The Vietnam Diaries 2011: July 20th – Hanoi

On the way back we stop over at Highland Cafe right by the Flag Tower for some fruit shakes and a snack. Shakes are served in intricate glasses and taste delicious. Fancy. When we ask about the restroom we’re told there isn’t one, but we get to wash our hands without any soap under a hose sticking out from a fence. Not so fancy.

We make a curious observation outside of the cafe. The pavement has painted lines on it that segment it like a badminton court. People just bring their own nets and equipment and set up a makeshift court for a quick game.

Bring a net and bring it on!

I realise that I’ve forgotten my mobile phone in the room when we were packing. We return to the hotel and before I say a word our friendly receptionist hands me the phone plus charger. We set off to buy some wet wipes for the trip (our soapless washing experience at the cafe made us wiser). Then we have dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel. There’s a small artificial lake inside with one lone turtle swimming in circles. Poor fella. He must’ve gone mental some time ago and is now placed in isolation here. Or maybe he’s slowly going mental from swimming alone in an artificial lake. Mysteries of life.

We return to the hotel and the staff call a cab. While we wait they offer us coffee, tea and water. I take my fourth cup of coffee for the day, which brings horror to Katka’s face. I can be hyperactive on my coffee-free days, so Katka must be seriously afraid of something like this right now:

Although that would be a quite effective way of getting to Sapa…

When the taxi arrives two guys from the hotel come along and help with our bags. They take the cab with us. On the way to the train station we chat with one of them. He’s currently a trainee at the hotel and is studying to become a tour guide. He is originally from a province outside of Hanoi, which has recently been absorbed into Hanoi by the ever-expanding city boundaries. He lives 20 minutes away from the hotel by bicycle in a 15 square metre room that he shares with a fellow student. They’re about to be joined by a mutual friend who will be sharing the place with them. That’s 5 square metres per person. Next time you’re complaining about the size of your bathroom, remember that it could easily house at least one Vietnamese student!

On the way he teaches me some language basics, such as:

  • “Cam on” = “Thank You”
  • “Xin Chao” = “Hello”
  • “Tam Biet” = “Goodbye”

“Lê-Nín” = “Lenin”

We arrive at the train station where one of the hotel guys exchanges our ticket vouchers for actual tickets. They take us all the way to our cabin and make sure we’re safely settled in. I really can’t say enough good things about the service at Rising Dragon III hotel.

Our cabin has 4 berths and we’re sharing it with a local woman and  her daughter. We have one upper and one lower berth and offer one of the lower berths to the mother so that she and the daughter can stay together. At a later stage the train conductor brings us some tea and the mother passes our cups to us on the upper berths. I use my new language ammo and throw a “cam on” at her. She’s so impressed by this that you’d think I had pulled out a few knives, set them on fire and started juggling while still managing to drink my tea.

Katka and I have a meal consisting of a pack of dried fruit. This is also my first encounter with one of the most delicious concoctions ever created. It goes by the name of “Yomost” and it’s a heavenly combination of juice and yoghurt. The below commercial accurately and factually portrays exactly what happens when I drink one of these – it’s that good!

The berths are rather short. Luckily both Katka and I are compact people. I’m about 170cm and can just fit the berth while fully stretched out. Take that, tall people! Our train is making its way through narrow Hanoi streets and soon out of the city and towards Lao Cai, where we should arrive at 5:30 in the morning. Its gentle rocking soon lulls us to sleep. Tam Biet, Hanoi!

The journey continues right here…

Remember to check out Katka’s fantastic pictures from this trip.

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