’m currently finding it difficult to mutter audible words.
My guy stops fussing, and I start to learn a little about this strange process, when he starts positioning the transfer.
I’m now standing, and he’s taking ridiculous amounts of care measuring out distances on my forearm, as well as making sure it’s centred.
His attention to detail is reassuring.
The girl, who is sitting nearby, is taking as much interest in my arm as the guy is, as the transfer is applied.
Paper is peeled off, and I kind of have a tattoo.
“Didn’t hurt at all”, I turn and say to the girl. She laughs, but not terribly loudly, as I realise it’s highly likely that that comment has been made before.
Back to my couch, and the moment of truth arrives.
Needle does what needles do, and ink starts being embedded under my skin.
It’s sort of uncomfortable, but doesn’t actually hurt as much as I thought it would. Perhaps the fact that it’s rather interesting, is helping with dealing with the ‘pain’ thing.
I watch for a while, and once we have the outline, I quickly begin to realise why my tattoo is more expensive than Lisa’s, and also why it’s going to take longer.
I’d just never thought about the tattoo ‘colouring in’ process.
As the ‘coloured in’ area grows, my sick feeling diminishes, and I sort of drift away from what’s being done to me.
I can’t see Lisa, as she’s behind me, but I’m not sure she’s having a lot of fun. She does, however, seem more concerned about me, which suggests I may have looked as bad as I felt earlier this morning.
Not being able to see Lisa, and not really wanting to chat to her anyway, I start talking to the girl.
She’s American, from New York, and has been in Vietnam for the last three weeks, and is actually heading to South Korea tomorrow.
The tattoo that’s being done today, is the second half of a tattoo that was started yesterday. It’s on her lower leg, and when it’s finished, there won’t be much un-tattooed lower leg left.
Yesterday’s session went for eight hours, and today will be another eight or nine hours.
I admire her commitment, as well as the guy holding the sharp thing, but enduring eight hours of this is something that is well beyond my capabilities.
Anyway, she was nice, and it was good to have someone to talk to for a bit, to wile away a little time.
The tattoo continues, Lisa still a little uncomfortable, and my attention is drawn to outside, where it has started raining. A few minutes later, it is hammering down, and coming down so hard, some of it makes its way in through the ceiling.
A bucket is found, along with a few towels, and the water is dealt with.
Close to an hour and a half after all this began, Lisa’s is done, while mine is still being coloured in.
Lisa with her artist, Hip.
Finally, and now close to two hours, it’s done, and I just couldn’t imagine sitting there for another six hours.
Not so much for the pain, although it was starting to annoy me a little, but more just the boredom.
So, now officially ‘inked’ / ‘scarred for life’, what do I think?
I love it!
Like really love it!
And I’m so pleased I pushed myself and ignored that annoying voice in my head.
We sit around for a bit, while Lisa sends photos to the kids at home. To say that they were surprised would be a gross understatement.
Blown away, absolutely stunned, but maybe also just a little bit proud of their old parents.
Tattoos are admired one more time, by the artists themselves, and then they’re wrapped up in paper towel and covered with plastic wrap.
We’re then sent on our way, with both instructions on how to care for them over the next few days, as well as a warning to not get them wet for the next three hours.
That wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but it’s still raining outside, and rather heavily at that.
Downstairs, and out on the street, but not leaving the protection of the overhead awning.
We have two problems; it’s well past lunchtime, and we still have this rain issue.
Across the road to our little convenience store from the other day, and two more ponchos, at 10 000 Dong each, are purchased from our lady.
Inserted into ponchos, slightly quicker, and with a little more finesse, than earlier in the week, now that we are a little more experienced, and we head off to deal with our other problem.
Down various streets, kind of in the direction of the Emerald, and past several possibilities, but because they are full of tourists, aren’t really possibilities at all.
We come across a small family run place, and with a number of locals sitting inside, we’ve found our ‘restaurant’.
Even better, the owner looks nervous as we walk in.
