Stuck for Another Week in Hanoi

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
hanoi rendezvous hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 0 - Arrival
Got back late in the afternoon from the tour and checked into the hotel before heading out for dinner. Here I managed to find a restuarant where you cooked your own food. This was basically some greens, dill and fish. While the fish was nice the size of the serve was a bit to small to make for a satisfying meal.

Day 4 to 5 - Not Much
Had to change to a nearby hostel since the hotel dorm room was full tonight. First time that the place hasnt had at least one empty (if not more) bed.

Ended up at a hostel around the corner from where I was and this was a lot more like your normal dorm with the double bunk bed and thin mattress. While no breakfast was included the price of the room was less than half of the previous one I had stayed at.

Decided to only spend a night here since I was expecting mail to arrive at the other place and there was still a slim chance of one of my original letters making it. Though must admit this was slim to none.

Ended up not doing much over these two days except wander the old quarter streets a bit when it was time to get something to eat. Once again spent the day watching some animie or reading since I wasnt really in the mood to do much more. Also found that my brother was taking his time getting the mail out (since he needed to get photo endorsed) and that I would be stuck in Hanoi at least one more week. Seems that the earliest the photo was going to make the post was Thursday. Not really that good for me.

Just hoping that the embassy doesnt reject the photo in the end as being to low a quality or not quite right in some way. Since I did scan it in originally and send it via email home it is always possible that the photo (in some way) wont meet their strict requirement. Knowing my luck at the moment it wouldnt suprise me if that was the case and all this waiting around was just a waste of time. Oh well. If I do get a temporary passport then I will only have one more country to do and time wont be an issue anyway.

Not much left to do in the area and since the time was so short couldnt really head south so was pretty much stuck in hanoi. Only thing I hadnt done was the Perfume pagoda tour which I ended up booking for the Wednesday.

At this point also decided not to loose a year to doing an honours degree. Dont want to go straight back to work though so decided I would rather just spend the first 6 months of next year finishing the bachelors degree. Advantage of this is that it would be more viable to look for work while finishing the studies since it would be easier to just toss it the study if I needed to. With honours I would be taking someone elses place and it would not really be fair just to toss it in half way.

On the second night back ended up walking into another restuarant where you cooked your own food. In this case it was some beef and unlike the fish you got a decent portion of meat for the price. On the way back to the hostel I once again walked past an interesection that seems a popular drinking spot. Found it interesting to see how the foreigners were all on one corner of the intersection and the locals on a completely separate one.

Day 6 - Perfume Pagoda Tour
Had another 8am start for the Perfume Pagoda tour. Found that the bus had quite a large group of over 20 people on it.

After a two hour bus ride we reached the area near the perfume pagoda where we got on a boat and were rowed to the general location of the Pagoda. Spent about an hour being paddled down the lake which had a number of graves located in it. Not sure if the river was flooded or not but found it strange to see graves that were at least partly underwater.

Found that the river had some nice mountain scenary and a number of locals fishing from boats. Found it to be a nice quite and peaceful trip floating along the river to our destination. Also found it interesting to see how some locals were using small hand held paddles to propel themselves along rather than your typical paddle.

After an hour we reached a small village (more a bunch of shops selling stuff) and made our way through it and uphill towards a restuarant just outside the Perfume Pagoda. Here we had lunch which was your typical Chinese banquet meal.

After lunch we had about 2.5 hrs to visit the site which included the perfume pagoda and a cave. Later found that the site also had lots of other small temples/shrines to visit but that these were only accessable from other parts of the river. While most people decided to take the cable car up to the cave, others like me decided to walk the 40min or so uphill to reach it.

While there were lots of stalls along the path all the way up, most of these were shut. Had a pleasant walk through the forest to reach an intersection in the path. Decided to visit the side trail (path not going in direction of cable car) first. Up this path found a small temple and some shrines within the small caves located around it.

After wandering around here for a bit continued up hill, with some more nice mountain views, to reach the cave located near the top of the cable car. Found the cave to be pretty big and full of small shines and alters. Wandered around the cave for a bit listening to the drumming, bell and chanting before heading out and back down the mountain. One the way down to the Perfume Pagoda did one more side trip to another small temple which provided some views of the nearby mountains.

Wandered around the Perfume Pagoda temple for a while and checked out the chinese new year statues as well as some of the nice small gardens located in it. One interesting thing I did find was a crb in the pond. Once again surprised to see a crab so far from the sea but given this isnt the first time I have seen one I am guesing that you can also get fresh water crabs living in places rather than the carb being an introduced species. 

