We arrive in Hanoi, our last city in South East Asia and get ready to sail around Halong Bay...But not before some tasty, white-feathered goodness.
30.11.2010 - 30.11.2010 21 °C
It’s amazing what you can fit on the back of a 100cc scooter. Besides a family of 5, I’ve seen a cage of piglets, mini-fridges, whole pigs for roasting, and anything else that a logical and sane person would consider using a 3 tonne truck rather than something that’s a step up from a bicycle. This is just one of the visually stimulating things that pass us by as we whiz towards the old town of Hanoi.
Although considered the Capital of Vietnam, Hanoi seems to be less hectic than its southern counterpart, Ho Chi Minh City. When I say less hectic, I mean that there is a slightly less chance of getting run over as Sam and I make the mad dash across a busy street, backpacks and all towards our hotel. We are pretty much in the heart of the old part of Hanoi, with its narrow streets lined with small specialty shops and restaurants decked with even smaller plastic chairs and tables you would find at a kid’s Birthday party. But before we go out and experience Hanoi, we organize our overnight Junket Cruise around beautiful Halong Bay for tomorrow. We decide to spend a bit extra on the cruise as we’d heard some horror stories on backpackers deciding the cheaper route and ending up in roach infested boats. My days of slumming with the roaches in backpacker style accommodation are well behind me and I’m happy to spend my hard-earned rat race pay packet to avoid accommodation that would have been considered a war crime. The seafood dinner sold me as well.
Live each day like it’s your last, right?
Armed with our Lonely Planet guide, we work our way to the street with the highest concentration of local restaurants. Unlike the south, a majority of the Northern cuisine is fused with French culinary style and I’ve been looking forward to it like a person who has watched over a dozen travel and food shows on Hanoi…OH THAT’S RIGHT, I HAVE watched that many travel shows on Hanoi! So we choose one that looks like it has the highest concentration of locals and sit ourselves on ‘comfortable’ plastic stools. We both crack open a beer and toast to now and the future. “I can’t believe our trip is almost over” Sam says, as I look around for the waiter, stomach rumbling. “Stop thinking about it, we still have Halong Bay and Japan to go!” Sam is always thinking about the end of a trip. I remember one time she started dreading the end of a trip before it really even got started. I’ve learned not to. Live each day like it’s your last, right? I convince Sam to share the duck with me. There were plenty of other things I could have ordered but there were other reasons for it and Sam knew it. “So, the duck looks good” I say. “No! I’m never eating duck after seeing those cute ducks at the market the other day”. Getting the reaction I wanted I start laughing and after a bit of coercing, I convince her to share a cute but tasty duck.
We try and work out what else we want to check out tonight. I had been up since 4am and we had been traveling all day but we only have 2 nights in Hanoi. I’m feeling tired but that’s nothing new to me when traveling this long. I decide to chill out at a bar and do some people watching whilst Sam does some souvenir hunting. The little bar is a good mixture of locals and ex-pats. Visitors come and go after a drink whilst the regulars ignore them and go about their business of good company and much needed drinking. I can sit for hours by myself and people watch, having a drink and not saying a word to a single person. Not many people can do that but I enjoy it. In a world where you are constantly bombarded with social media, marketing, pointless conversations and unnecessary distractions, wouldn’t you take advantage of being able to enjoy your surroundings without interruption or having to devote your attention to someone else? ... Look at that couple. She’s way too hot for that guy. Every guy in here is ‘People Watching’ her. No rings yet, it’ll never work out.
“Hey!”. I turn and face Sam, nice interruption. I do the quick visual inspection whenever Sam says she’s going to look around the shops. No large shopping bags, good. Next step, the interrogation. “So what did you get?” Satisfied that we still have enough money for Japan, we wander toward Hoan Keim Lake, which is the centrepiece of Hanoi. We stroll around the lake and cross the Huc Bridge and check out the Ngoc Son Temple in the middle of the lake. The backdrop of the city lights on the lake is absolutely stunning at night. Exhausted but wanting to make the most of the night, Sam and I head to one of the vantage points by the lake. A chain café (much nicer than Starbucks) has a great view of the lake and the surrounding streets so we decide to have a nightcap as I take a few shots. Knowing we still have another night in Hanoi after Halong Bay, we decide call it a night.
We stock up on snacks and water on the way back to the hotel in preparation for the final leg of our South-East Asia travels…Halong Bay.