Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hanoi, Vietnam

Breakfast next morning was the usual buffet hotel style and we were back in the shuttle to go back to the airport.  A Frenchman shared the shuttle with us and after both realizing we were both flying Thai airways he asked if we were flying to Paris.  However, Ole’ Sparkie thought he said Perth and she wound up into a story about Perth. I was slightly amused and let her fly until the Frenchman said something weird to her and I had to point out that he said Paris and not Perth, and by the time the exchange was over we were back at the airport.    We only stayed a matter of hours in Bangkok so it was like we never left.   

I have always had terrible trouble with static electricity when I’m either at an airport or on a plane, my hair becomes some wild beast with a mind of an electronic alien. Up until now, I never knew it could affect someone so drastically.  Sparkie has a very LOW pain threshold, so a static zap to her is like she’s been stabbed! I’m not kidding she’s terrible, it was bad enough getting her through her needles and boosters for this trip at the travel doctor last week.  We were walking around the airport shopping for random toiletries and a Sasquatch size pair of thongs (size 42 – 43).  You CANNOT buy thongs full stop at the Bangers international airport, but we had fun trying.  Anyway, walking around the airport was an electrical experience.  The moment I came even remotely close to Tanya I’d zap her, most of the time I was completely unaware until Tanya would BLOW UP.  After about fifteen minutes of this going on if I even went within a meter and a half of her she’d cower and recoil like a frightened little child about to be stolen from her mother.  The look on her face was like I was a complete stranger to her.  There was one point I deliberately earthed myself on the metal stud on her jeans and she TOTALLY lost her shit.  I had to promise to earth myself elsewhere before ANY contact was made from then on.

It was a short flight and we arrived in Hanoi the Capital of Vietnam.  The migration through immigration was uneventful but I swear the immigration staff were all drones.  OR potentially chemically controlled via high doses anti-emotiveness.  They moved slowly and deliberately and without ANY facial expression, must have been drones!  It was so quiet when we arrived that I was surprised when the place came to life when two airline staff openly had a yelling match across a counter.   I dunno what it was about but you could sense “bitch” in the air.  It was over after one walked off around the corner… and everything went back to quiet.

The Taxi into Hanoi was 340,000 Dong which equated to about $26.15AUD.  The ride in was uneventful until we turned off the main drag and into the push and shove and commotion of Hanoi’s old quarter.  I still can’t believe how the driver negotiated his way around the small streets surrounded by mopeds, bikes, vendors, flowers, food, clothes, you name it you’d probably find it here.  After about 40minutes we arrived at the Tirant Hotel and stepped out into the heat and craziness and we were immediately hit up by an old woman trying to sell what appeared to be pastries to us.

Tanya had to insist again that she indeed wanted one bed in the room and she scored another upgrade.  I have only been upgraded once in my entire life and now I’m two from two in two different cities this trip, what the actual hell!

We literally hit the ground running in Hanoi, at the time we thought we only had the one day in Hanoi to have a look about, that changed though.  We headed for the lake along some streets that didn’t make much sense and went off in completely different directions with twists and turns, no grid pattern over here people!  Our first Vietnam purchase was two cans of coke. There is a Coca-Cola promotion over here at the moment and there are smiley faces on the cans with a couple of words underneath it.  Under on of the smiles was the words “Cam’ On” or pronounced “Carm earn” which means thank you.  The guy that sold it to us was happy to teach us in his broken English.   The pronunciation of thank you has changed about a dozen times since that first encounter but the guy was very happy to help so Tanya asked about the words under the other smiley face on the other can which were “Ha Ha”, which I thought were the literal meaning and the guy echoed back “ha ha” and let fly with a big smile.   At which point Tanya realized what she’d asked. 

Straight after the lake we had to re-learn how to cross the road.  The short version on ‘how too’ is point your feet in the direction you want to walk to and pray.  What you should also know is once you find your direct heading DO NOT ALTER, HESITATE, OR FLINCH! Make your way with deliberate movements and only slow a step slightly for the ease of the weaving mopeds around you.  Watch a local first to get the style and purpose you must show in crossing the road.  ALWAYS give way to cars and trucks.  After our lesson we found a little place that was in the lonely planet for lunch. The place was called “Pho Thin”.  It was a dodgy looking alley with an old brick space out that was obviously the kitchen.  We were ushered out the back by the pointing of hands and handed a menu card.  We were pretty confident we ordered beef noodle soup and that was exactly what came back.  Winner winner chicken dinner! It was a massive bowl of water broth, chives, coriander, boiled beef and rice noodles.  It came with a piece of lime to squeeze into it and there was a very large tub of what looked like a Cajun paste or some sort. Tan smelt it and it could easily have passed as cap spray.  Lunch was done for 50,000 dong each or about $3.80AUD.   

