Saturday 1 October – Hanoi
Awake, this time before 7.00am.
Two things I know; I ain’t getting up, and yep, I really wasn’t that smart last night.
Eyes closed again, and mere minutes later, or that’s what it felt like, the alarm rudely does its job at 7.50am.
I needed the extra sleep, and could still do with more, but that’s not possible at the moment.
And the fact that the alarm actually got to do its thing, is another reminder that I really need to change that annoying tune.
Yep, I know….
So in the haze that is lack of sleep, here we are.
September done, we’re in a new month. And it’s now the month we leave Vietnam. A milestone, of sorts. But not really a good one.
I could say the same about the other milestone we’re ‘celebrating’ today, which is a wedding anniversary, but perhaps it might be best I don’t.
I just hope it’s a better day than the last anniversary we celebrated here.
We get ourselves organised, while occasionally glancing at the evidence on my arm from the day before.
Absolutely NO RAGRETS!, to borrow a scene from one of my favourite movies.
And, as it happens, it’s a movie that I first saw on that Malaysia Airlines flight that took us out of Melbourne, ultimately bound for Vietnam, on that very first trip in 2014.
Yep, funny how stuff plays out, as well as what you remember.
Downstairs by 8.30am, a quick chat with Jenny who lets us know that the hotel is set to resume offering breakfast, which has been suspended since Covid appeared, and that she would like to invite us to partake tomorrow, in what I guess is kind of a ‘soft reopening’.
“Absolutely!, and thank you!”
Outside, and Quan has just arrived. It’s good to see him again.
We head off down Hang Manh, then onto, and through, Stainless Steel street, before reaching his favourite café.
Caphe sua da’s ordered, which promptly arrive, and we just sit and continue what we did the other night. He really is a great guy, which again, if he’s a friend of Khoi’s, he was always going to be, and he’s just so easy to talk to.
He’s actually planning on coming to Australia either later in the year, or early 2023, and while Melbourne isn’t part of his plans, we let him know that should he find himself there, we would love to show him a little Australian hospitality.
More chatting over my second favourite drink, along with three posts of tea, and we end up spending a good hour there, before making a move back to the hotel.
Back into Stainless Steel street, past an engagement photo shoot on the side of the road, and then into Hang Manh, just in time to watch a bus trying to get around a corner that really hasn’t been designed for buses to be doing such things.
Incidentally, I’ve never really understood why large buses are allowed in the Old Quarter, in the first place.
Regardless of my beliefs, it was rather interesting / concerning / funny watching him do it, and he did end up succeeding.
Back to the Emerald, and we have a goodbye to do, which just reminds me that our time in Hanoi, and Vietnam for that matter, is fast coming to an end.
I know I’ve said it before, but Quan is just a great guy, and one that, even though we’ve only spent a brief time with him, I now consider a friend.
Goodbye done, with the hope we might be able to catch up in Melbourne, but if not, then hopefully back here in Hanoi when we next return.
Because we will return.
Up to the room to get rid of some of the copious amounts of tea we just drank, and then back out to do one of my least favourite things, which is shopping.
The one positive, however, is that it will at least be done at Dong Xuan market.
We eventually get there, and apparently, we need coasters. I’m not sure why, as I am of the belief we already own more coasters than we have glasses, and we already have the usual Vietnam tourist souvenir coasters, anyway.
But no, we need more.
The souvenir part is found, and coasters are selected. 100 000 Dong, apparently. I can’t remember what they cost out on the street, and to be honest, I don’t care.
Lisa also decides she needs a small fan, you know, one of those hand-held things you wave at your face. She already has a fan, as well as plenty of paper back at the room that could be improvised into a fan, but no, she wants a ‘small’ fan.
One is found at the coaster vendor’s stall, and apparently it’s 30 000 Dong.
130 000 Dong is quickly handed over, not a skerrick of haggling done or attempted, and I’m finally free of my inconvenience.
Through the dried fungi section, followed by the spices, and then out to see the pets, that aren’t.
I never tire of it, although I do feel a little for the turtles.
Outside Dong Xuan market.
