First, to keep it in order I’ll update you about last night.
We went to a posh looking white, fancily lit up open air gigantic restaurant and sat down to a dinner of rice, noodles, beef and veg. Simple it may sound but a) our bellies determine what we eat over here and b) it was bloody delicious. The place was beautiful with a huge white falling canopy high above us with dimly lit lamps everywhere, and all outside with black iron garden furniture and big luscious plants and flowers all over the place. Was a really luxurious atmosphere (well it was his birthday) and we enjoyed every morsel. After that when we left I noticed that all the couples were now holding hands and being very smoochy and loving on the street so, having not held hands or anything when on the street, we treated ourselves and swung our arms hand in hand. Happy Birthday.
We decided the night wasn’t over – it was 9pm but that’s pretty late for us here, walking round all day in 40+ heat is KNACKERING I tell you – and navigated our way across the busy road to a big corner building that had six floors all looking over the lake. As soon as we approached the door a waiter came up to us and offered us the menu. We said we just want a drink on the top floor and oh look at that, his restaurant was on the top floor so up we went. Phwoar this place was gorgeous. Stylish and modern and everything comfy and squishy on the inside and outside, where we sat, a decked balcony overlooking the prettily lit lake. We watched people negotiating the road no joke for like half an hour, we watched the young kids playing kick ups with a shuttle cock – highly skilled lads, seriously way more skill involved to see a shuttlecock in the dark flying towards you than a football. We were so impressed! The girls were good too.
We had a drink and then decided we should video the epic-each-time journey crossing the road, so we held hands and did the dance. We have quickly become comfortable with walking out only semi looking and letting all the bikes flow around you. You do have to watch the cars though – they don’t maneuver themselves so easily. Fun times.
After doing that a couple of times we took our time to wind our way through the streets that weren’t half as dark as you’d imagine. They like lights here. Everything twinkles and does its job of drawing your eye in. This was about 11pm and everyone was shutting up shop, putting away clothes, dragging in cooking apparatus, closing doors, sweeping pavements, making little neat piles of rubbish. This is great because about this time of the evening garbage people walk along the streets with a wheelie bin and ring these really loud bells, to signal they’re collecting I guess. And they scoop up all the little piles and there you have it, everything is clean. We only noticed today that there are no bins. Yes we’ve been carrying round empty bottles since we’ve been here hahaa.
Right that was yesterday, this is today…
We woke up pretty late again, about 8.30, and had a long leisurely breakfast. We have to eat big at breakfast to soak up the malaria pills – oo just realised Javi hasn’t had any nightmares about me this time, woohoo! I strapped on my weird new sandal/walking shoe hybrids and we set off to find the markets we’d heard about. Actually, our first purchase of the day was suncream in the pharmacy next door as today was the first day the sun came through the clouds – she gave us 2 bottles of spf50 and they are just the cutest things, both fit in the palm of your hand! Better than they sound though – it’s a runny liquid so spreads everywhere easily. Anyway we walked and walked (enjoying getting lost all the time in these crazy roads, no fear) and found the biggest market I’ve ever seen. It (or they) is (or are) in a huge huge building tightly packed into 4 floors I think, and obviously in the surrounding roads, car parks, pavements and streets too, and you can literally buy anything. Anything you can possibly think of. I know the name of the main one is Ha Dang, and the second biggest Dong Xuang. No idea how to pronounce these words properly but apparently I’ve got thank you down pretty well! Cam on! Or gam on… sound the same but each time I use it obviously I feel like I’m urging someone to hurry up…. hehe.
I video’d our walk leading up to the market centre as it was just so mental I wanted to capture it with something more than photos. I just held the camera hanging above my bellybutton and let it roll. Got some pretty good views of the bikes, trucks, buses, food stalls, women with their little triangular hats peeling vegetables, people transporting huge items on bicycles – some of them looked right at the camera which is funny because I wasn’t even paying attention to where my camera was pointing. We got lost in the maze of clothes, food, textiles, drinks, more clothes, mountain gear, kids toys and much more for a little while then found our way out and down a little narrow sidestreet. Here we had a funny moment because this seemed to be the animal hacking street where they were cutting up bits of meat to be cooked. Needless to say the smell was a bit nauseating (too much of a reminder of the muslim market in Kolkata for Javi, he was walking through a tad faster than me) and I got a glimpse of a seafood section where there were baskets of live fish all smacking each other and big crabs little crabs all snip snipping with their feet and pincers – all rather interesting!
