Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, September 17, 2011


<side note, Lori if you are reading this, please do not let Squid read it. It would be too upsetting for him. and im also sorry for all the bad dog puns that will be coming too. Actually, maybe you shouldn't read it either. Be warned!
And Victoria, maybe you should let Frida read this, it might bring her down a peg or two!!>

4 hours drive back to Hanoi, Vietnams capital city. 6 million people, 5 million motorbikes.
 Lek takes us on a walk of the old district and shows us where we can eat dog. Mr Buckets steps up and buys himself a takeaway to woof down later. Ha.. aha.  ha. He decides to save it for later and lets it cook in the sun for a while in a plastic bag that he carries for the rest of the tour. (We called this 'walkies'.) We stroll around the city, passing sweaty markets and general hustle and bustle, and then stop by the beautiful Hoan Kiem river in the centre, for Markus to have his treat.
 When he sits down, a bunch of locals also gather to watch the funny falang eating what is a delicacy in Vietnam. One guy shows Markus how to do it properly, with all the ingredients he finds in his takeaway box. He mixes up chilli, lime, salt and lemon basil with a little bag of what looks like fish paste, but smells like fish guts. The meat itself contains liver, hind and intestine and the trick is to dip in the mixture and wrap in a lettace leaf and eat. Markus spits out his first try and hands the rest over to some bewildered looking locals, while the guy who helped explain holds his hand out for money. "No," says Markus, "we help for friends not money." And we leave the scene swiftly.   
Lek takes us to '69 bar' for dinner, where she has ordered a private room at the back just for our table. It turns out to be a surprise for Jo's up coming birthday, and Lek organises wine and a cake as well as a little marble Buddha as a gift for Jo. Great evening.
A rickshaw ride back to the hotel and we (obviously) go in search for some karaoke. Around the hotel there are at least three places, however we are met with some stern looking Vietnamese people who don't seem to want us to come in, so we find a tiny bar around the corner for some drinks. The bar is so small that we take the whole thing up and the staff, who obviously are not used to a large group of falang coming in and drinking them out of beer Lao, take pictures of us. 


The morning is non-existent as we sleep off hang overs. We don't go with the group to the war museum, but when we go down to the reception we find Becky with Lek who needs to go to the SOS international clinic to find out what is happening in her bowel. (sorry Becky.) So, we go with her for moral support. It is definitely, much more fun that the museum. Lek is on top form, throwing leaflets on denge fever and malaria at us saying, "you want this one? You want this one?" and then erupting with laughter. Another great moment is when she can't manage to open the bathroom door, and in her 'Lek way', gets quickly angry before realizing it is a sliding door. We can hear her laughing from inside. Finally, whilst Becky is inside having a consultation, Lek readies herself with a bouquet of fake flowers that she takes off the side of the reception, to present to Becky when she comes out. Brilliant.
Becky emerges with an 'I saw the doctor today' sticker, a branded carrier bag for all her new pills, and a bill for $150. (sorry Becky.)

We make it in time to join the others at the old quarter to watch the water puppet show. The puppets spit water, hold flares and bob up and down in the water. We enjoy. 

We walk back to the hotel and on the way Jo sees; street-side barbers, a plate of testicles on a shop counter, Vietnamese men wearing US style army hats and plenty of caged birds. 

It is our last night with the group and we have our last dinner altogether. We get three taxis to the restaurant, Claire and Jo are in the second one, however the third one doesn't turn up. For half an hour. After the driver gets an ear full from a very angry Lek! We enjoy dinner. 

Brilliant end to a brilliant tour, we loved every minute and were really lucky to have such great people on it with us.     


We have an eerily quiet breakfast with the only other remaining person from our tour, the lovely Fabian. We plan to meet up with him later in Hanoi.
We have an equally quiet morning and lunch, then head to the Laos embassy to get our Visas. We only get lost about five times and then fuss about which currency to pay with, and a few hours later emerge with big proud smiles that we managed to do something by ourselves, without getting killed, and without Lek holding our hands. We have to get used on standing on our own two feet. (that evening we leave messages on Lek's facebook asking her how much money she thinks we need for the next day.)
We then stroll over (as casually as possible amidst the never ending traffic of motorcycles, rickshaws and cars) to the Hilton, where we are going to meet Jo's parents the following day. We look very out of place when we wander inside. Luckily, Mummy and Daddy P have already arrived so we are able to surprise them, and it is very surreal to be meeting them in Hanoi.
Later on, we all go to find Fabian and go for dinner together to the Quan An Ngon, a beautiful garden restaurant with a good reputation. We eat snakehead fish wrapped in rice paper and enjoy our surroundings of beautiful banyan trees contrasted nicely to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. The five of us eat and drink for $30. Bliss.
We say our goodbyes with plans to meet Ma and Pa Palmer the next day. That night at our hotel a storm breaks out. We watch from the window as the lightening lights up the entire sky and the locals continue to eat their noodle soups under the tropical rain. Just after the rain stops, we witniss a really drunk guy, with his shirt off showing lots of tattoos, shouting in the street. He is arguing with two others who are trying to restrain him. They pull over a taxi and shove the man inside, he's having none of it, and jumps straight back out led by kicks and punches. The cab driver waits a moment longer while the other men try and calm him down, untill he drives off. A few minutes later, when they have gone out of view, Claire sees the guy bomb down the road on a motorbike while the whole street stops and stares. 


Jo's big day! And she is celebrating her birthday in style, we check out of our hotel and jump in a cab to the Hanoi Opera Hilton. We have lunch next door with Ma and Pa, at Highland Coffee. (Vietnam's equivilant to Starbucks.)
We don't do much during the afternoon, we chill out at the pool and run around our bedroom like kids, squealing at the ridiculously soft mattress and flat screen TV mounted on the wall. 
That evening we go for dinner at the beautiful 'Green Tangerine' restaurant, which is located in the old quarter in a beautiful old colonial building. You would never guess that such a swanky place exists, set back amongst cheap shops and pavement restaurants. The cuisine is uber modern and fancy, Daddy P's chocolate ice cream desert comes with its own chocolate conical hat! We really see a different side of Hanoi. We have a really lovely evening, in preparation for our departure to Sappa the next day.            
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