Outside to the market that is, well, outside, which I probably enjoy more than Dong Xuan, and then we find ourselves on the busy road that takes you up to Long Bien Bridge, and the train station Ga Long Biên.
It wasn’t in the plan, mainly because we didn’t actually have a plan, but why not, the bridge isn’t far away.
We reach the part where the road veers off to take the bikes across the bridge, after navigating quite possibly the most cluttered footpath in Hanoi, and head up.
We eventually reach the station, and seeing as the gate is open, and that we’re in Vietnam, we walk out onto the track.
Interestingly, it was Lisa’s idea, although I didn’t need a lot of convincing to do the same, so we both diced with death for a minute or two.
Off the track, and onto the pedestrian part of the bridge, which while it’s a ‘footpath’, fills me with more terror than ‘playing’ on a train track. Those pavers, with the big gaps and holes in them, take me a long time to trust, before I can walk them without looking down.
Eventually the ability to look up returns, and I can finally start to enjoy the bridge and all its character.
I love this bridge, and like a certain church not too far away behind me, I consider it a symbol that announces Hanoi.
The view from Long Bien Bridge.
We get to roughly the halfway point, and knowing that the Intrepid one will at some stage reach a certain tolerance threshold for all things walking, I decide that we should perhaps turn around.
But noticing the steps down to the island below, just a bit further up, I decide to chance my luck, and somewhat push her boundaries.
It works, as she agrees, as I kind of knew she would. But she agrees in a way that makes it clear to me that she really didn’t want to agree, and again, I was half expecting that.
She’s become so easy to read, but that’s only because we’ve been married so long. Or is that, ‘too long’?…..
Down the stairs; oh, how she loves stairs; as a motorbike comes up them; glad I wasn’t sitting on the back; and then onto the island itself.
We walk under the bridge, which ticks a box I didn’t even know was on my list that doesn’t exist, and there’s a café there.
Well, not so much a café, but more just a few small plastic tables and chairs on the bare ground, with four or five people sitting there, drinking drinks that they’ve obviously purchased there.
So, I guess it is a café.
They acknowledge us in a friendly manner, as we acknowledge them, and we walk off down a nearby path, with absolutely no idea of where we’re actually going.
A very different feel.
It’s really peaceful, and incredibly green and lush, and Hanoi now feels like it’s a long way away.
We continue on, and the scenery remains the same, which is nice, but hardly spectacular. We stop to try and capture photos of the bridge that I know won’t come close to what I’m actually seeing, before checking Google maps to actually try and work out where we are.
It’s at this point I discover how big the island is, and the realisation quickly follows that it appears it’s going to be one very long walk to something that may, or may not, be worth walking to.
I’ve pushed to get the Intrepid one this far, and while I think she has a little more in her, we do have to get back at some point.
And that point, I believe, has arrived.
We turn and head back, this time climbing the stairs; she loves climbing stairs……; on the other side, so we can walk back, well, on the other side.
She loves stairs as much as I love shopping.
Back into the hustle and bustle of city / bridge life, and it’s not long before we hear the familiar rumble of something heavy. Yep, great timing, it’s a train.
A bit further on, and not too far from the end, I notice three guys actually walking the track. I think they were photographers, and a couple of them, with big smiles on their faces, try and convince us to join them.
Now I have issues just walking on these pavers, and while I’m usually up for anything, crossing the road, climbing over a small fence, and then stepping across to the actual track, is just a bridge too far – pun intended.
Well, not really, as it was the first thing that popped into my head. And then I couldn’t come up with something that wasn’t punny.
We continue on, past a couple doing the wedding photo thing, and then make our way down towards the busy road.
Making it across, eventually, we then walk beside the train line, before walking under it to get back into the Old Quarter.
The train line above, the Old Quarter beyond.
Down Crockery and clear hard easily breakable things Street, and we end up where we started back at Dong Xuan market.
It was a good walk, and one of those ones that I love, which is the unplanned type.
Being 12.00pm, and being in an area where there’s plenty of food, the decision to have lunch is made.
Just down from the market we find a small place, and with lots of locals inside, this is it.
Rice with pork, greens, tofu – we’re really not doing this right – and an egg, all for 55 000 Dong each.
