Settling in...

Trip Start Oct 19, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Sunday we didn't get out of bed till 2pm so we missed breakfast. We had a walk around the Old Quarter close to our hotel and had coffees and beers in a chain run coffee shop while we sent out some emails.  We carried on walking around, weaving in and out of the traffic through the old streets which were grouped by trades; silks, wood, art etc. We stumbled across the huge night market which seemed to go on forever, the sights and smells was overwhelming. Eventually we came to the end of it and started to feel hungry. There was a big and very busy restaurant on the corner of a main street that looked inviting so we thought we would give it a try.  It had counters all way round with loads of different types of food on display.  Someone came and sat us down on a long table and handed us a menu.  The sweat was starting to run down our backs as we scoured the menu (can’t imagine what it is like in the hotter seasons!)  We chose a starter and a main course each with beers of course! Waffle went for a shrimp noodle soup and beef with chilli and salt, I went for papaya salad with dried beef and noodles with pork and shrimp.  They all came at the same time along with various other plates of herb salads etc and we didn’t know where to start.  It only cost 8...another great meal.  The night was still young so we popped in to another couple of small venues for beers, at the last bar we watched an Asian guy so drunk he could hardly stand insisting to the restaurant owner he was fit enough to drive!  After a bit of a debate and an attempt to get on a scooter, which turned out not to be his, he we put on his scooter and sent on his way...who knows how he got home!

Monday we managed to get up at 10am for breakfast, a simple choice of American eggs, bacon & toast, Continental jam & toast or Vietnamese noodles all with  fruit, juice and a good strong 'wake you up’ coffee.  After breakfast we decided to go to Hoan Kiem Lake a few streets away, it was very tranquil.  There were quite a few married couples having their photos taken.  It looks a nice place to escape the hustle and bustle.  Back in the streets, a woman carrying fruit in two baskets balanced on a long plank of wood across her shoulder came up to us and put it on my shoulder, bagged up some fruit and said take a photo to Waffle.  We know this was going to cost us...she said 15,000 dong (which is about 50 pence so that was OK).  However, another woman came from across the road and did the same to Waffle! they both wanted money, we should have said no but ended up handing over some money expecting change but didn’t get it...the second woman took off with about 6 worth of dong and realised we had been ripped off.  We ended up with two bags of fruit we didn’t ask for and two photos for about 10 times what we should have paid.  Put that down to tiredness and experience!  Went for noodles in a place near our hotel that was filling and only 5, the meals are getting cheaper!!  Feeling very tired, so went back to hotel for the night.

A few days in and I think jet lag is taking its toll, we both were wide awake at 4am on Tuesday morning and finally dropped off to sleep at about 6.30am. Then struggled to be up in time for breakfast but we made it.  We needed that shot of strong coffee to get us going!!  It was raining slightly so we decided to do something we went to prison...the old French built Hoa Lo Prison to be exact.  It was used to hold Political prisoners at the turn of the 20th century and was used to hold American prisoners of war during the 1970’s including the US Senator John McCain and was nick named the Hanoi Hilton.  It was small but very interesting.  We headed back towards the lake and had a coffee in a small coffee place. We are big coffee lovers but you could stand your spoon up in them they were that  strong!  I had pigeon in honey for dinner and it came with the head and feet still on, it was tasty bit a bit fiddly to eat.

Today we went to the Temple of Literature in the centre of Hanoi then wandered around the French Quarter. We are getting used to the time difference now and have been out most of the day. Preparing for our next journey, we went to the railway station to find out what to expect...the trains don’t run that often but we think we should be OK but the area seemed more run down.  We ended up in a main street full of restaurants, we were spoilt for choice. We had our best meal so far and said we would go back there for Waffles birthday next Monday and have the seafood broth cooked at the table which looked amazing. As we headed back to the hotel, all the bars were preparing for a football match on TV between Vietnam and Malaysia, they are football mad over here but the game ended 2-0 to Malaysia...  

(more pictures on our flickr gallery)
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