5:30-6:15pm = Partay time!!!
Trip Start May 14, 2010
9Trip End Jun 19, 2010
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We ended up staying 3 nights in Hanoi at a hotel in the heart of the old town that was a definite step above most of our accommodation so far.
Hanoi itself was great... Frenetic and mental but charming at the same time. There were scams aplenty, especially where taxis were concerned (we got done on at least 3 occasions, but you have to pick your battles and arguing over being ripped off by the equivalent of $3-$4 really isn't worth the grief). The traffic, oh my god... We had heard about it, read about it and been warned about it, but nothing prepared us for it
The weather was also much cooler than down south so on our the first full day we decided to spend the day walking around the old quarter checking out the street life, markets and historical buildings. The day was really fascinating and every stereotypical street scene was on display. We came away with the opinion that the city is one big department store, every street has its own specialty, in fact all the names of streets in the old quarter are named after what they once sold (we were staying on pipe street). One street would sell nothing but shoes, other herbs, another jewelery, another bamboo, and on it went. The streets themselves were also really quaint, no building seemed to be higher than 2-3 stories and all preserved some form of its original layout. The markets were also much bigger and contained even weirder things then further south, we stopped to watch one woman kill and skin a writhing mass of frogs and another who appeared to be selling mice and rats
Throughout the day, we were also on the hunt for some socks as I had been living on 3 pairs of socks since Hoi An where a mix up in the laundry meant that none of my socks made it home. This has proved to be a bit of an issue because western sized clothes, let alone socks, are in short supply but as I was wearing three day old socks and we were days away from going to Laos, Hanoi was going to have to be it or I was going to have to name my socks individually to match their developing personalities. We had no luck all day, we even tried using Google and eventually took a trip to a large mall in Hanoi but all came to nothing. Eventually we gave up and headed to a Bia Hoi establishment (essentially a local pub that serves fresh beer).On our way there we passed an Adidas shop and miracles of miracles they had 4 socks in the whole store that were large enough (I should have always known that beer always provides).
The next day we decided to get some culture so headed out to the Museum of Ethnology, which was really interesting. However, unfortunately someone who will remain nameless left our memory card in the laptop in our hotel so we have no photos for most of the day
The food in Hanoi was also a highlight and we ate extremely well, although nothing yet has been surprisingly good as the vegetable and rice dish I had in Dong Ha. One of the nights we decided to treat ourselves and go to a nice restaurant that has been set up to support and train underprivileged kids. After a slight delay caused by me writing down the wrong address and being taken on a very scenic tour of Hanoi we finally made it and had a fantastic meal in a swish old French mansion. We also had the best noodles of the trip so far at a small hole in the wall place at 67 Hang Diem St down from our hotel, which definitely need to be tried by anyone going to Hanoi.
For the last 2 days we have been to Halong Bay, we ended up booking a cruise through our hotel and I think we definitely lucked out. Our boat was incredibly luxurious, the food was amazingly good and kept on coming and Halong Bay itself was suitably spectacular (although I still think Tam Coc was better).
The staff were also characters, including a junior guide who Gaynor and I got talking to after dinner on the deck
Whilst on the cruise we went Kayaking to one of the floating fishing and pearl villages, went to the 'Amazing' caves, went squid fishing, had a cooking class and had a 'sunset partay' from 5:30-6:15pm (it rocked...). It was all fantastic, and it was really good to be pampered and looked after for a couple of days after what has been a pretty full on period of travelling.
We are currently on the bus back from Halong Bay to Hanoi where we are going straight to the airport to catch a flight to Luang Prabang.