And as soon as we get it, I know I’m in trouble, as there’s no way I’m going to be able to eat it all.
We give it a crack, and while the food was good, we’re both failures at finishing it.
Part of the problem was the tofu, and I’ve really got to stop trying it out of interest’s sake. I think I live in the hope that I’ll eat a piece, and I’ll have this lightbulb moment where I finally ‘get’, and understand, this evil food, but it’s just not going to happen.
And by trying to attain this ‘lightbulb moment’, all I’m doing is taking up valuable stomach space that could be used for far more tastier food.
I really need to eat, and be, smarter…..
Lunch done, we head back in the direction of the Emerald, walking down Lock / Rolls of metal / assorted Hardware street, which then becomes Stainless Steel street.
The bling of ‘Stainless Steel’ street.
As we go round the corner, where the restaurant is that mis-led us / ripped us off, the young touts out the front, the very ones that suckered us in, try their luck with us again, as they have continually done, pretty much every time we’ve walked past since.
They’ve wasted their time since that day they got lucky, and they’ve just wasted their time again. While we may, at some point, be taken for a ride elsewhere, I can assure you, it will never happen here again.
A slight shake of the head, that was really bordering on total ignoration of the approach, which is something I rarely, if ever, do.
I wish that was the case with using big words I don’t fully understand, but every now and then, I have this urge.
Not because I want to ‘show off’, but just because occasionally a word pops in, and I struggle to come up with an alternative. Anyway, if it’s correct, then I’ve learnt something.
Back to the hotel about 12.30pm, a quick chat with Jenny, and then up the room for a rest and recovery session. A bit of a late night, an early-ish start, and a walk, while not huge by any means, that was still rather significant, has caught up with me a little.
Rest done, followed by a little note taking, which is important, as we’ve now been back from our Mu Cang Chai trip almost a week. But it’s not the time period, it’s more that we haven’t done anything. Well, we’ve actually done heaps, but it’s the fact that it’s all been here in Hanoi, which we love, but when you don’t go anywhere, one day tends to blend in with another, and I find it difficult to remember when certain things happen.
I don’t know, knowing is just important to me, I guess.
Pen and paper used to deal with my obsessive-compulsive issue done, we head back out a bit before 3.00pm, to do a couple of errands.
First errand is sorted around the corner at our nước mía đà (sugarcane juice with ice) place, where two are promptly ordered and delivered (10 000 Dong each).
Second errand means a walk across to Hang Bac street, to do some of that money exchange thing, in anticipation of both fixing up the hotel bill the day after tomorrow; aaaargh….; and keeping enough ‘in stock’, so as to have too much in my pocket when we fly home, to not come back again.
Yes, I’m cunning. And smart. But probably not that smart, as I suspect Lisa knows exactly what I’m doing.
Onto Hang Bac, and we reach our gold / jewellery shop from the other day.
We walk in, and straight away the lady remembers us, by saying, “Australian Dollars?”.
“Yes”, I say, with a smile.
XE.com says the current rate is 15 300 Dong, which is a touch higher than what it was a few days ago, and my lady punches 15 550 into her calculator.
A few days ago they gave me 15 600, and while the difference is negligible, I would much prefer to work in round figures.
I punch 15 600 into her calculator, and she smiles and nods.
$300AUD handed over, 4 680 000VND returned, after both amounts were counted and checked more than once, and transaction is complete.
About to walk out, I remember something that I forgot the other day, and that is a $10USD note I have in my wallet.
I have been looking after it since our trip to Cambodia three years ago, and regardless of what some people say, there is no way I’m going to try and use it to pay for something here in Vietnam.
It’s also, obviously, not much use to me at home, either.
I know the current rate for US dollars is around 23 800, but I also know that I’ll likely get less, seeing as it is a low denomination note.
That’s okay, I’m not overly fussed, and if she offers something in the low 23 000’s, I’ll be more than happy to take it.
I show her, and sure enough, she mentions the denomination size, but then says 23 300.
No problem, as 233 000 Dong is of far more use to me than $10USD.
Exchange done, and it was nice to have been able to set that $10 note free, to do what it was made to do.
