Dates I was there: 8-9 September 2011
The next morning, I intended to find Hang Be Market, which was close to my hotel, before I moved on elsewhere. Sadly, that morning, I wasn’t feeling great so I instead spent the morning in bed in front of the National Geographic Channel.
After checkout, the monsoon rain hit, so I splashed out on a taxi back to the Hanoi Astoria hotel. Thankfully, and yet unfortunately at the same time, it was so cheap that the driver didn’t have change for the note I passed him so I had to run and down the street, in the rain, looking for a working cash machine. I was happy to make it to my room.
After a quick rest, I headed off to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and, en-route, found the War Museum, which, like the War Remnants museum in Saigon, had many distressing images of the victims of Agent Orange. They were tough to see but definitely needed to be seen. As I left the museum, I wandered around the flag tower and over to the statue of Lenin, which were situated nearby.
At the Mausoleum itself, I only stopped for a quick photo as hunger set in. I couldn’t see anywhere nearby that I fancied so I caught a taxi over to Dong Xuan market- or at least, I tried. As I hopped in the taxi, the driver started chatting away and was beeping his horn continuously. This didn’t concern me as everyone beeps all the time in Vietnam. However, then I noticed the meter jumping along with the horn. We hadn’t gone far and the price was rising quickly. I asked him to pull over and, for some reason, paid the price as I got out. I was still pretty far from the market but I wasn’t going to risk another taxi so I set off on foot.
I finally arrived and picked up a couple of souvenirs before finding myself down by the lake. I ducked into the first restaurant I found and treated myself to a chicken sandwich. Just as I finished, the heavy rain fell again. As it cleared a little, I made a dash for it, only for the heavens to fully open again. In that moment, the sea of locals instantaneously changed into their waterproofs- kind of like Superman- but sadly I wasn’t quite so prepared.
Later, I emerged again from my hotel for dinner, back at Quan An Ngon, where I had some very tasty grilled pork and rice. Again, the restaurant was heaving with tourists but I was still served pretty quickly so I went back to the lake and got a Pina Colada at the Little Kitchen before it was time for bed.
The next day was the day that I was due to set off on my guided tour through Laos and down to Bangkok. After a breakfast of eggs and bread, I checked out of the Astoria and headed over to ANOTHER hotel- the Anh Hotel on the other side of town. After yesterday, I was hesitant to get a taxi so I hiked for about 40 minutes with my bag on my back, weighing me down in the heat. I finally made it to a slightly deserted area of town. It seemed quite far out but my room was nice so I wasn’t going to complain.
I headed out for a lunch of fried noodles in the restaurant opposite, which came complete with Burberry-style tablecloths, before walking around the big lake close by a pagoda that was covered in Buddha statues. There was also a little temple/shrine which I looked around before heading back.
Finally, it was time to meet my tour guide and the rest of the group that I would be joining. The large group had started the tour in Bangkok, travelled through Cambodia and up Vietnam until they reached Hanoi. I wish I could have joined it earlier. Altogether, we headed into town and I learned that only 4 of them would be continuing onto Laos, with the rest finishing in Hanoi.
We all divided up into taxis and met up at the Water Puppets theatre by the lake. W never saw the show but apparently it was quite weird and yet quite popular. The traffic had reached another level on this Friday night and I felt rather sorry for the nearby warden. We headed for dinner at the Little Hanoi which was followed by a return trip to the lake where we found an ice cream parlour called Fanny’s which, once a month, held an all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet night (yes, you read that right) for a mere 110,000 VND (about £4). Conveniently, this month, that night was tonight.
There were a multitude of flavours of both ice cream and sorbet and if you found yourself still hungry, there were further options of fruit and pancakes. The night may have descended into a competition which came down to a battle between two members of our group. The winning number of scoops was 30 and the loser was left sitting on a small stool with his head in his hands and a bin at his feet that thankfully did not need to be used in the end. I tapped out at 10 scoops, which was a poor show on my part. I generally have a pretty hearty appetite, so I assumed I could eat until closing time. I was too confident. In hindsight, I should have had a better strategy. But really, I still got my money’s worth.
After our taxis dropped us off back at the hotel, for 60,000 VND- it had only been 40,000 VND on the way there- we hung out for a little while before bed. The next morning, we would be heading off for Laos.