A table is found, hand signals and finger pointing explaining we just want what they do, and the process of extracting ourselves from ponchos that are wet on both the outside and the inside, is undertaken.
Our food, of which we’re still not exactly sure what we’re getting, soon arrives, and it’s a soup with noodles, beef, some greens, a small amount of tomato, along with, yep, tofu.
Oh well, gave me an opportunity to remind myself of why I don’t eat it.
Was nice. Well, most of it.
Lunch done, which was nice, despite that one ingredient, reminder received and acknowledged, and total bill of 80 000 Dong fixed up.
The rain is still doing its thing, although it has eased a little, but unfortunately not enough to forego the plastic. Poncho-ed up again, we head back to the Emerald.
Into the foyer, and Jenny notices our strapped-up forearms.
She’s initially horrified, but then relaxes when she realises it was all self-inflicted. We have a quick chat, and then head up for a brief recovery session.
The tattoo is now visible through the absorbent paper, which is both weird and a little concerning, but apparently the weeping is normal.
Recovery somewhat achieved, we head back outside a bit before 3.00pm, once again covered in plastic.
Off through Stainless Steel street, and then up to our cake shop. The owner gives us that same concerned look when she sees us, but them promptly smiles when she realises who we are.
Cake collected, and then back out into the street to begin our walk down towards Beer Corner, to deliver said cake, and hopefully make Cammy’s day a bit better on her birthday.
The rain is still coming down, and now that we’re carrying a cake, a relatively simple walk is now a rather nervous one. I am now far more aware of where my feet are landing than I have ever been.
We reach Ta Hien street, the cake, thankfully, still looking like it did when we picked it up, and get to Cammy’s work. She has customers.
This wasn’t in the plan. Although, to be honest, we didn’t really have a plan.
We wait a few minutes, being careful not to be seen, and finally her customers leave.
In we go, and yeah, I think she was rather surprised.
But maybe more surprised at what we now have on our arms.
We do the birthday thing, partaking in our first ever Vietnam purchased cake, and continue doing what we did the other day, which is just chatting and catching up.
Cammy with her cake.
Again, we really missed her when we were at Green Village a few weeks ago, and it’s great to see her again.
Although, it is a bit surreal that it’s here in Hanoi.
While sitting there, we reach the three-hour mark since the scarring has been completed, which means the great unveiling can now be done, and the ‘wound’ be allowed to weep unhindered.
And my thoughts?
I’m still happy.
Actually, no, I’m rapt!
I love it.
The end result.
More chatting, along with a little more cake; yes, even by this non-sweet tooth person; and then we leave Cammy to do her job. Fortunately, with two more full days, the ‘goodbye’ doesn’t have to be done today, which makes things far easier.
Back up towards the Emerald, dropping in to collect our laundry along the way, and then back for a short recovery session.
Recovery complete, the now clean clothes put away, and then back out a bit after 4.00pm to do my usual afternoon thing.
Through Stainless Steel street, and then up Bat Dan towards the train line, and once again, it’s beers on the footpath, while watching the goings on of Hanoi.
And as it always is, it’s good. I can never tire of it, and as far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to finish off a day in, not just Hanoi, although there is something about this place, but anywhere in Vietnam.
Although, this particular day is impacted slightly by a fellow customer, who can’t stop coughing.
Like serious hard core, and constant, coughing. A few years ago it would have just been a little annoying, but now it makes me think far more than I’d prefer.
And that annoys me more.
Fortunately, I receive a WhatsApp message to take my mind off the potentially contagious one nearby, and it’s from Lesley. I’d ‘met’ her through Trip Advisor several months ago, where she’s known by the name of Charlieboots, and she’s just arrived in Hanoi with her son Andy.
About the only thing I know that is a definite, is that we’ll be back here at Bat Dan after dinner, so tentative arrangements are made to possibly catch up then, depending on how hard the jetlag hits them.
First beer with a tattoo. And I can’t stop looking at it.