While all this was going on, Lisa, who was at the front counter of the shop, had borrowed the lady’s hand-held fan and was trying to cool herself down.
As we went to walk out, my exchange lady, who had obviously noticed Lisa using her fan, indicated to her to keep it, as she went to put it back on the counter.
Lisa protested, as she should have, especially seeing as we bought one earlier today, but the lady insisted.
It was a nice little interaction, but one that I suspect I paid for in the exchange process, but that’s okay, and we now have two fans to take home.
We head down to the lake; it’s Saturday, so there’s always something worth looking at; and up near the roundabout there’s another stage been set up.
Geez, they’ve put up and pulled down some stuff over the last two weeks.
There’s no music being played yet, and the only hint I have is a sign that reads KPOP. But really, it’s no hint at all, as I don’t know what KPOP is.
My suspicion, however, is that I won’t like it.
Lisa suggests we come back later to check it out.
I’d rather get an eight hour tattoo.
Neither is going to happen.
Off around the lake, in the usual anti-clockwise direction, with the usual weekend stuff to be seen. Remote control cars being ‘driven’ by the kids at southern end, and then dance acts on the road on the Eastern side, along with some kind of expo set up, advertising holiday destinations and businesses associated with holidays and travel.
Interestingly, while walking the lake, we don’t get asked to practice English, but we did tend to make moves to avoid it a little, mainly because it was getting close to 4.00pm, and I could hear the bia hoi calling.
We get to the top of the lake, and remembering what we did last time we were here on this particular date, we do the anniversary selfie with the Red bridge in the background.
Yep, I can be romantic sometimes….
Three years to the day….
Lap complete, we head off. I’m absolutely knackered, and I think the last few days have caught up with me. A couple of late nights, the walk to West Lake, today’s walk, and then the mental stuff associated with yesterday’s little appointment.
Through Hang Hanh, and then up around the corner towards St Josephs, and then, it happens!
The Intrepid one finally comes good by spotting something that I had not.
It’s Alfetto, the café, otherwise known as our café, that we’ve been frequenting since the 2017 trip. It used to be on the lake side of the street, and when we’d first arrived two weeks ago, we’d noticed it was no longer there. But now Lisa has found it, just a few doors down, but on the other side of the road.
I’m blown away, first that it’s still going, and second that it was Lisa who found it.
Mental note taken, we will go there tomorrow!
With slightly more love and admiration for her, we continue up to St Josephs, stopping of course to photograph it, and then make our way down to Hang Manh.
Into our street, and Lisa mentions something about an ice-cream, as we approach a place that just happens to sell ice creams.
Having found Alfetto, I can’t really deny her, and who knows, if I reward her for her find, maybe she’ll find more stuff for me?
One Oreo ice cream is purchased, which at 35 000 Dong doesn’t seem too bad, until I realise I could get close to three beers for that price.
Hmmm, this ice cream better bring more stuff….
Sights of Hanoi – Flower lady.
A thankless, and a never ending, job. And done by women, quite possibly exclusively. Huge admiration!
Bang on 4.00pm, it’s all about timing, I drop Lisa, and her ‘reward’, back at the hotel, and head off to do my thing.
I actually have an urge to go to Ma May, but I’m stuffed, and I’m not sure my legs are capable of the extra walk. And anyway, with it being a weekend, it’s madness out there already with the number of people around.
Down stainless Steel street, and it’s not long before I’m back in my spot on the footpath. One of the young guys organises my beer, and the feeling of lethargy becomes a distant memory, as the world once again seems just that little bit better.
The usual suspects are already here, including pyjama guy, but just minus his pyjamas at the moment. But he does have his crutch. And his attitude….
I sit, take it all in, and try really hard not to think about the fact that after this one, there’s only one left.
The goings on around me, somewhat, help with that, and now that I’ve been here for as long as we have, I feel like I know this little community.
The guy and the girl in the lotto ticket shop over the road, with an annoying tune that plays over loud speakers on continuous repeat. It’s been driving me nuts, but it’s starting to grow on me, which actually annoys me more than the tune itself.
