The Vietnam Diaries 2011: July 24th – Hanoi

We arrive back to Hanoi shortly after 4:00 in the morning. Our cab ride back costs 50,000 dong, which is also the maximum price our hotel staff have instructed us to pay (and we obviously don’t want to look like schmucks in front of them). The cab driver speeds through red lights and breaks a couple of other traffic rules. But it’s early in the morning and there are few other cars, so that makes it legal, right?

It’s pitch dark inside the hotel and the doors are locked. We knock and wake a few of the hotel workers, who have been asleep on improvised beds assembled out of the lobby chairs. A male receptionist zombie-walks to the front desk and fishes out our room key. We’re given a room on the top floor with a good view over Hanoi.

Our room is on the 9th floor, but the elevator only goes to the 7th. This is because, according to an ancient Vietnamese prophecy, taking elevators to higher floors summons the ghosts of evil building contractors, which is a rather bad omen. The other possible explanation is that extra floors have been added after the elevator’s completion, but how likely is that?!

“Who dares travel up here?! Got spare change?”

The room is smaller than our original one and is almost fully taken up by a huge bed. We make full use of this bed, if you know what I mean. That’s right, we sleep like two bricks until 9:30.

We go down for breakfast. The hotel staff ask us about our impressions from the Sapa trip. They also tell us we’ll be picked up from the hotel at 14:30, so that we can make it to the 15:45 train to Hue. They continue to spoil us (and we’re loving it). After breakfast we return to the room. Katka takes a nap, while I surf the Internet to catch up on latest developments (most of them sombre – Utoja shootings, bullet trains colliding in China, Amy Winehouse is dead). After this refreshing look at the world of news headlines we plan our last shopping tour to stock up for the long train ride to Hue.

I have already told you about our futile attempts to find Fivimart, a big supermarket described in Lonely Planet. Since we’re both rather stubborn people we decide to go for yet another shop-finding adventure. This time we enlist the help of our receptionist, who gives us a detailed map of the area along with equally detailed directions. You’d think we should have no problem finding it now. You’d be wrong!

We run a full circle around the Hoan Kiem Lake without finding the store. Then we try again to follow the street indicated in Lonely Planet. We find a flashy place called “Civilize”, which is either a nightclub or a casino (or both?). We ask a man standing outside about how to find Fivimart. He points vaguely in the direction of where we came from. He may as well have told us it’s “somewhere in Hanoi”.

He also mockingly tries to sell us this sign as a souvenir…

At this stage we finally give up and decide to shop elsewhere. We find a small mini market and stock up on some canned food, bread, and hand wipes. Suspiciously, the lady at the cash register doesn’t use the product scanner and instead punches in some numbers into an old calculator, before presenting us with the total cost. She most likely overcharges us, but the end sum is modest enough to not warrant any arguments.

On the way back to the hotel we decide to walk a new street to mix things up. What can I say, we love living on the edge! Half way through the street we notice a giant supermarket ahead of us. As we get closer, we are shocked to discover that we’re standing in front of the infamous Fivimart. It’s like finding an oasis in a desert, except after having already drunk some ostrich blood instead (and paid for it).

Nevertheless, we want to use the opportunity to buy up more things for the trip. Inside we’re told that Fivimart rules demand that we leave our bags in a locker. At the same time a sign on the locker says that Fivimart bears no responsibility if our stuff goes missing. How convenient! I see they’re learning from the comparably bullshit coat-check disclaimers.

We buy some cold cuts, apples, instant noodles, yoghurt and yomost (uuuuhm, yomost!). We have definitely gotten more stuff than we bought at the mini market and we’re charged less for it. So the calculator-woman has indeed overcharged us, but I don’t care because YOMOST! Mind-blowingly good, see for yourself:

[youtube.com/watch?v=a_uKQEtmg8Q]
On the way back Katka starts feeling weak and dizzy. My guess is it’s Yomost-deficiency, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate medical diagnosis. We get to the hotel just as it suddenly starts pouring down. Katka drinks a lot of cold water, eats a yoghurt and some hastily made sandwiches and immediately feels better. Katka and I play doctor, if you know what I mean. That’s right, we browse some online medical advice sites to help us diagnose her symptoms. We conclude she has heat exhaustion. Decision is made to keep her well rested, cool at all times and out of direct sunlight (sort of like you have to do with Yomost).

At 14:30 we go down to the lobby to say goodbye to our friendly hotel staff. We give them a box of candy and leave a generous tip in the “tip box” by the reception. Mr. Son, the manager, gives us final walk-through of the trip to Hue and tells us to get in touch in case we need any help once we’re back in Hanoi. He hands us some business cards to pass on to friends and encourages us to give Rising Dragon III a review on Booking.con and Tripadvisor.com. His boss apparently bases the employee bonus on the ratings they get. We were planning to do so in the first place, so we promise we will. (CONTINUE TO PAGE 2)

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