World continues to be watched, coughing guy keeps doing his thing, and then pyjama guy turns up, but being early, minus the pyjamas, and this time walking with a crutch.
The crutch, however, didn’t alter his demeanour or level of arrogance.
Beers done, I head back to the room for a shower, and to get sorted for dinner. Back outside, and because it’s close, as well as good, we head around the corner to our phở bò lady, which just happens to be opposite the substation, or electrical transformer, that they were working on the other day.
The workers are long gone, and the power seems all back to normal, but I’m not totally convinced the whole job went exactly to plan, judging by the way it’s been ‘finished’.
It appears to have required expanding foam. And a piece of string.
The phở, as it was last time, is good, as too are the beers, and while sitting there on the street, Lesley messages again to say they’re both keen to catch up over a beer, so instructions are given on where exactly it is in Bat Dan street.
Dinner done, along with three beers (total 160 000 Dong), and we head off to our beer place a bit before 8.00pm.
Back on the street, and a few minutes later two westerners turn up. The inclusion of what each of us were wearing in the text messages probably wasn’t needed, and I think we all recognised each other straight away. Which was never really going to be that difficult, seeing as who else was around.
Two extra seats are quickly found, and Lesley and Andy are soon seated doing my favourite thing.
We sit and chat, mainly about all things Vietnam of course, but also a little about what they do back home, which in Andy’s case, is the aviation industry.
It’s at that point I heard an audible groan-like noise come from Lisa, because she knows what I’m like when it comes to planes, with my fascination / unhealthy obsession in them.
Fortunately, for Andy anyway, the topic was mostly Vietnam, which again could perhaps be described as another of my unhealthy obsessions.
Lots of chatting, along with a number of beers, before it hits the wrong side of 10.30pm far quicker than I liked. A couple of the obligatory selfies to commemorate the night, and then we all walked back towards the Emerald, which was actually on the way to Lesley and Andy’s hotel.
It was a fun night, and as it always is, it’s nice to put a face to a screen name.
With Lesley and Andy.
Instructions given on how to get back, seeing as I know exactly where they’re staying, which is the same street that we’ve always stayed in until this trip, and a promise to try and catch up again in a day or two, while we’re all still here.
A quick detour for some supplies from the convenience store up the road, before heading up to the room for the usual on the bed.
But this time it was less about Trip Advisor and notes, with it being more about reflection and contemplation.
Another one of those nothing sort of days, but one I would happily take every day.
Laundry dropped off, caphe sua da fix attained, all with copious amounts of anxiety at what I was about to do.
Tattoo studio appointment ultimately kept, trying, but not really succeeding, in keeping that anxiety under control, and then bullet bitten with going ahead in being scarred for life.
Lunch, with the dreaded tofu, cake collection, and then catching up Cammy for her birthday, before collecting our now clean clothes.
Bat Dan beers, phở around the corner for dinner, then meeting Lesley and Andy.
Hardly your typical run of the mill type ‘holiday’ day, but one that I wouldn’t change a thing about.
Oh, and my thoughts on my now inked arm?
I love it! Like seriously love it.
And I have absolutely no regrets in finally getting it done.
It does make me wonder though, how we got here. As in all the little things that needed to happen to get us to this point.
With the first ‘little thing’ being trip number one, which was going to be the only trip, back in 2014.
A love affair then developed, and then the decision in 2019, in this very city, of moving on from Hang Hanh street.
And while we didn’t know where we were going to change to at the time, ultimately ending up in Hang Manh street, put us pretty much around the corner of what would become my beer place.
The very beer place, that four guys from the same tattoo place; 1984 Tattoo Studio; just happened to sit down at a table next to us, little more than 72 hours ago.
Yep, funny how stuff sometimes pans out.
Time to call it, although it would have better had I called it earlier, seeing as we have now ticked over into the next day.
And with an 8.30am coffee catch up with Quan in the morning, confirmation yet again that I’m really not that good at this.