But yeah, I’ve watched them go about their job for over a week now, as well as seeing who their actual customers are. There’s actually a couple that then walk across the road and get themselves a beer or two.
The shoe repairer / cleaner guy, who can often be seen on the opposite corner, today has a fellow shoe repairer / cleaner mate with him, who is happy to watch, while the other deals with a customer’s shoes.
Shoe cleaner guy with his mate.
It reminds me, I probably should get my Keen’s sandals cleaned before we leave Vietnam, after they got a bit dirty on the motorbike trip. But I won’t do it yet, as I’m not taking the risk of getting them dirty again.
The three young guys, who every day I’ve been here, walk up the centre of the road pushing a bin, which I assume goes to the ‘recyclers’ up near the train line.
You could almost set your watch to them, they’re so regular.
Every so often my world watching day dreaming is interrupted, when the other young guy, the one who I’ve been trying to win over, with only occasional success, delivers me another beer.
I then realise he must be watching me, as he’s delivering them just before I finish the previous one.
I like that, and again, it’s a sign they consider me a regular.
At one point he tries to strike up a conversation, perhaps hoping I have enough Vietnamese to at least have a basic chat. I don’t, but I do have Google translate, which I use to tell him his language is too hard.
He looks at my phone, and smiles.
He then asks, “You travelling?”, to which I explain we only have two nights left here, and then we go to Saigon, before going back to Australia.
Google seemed to work, and he seemingly nods in understanding.
He notices my arm, or more specifically my tattoo, and it takes him a second to register what it is. But when he does, his face lights up as he points to it.
I love it! Yes, it was just a little thing, but it meant absolutely heaps to me.
He moves on and returns to his job, while I return to watching Hanoi do its thing. But just a little more chuffed with my lot, than I was before.
My phone beeps at me. It’s a WhatsApp message. And before I’ve had a chance to see who it is, I’m really hoping it’s from a person I’ve never met, but one that I’ve been desperately waiting to hear from today.
It is, and my day just keeps on getting better.
It’s a girl I ‘met’ on Trip Advisor, and while I can’t remember exactly when we ‘met’, my memory believes it was way back around our first trip.
We’ve ‘spoken’ a few times over the years, and more than once the topic of catching up somewhere in Vietnam has come up. It’s always been more a wishful thinking type of thing though, and I’d never really thought enough stars would ever align to make it happen.
But not long before we left Australia, it did appear that the stars would in fact align themselves, with us both not only being in Vietnam at the same time, but also here in Hanoi.
And yep, this message is to confirm that she and her husband have just arrived from Hoi An, and yes, a beer or several up here at Bat Dan after dinner, is a definite.
Oh, and if I wasn’t happy before!
Beers done, and with it time to get organised for dinner, I fix up my beer tab – still 13 000 Dong a beer – and give my young guy a hen gặp lại (see you later).
Back down Bat Dan, almost skipping I’m so happy, while humming that annoying lotto shop tune, that now sounds so much better.
Into Stainless Steel street, with a quick stop in our convenience store for a few more, also 13 000 Dong cans, and then back ‘home’.
Jenny is at the front desk, and I get a reminder about breakfast in the morning.
“Yep, no problem”, and while I’m looking forward to it, it does remind me that we leave the day after tomorrow, which also reminds me of how much I hate goodbyes.
I can’t help it; I just love it here.
Trying to put those annoying thoughts out of my head, I make my way upstairs, still humming that bloody tune, and tell Lisa the good news.
She too is rapt.
Quick shower, then back out to do the dinner thing, which, because it’s close, quick, and good, is going to be our phở bò lady around the corner.
It’s raining, but not too heavily, so we take a chance by leaving the ponchos at ‘home’, and head out a bit after 6.30pm.
We get there, and fortunately they not only have a couple of vacant tables, but also vacant tables that are undercover.
We take a seat, while our dinner is served up, and can’t help but notice a bus which has come to a stop, due to something blocking its path.
Not prepared to wait patiently, the driver decides to sound his horn. Being a bus, it has a significant sounding horn, volume wise, and being the incredibly impatient driver that this guy seems to be, he sounds that horn continuously for what seemed like five minutes.