Now we seemed to have stumbled into the shopping area of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and for a while each street had a theme – one was full of people bashing metal into shapes, welding and polishing. That was a shiny street. Another was for the motorbike world – repairs, rentals, to buy, little petrol stations that you really have to spot the pump to know it is one. They’re on curly extendable cables hanging from trees (everything and I mean everything hangs from trees here, I actually really like it) so this road smelled of petrol, bikes fumes and WD40. Another street was geared towards children as it looked like a fairground – all pink and fluffy and squishy. Another street, close to our hotel, was dominated by very tall thick bamboo stems leaning against the building – and a few men and women whittling and cutting smoking pipes. Not Grandad smoking pipes, these are like 2 foot long straight plain pieces of bamboo people put tobacco on a little shelf at one end and put the big gaping hole at the other end to their mouths.
By this time (let’s say mid morning) I was getting a bit shaky so we went to a gorgeous restaurant on the lakeside and I had mango ice cream – god it was delicious and did the job perfectly. Sweet and cool and runny mm mm. We were sitting outside underneath a huge frame covered in crawling flowers, so pretty. It is very pretty here in general I think – they have fresh flowers everywhere. After our snack we went to the Ngoc Son Temple, which is a pretty little temple put in the lake that you cross a bright red bridge to get to. It was so ornate inside as you can imagine, all gold and incense and flowers and offerings everywhere – beautiful. To be surrounded by water made it even more so. I bought a silk fan in the gift shop that is from now on at my side at all waking hours, and we stood for a while watching these little stripey tiger fish fight in the shallows.
Now it genuinely was lunchtime so we crossed the road (another video) and had a toasted sandwich in a very Western coffee shop. I got a citrus something drink, basically lime, kiwi and lemon and soda water but argh it was so refreshing. As we left the usual dance of refusing the cyclos ensued. I’ve forgotten to mention these cyclos. They’re so cool and are the Vietnamese rickshaws – a big seat under a little cover with the man behind you on his bike. Here they take you for an hour’s ride around the streets so we jumped in one and set off. That was quite fun dodging traffic and people but there were moments when the guy was struggling to pedal us up a hill – felt so bad and I was leaning forward as if it would help the load haha! We gave him a can of coke halfway through the journey coz we didn’t want him to pass out on us and then more money than we’d agreed at the end.
After we peeled ourselves off the plastic seat cover we went to get some cash out. Ah. Here the story takes another twist. Sigh. Looong story short our card was retained by the ATM, we got our great hotel staff to phone for us, they gave us one date to go collect it which we can’t because we are touring for 7 days as of tomorrow, we argued a bit back and forth re days etc, eventually decided to cancel his and use mine (aaargh scared coz it’s debit not credit!). In the middle of all this we went and paid a visit to Hao, the tour lady, to see if we could postpone our Sapa trip by one day then we MAY be able to get the card but we’d have lost a lot more than we’d have gained so we left it. She even got her husband to phone the bank for us and try again, bless her. All to no avail. The options they gave us are not doable. Back to the hotel we came. My mind was whirring and poor Javi was not a happy bunny but we went and brainstormed in the AC’d room – thanks Aita, Mum, Court and Christine who were speaking to me at the time haha.
All in all we went downstairs and had tea and coffee and had a look on the internet for things to do in Central Vietnam – trying to distract my man – which looked exciting and wonderfully relaxing (beach beach beach beach beach!) and we both felt better afterwards. My bank boy did a trick for me so we should be fine from now on. No more stealing cards, you ATMs you! No really. I will bulldoze you down.
Anyway, tomoro 8am we are getting picked up to go to Perfume Pagoda for a whole day of boating and walking and mountains, really looking forward to it. Looking forward to being guided and given lots of interesting facts – we were going on a Street Food tour tonight and were both excited about that but all this card business took priority. But we’ll be in Hanoi the last day before flying home to Spain so we can do it then.
Right I’m off now for an early night, yay discoveries start tomoro!
Ps. Oh I’ll be adding proper pictures later I’m afraid, not using my phone very much for pics as have my proper camera. You’ll have to wait!