After the temple headed back to the meeting point from which we headed back to the boats and back to the busses. Along the way saw a number of boats that seemed to be close to being overloaded given how close the tops of the boats were to the waters edge. Once back in town were once again told to give a tip to the rowere of $1 but this time declined. With 6 people in the boat at $1 each that is quite a bit of money for a tip. Especially since I am sure they probably arent paid that much to do it in the first oplace. Dont rally like the idea of being told I have to tip and have the felling that one to many well off americans have passed through the area

Had a 2 hour bus ride back into town after which I headed out to grab some dinner before calling it a night.

Day 7 - Wing Chun Class
Once again did pretty much nothing touristy through out the day. Headed out only once during the day for lunch and to look for another tour. Unfortunately I seem to have done all the group tours and the remaing two tours I was interested in (Be Be Lake, and Cuc Phoung NP) are both private tours. Could try to get out to these places by myself but feeling to lazy to make the effort.

In the afternoon decided I needed to do something to amuse myself so decided to do either a yoga or karate class. Couldnt find a karate class but ended up settling for a wing chun class. Found the introductory class I did was was pretty much like a typical basic karate class anyway.

The class was a short bike ride from where I was staying in the Tay Hoi area which seems to be a popular area for foriegners residing in Vietnam to live since I saw a lot of people and families around the place.

Made it just in time for the start of class since the afternoon traffic resulted in it taking longer than expected to get there.Found the introductory class to be similar to a karate class with stretches to warm up, some basic footwork (like ra dachi but using nahachin) followed by basic footwork with punches and kicks and a form to finish off. Not to hard to follow along even though its been 6 months since I last trained at anything. Found it was nice to get some practice in after such a break from training.

Day 8 - Vietnam Museum of History, French Quarter
Decided should do something today even though the weather had turned crappy again and it was raining on and off throughout the day. Hadnt been to the Museum of History or wandered the french quarter streets so thought this might be as good a way as any to spend the day.

Wandered past some long, narrow and tall houses along the way down into the french quarter. Came across a book shop along the way and grabbed a novel to read for a few bucks. Less than a quarter the price I would have paid anywhere else.

From here walked towards the Opera house which was a grand old building and then continued onto the Vietnamese Museum of History. Here I founf your standard primitive man display but with the additon of some stone age farming tools. Also found a few interesting brass kettle drums on display along with a number of stone and wooden carvings.

By the time I had finished walking around the museum it had decided to start raining. Was considering cutting the walk short but since I had my umbrella, which kept most of the rain off, decided to keep wandering around. Found the odd interesting building around the place as well as a couple of bakeries where I bought some snacks.

Pretty much just randomly walked the streets in the direction of a small lake and found that the streets here were all quite wide and for the most part not as busy as in the old quarter. Even though the area seemed quiter and more modern looking (shops, etc) still found a fair few roadside restuarants with their plastic tables and stools.

At one point also wandered through a small market which had meat, seafood and veg being sold. Seems that the seafood here will always befresh since you will find that most of it is still alive when you buy it. Also found another part of the market selling cloths and daily household products.

From the market I then basically made it to the lake and randomly walked around the streets heading in the general direction of the hostel. Since it was also getting late by now decided to stop off at a small restaurant along the way and bought some beef noodle soup which was quite nice.

Day 9 - French Quarter at Night
Didnt do much during the day yet once again. In a way I guess its nice to take a break from being a tourist but given I still have a few countries I want to vist (assuming all goes well with the passport) and only a limited amout of time before I want/need to head home its also a bit of a waste of time. In the end will probably stay in Vietnam 1 month longer than planned without really having done much more than planned due to me being stuck in Northern Vietnam.

Spent the day reading and headed outside in the early afternoon to grab something to eat before heading back to the Hostel. given it was the weekend I decided to head out, grab some dinner and wander the streets near Hoan Kiem lake.

Wandered down to the cathedral and fond the side of the streets packed with people drinking beer. Seems that a lot of people had parked their bikes here and were sitting on stools on the sidewalk drinking beer. Seemed to me to be one way the locals spend their evenings. that is chatting with friends over a beer and watching the people around them.

While this kind if thing is common the world round I think the sitting on plactic stools on a roadside walkway to be a very Vietnamese thing since a little blue stool is a common site with people setting up shop where ever is most convenient for them. Given the width of the sidewalks I guess its a way for anyone to be able to open a small restuarant.

Wandered the streets for a while then made my way to the lake which was lit up with lots of coloured balls of light. also found lots of people walking around this general area and on the streets nearby. also lots of people just hanging out on their bikes by the side of the road.

From the lake headed back towards the hostel via a road that had been turned into a night market full of stalls running down the center of the road. While wandering found once again lots of people just sitting by the side of the road either eating or drinking. Ended up stopping off at a roadside restuarant for a Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) before heading back and calling it a night.

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