It may have only been 30 seconds or so, but the volume of the noise made it feel much, much longer.
So bad was it, that even the locals started yelling at him.
He eventually stopped when he realised how many people he was upsetting, and perhaps fortunately for him, the traffic finally began to move a few seconds later.
Peace, of sorts, restored, and phở, along with a couple of beers, soon arrives. Life is good, and as previously, so is the phở.
Second last Hanoi dinner complete; gotta stop thinking like that; and the bill of 140 000 Dong is paid. The rain is now steady enough to get you significantly wet, so we make a quick pitstop back to the hotel to grab the ponchos.
Suitably covered up, we head back out to commence our now very familiar, but now numbered, walk.
Stainless Steel street, Bat Dan, arriving at our beer place around 7.30pm.
Seats on the footpath taken, along with an extra two, a couple of beers ordered, and we await in anticipation.
A short time later, and just like last night, and even though I’ve never met them, two easily recognisable westerners turn up.
It’s Jo, who goes by the name of JoRutland on Trip Advisor, and her husband Sam.
As I said, I’ve ‘known’ Jo since around the time this journey, that at the time I never imagined it as a journey, nor thought it would become one, began back in 2014. I’d noticed her name, and her advice, and for some reason, always felt some sort of connection with her.
We’d ‘spoken’ occasionally, over the years, and again, I’d always hoped that at some point our paths would cross while we were both in our favourite country.
We’d often joked, along with one or two other TA regulars, that it would ideally be here in Hanoi, so we would then be able to have a HAG (Hanoi Appreciation Group) meeting.
And now, well, here it is, after all those stars somehow managed to align, and it all now feels so surreal, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve known her forever.
We sit, drink beer, chat, drink beer, share stories about anything and everything, although in hindsight, the vasectomy story perhaps shouldn’t have been told, and drink more beer.
It was, quite simply, a brilliant night, and Sam, her husband, is a ripper* bloke.
*Ripper, as in Ripper bloke, in Australia, is a bloody good guy.
The time absolutely flew, and before we knew it, they were packing up tables and chairs around us, at a time that felt really early, but at a little after 11.00pm, actually wasn’t.
With Jo and Sam.
The bill, which was rather significant in total beers (I’ll blame Jo); is fixed up, and all four of us head off down Bat Dan, in the direction of the Emerald, which worked out well for all, as Jo and Sam were staying in the same area.
Goodnights done, along with the promise to do it all again tomorrow night, but this time including dinner beforehand.
And that dinner, all going well, will be at our ‘last’ restaurant, otherwise known as Nam Bittet, which is the restaurant we stumbled across on our very last night in Vietnam, back in 2014.
Sometime around first ‘meeting’ Jo, which kind of makes it all feel like it’s meant to be.
We go our separate ways – thank God we have tomorrow, but damn it, it’s our last day; and I quickly race up to the local convenience store for a Coke and a packet of chips (25 000 Dong), before heading back to do the usual Trip Advisor and note taking on the bed.
It’s been a good day.
Actually, no, it’s been a great day, and a day that, in all honesty, I never thought would ever happen.
Again, amazing how stuff pans out, to allow stuff to happen.
It’s been an incredible journey so far, and hopefully, one that is not going to finish anytime soon.
I’m really not ready to get off this ride.
Wrong side of midnight arrives, which means our final Hanoi day is here.
It also means I’ve stayed up too long.
6 thoughts on “Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 25”
Love the Long Bien bridge photos (above and below). Can’t wait to check it out in person (<4 weeks until Hanoi (& the rest) now)!
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Yeah, like it hopefully came across in the post, I love the bridge.
Just has so much character.
And only 4 weeks makes me very envious, mate.
But that envy would be far worse, if not for the return in 6 months.
Just seems such a very long way away, though. :-(
That Jo lady sounds lovely! Great write up of a great evening x
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Yeah, she was alright. 🤣
But thank you, and yes, it was a great night!
You also said girl. Not been one of them for a long time either.😂
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Nah, I like ‘girl’, as it makes me feel younger than I am. Remember, I’m still in my 20’s! 😂
So please take that as a compliment / term of endearment.