We were off on a Cyclo ride around the lake to the old Hanoi Prison.  It was sort of interesting but full of propaganda about American POW’s, their claims of how many American pilots had been captured and the Vietnam War in general.  The rest of the afternoon was like our own walking tour of Hanoi but it was kind of by accident.  We rocked up to the Military Museum in time for the rain and then we found the Hoi Chi Minh Mausoleum.  At the Mausoleum we both got a weird feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  There was a guard losing it at a kid that stepped over a yellow line along the footpath, so we didn’t’ hang around long, we ended up finding ice-cream instead and walked some more.

On our travels ‘Tour Guide Tanya’ pointed out the Citadel three times in three different locations until I asked how many were there, her response, “Only one”.   I tell ya, Ya gotta watch these travel industry guru’s, they’ll tell you anything.

Found the entrance to the Palace but it was going to take a lot longer than one hour to get through so we cut our losses and left it for another trip.  We were pretty foot sore by this time so we headed back towards the old quarter and home.   I thought I found a ‘short cut’ only it ended up the ‘long cut’.  We went down a street only to get bailed up by a soldier who directed us to the other side of the street.  We did as we were told, given that his mate had a very large rifle.  The entire block had been cut off by a clear military presence.  We asked a guide a few days later what a similar set of building were and all we were told was that they were ‘government buildings’.  They are all painted yellow with white trimmings.   We ended up doubling back over to the Military Museum, by this stage we were foot sore and hungry!

I saw a little café across the road from where we were, that looked like they had fresh bread rolls.  After another hairy road crossing we found ourselves inside and ordering what we thought was chicken.  We sat down and asked for a couple of cokes.  It was around this point that we both turned into children!!!!   I had commented about ten minutes before hand about seeing a dog turd on the footpath but we hadn't actually seen any dogs.  The conversation lead into crap about I hope we didn't order dog and the like.  The guy that led us inside went and got a large crystal bowl out of the fridge.  I looked at the colour of the meat and had a raised eye-brow moment.  It was grey in colour and a bit funky looking.  The lady in the café said something to him and he put it back and came over to us and showed us the card again and explained ‘roast chicken’ or ‘chicken’.  I was more than happy to opt for the ‘roast chicken’, it was in the hot box out the front, but Sparkie’s theory on this one was that the grey substance in the fridge had been refrigerated and hence not so likely to make us sick…. So we stuck with what the original option was and the grey meat concoction came out of the fridge again.  

After a very short time two bread rolls came out to us that looked ok.  There was the grey meat concoction and some Viet salad stuff with cucumber and maybe green mango.  I bit into it and oh .. my… god… it was the freshest lightest bread roll I've tasted in a very long while.  A few complimentary comments were thrown around the bread and then silence hit the table as we hit the grey meat.  I was trying to chew threw what felt like a rubber band.  And you just couldn't!  It was near impossible to break any of it down. On the other side of the table Sparkie was having the same trouble but managed to swallow her meat out of politeness.  There was no way I was going to swallow it so I snatched it out of my mouth and dumped it on the plate.  And the laughing, giggling school girls started!  In between bursts I managed to say, “Well if that dog, that has left his legacy down the street ended up here, it must have been his last will and testament”!  The giggle continued Sparkie would look at me, we’d gain control, I’d look at her we’d go again, and back and forth we went.  We didn’t identify the offending grey meat concoction until a few days later but that is an entirely different story.

We headed home after that and freshened up for a bit before heading down the street to “Quan Bia Minah”. We sat upstairs on the balcony and watched the streets of Hanoi go past.    And by Christ it was a busy street.  We were perplexed at the two old ladies across the street who were continually moving mopeds from one position to another. It was fascinating to watch.  At one point the main old girl yanked a white moped off its stand and pushed it out onto the street and let fly with “beep-beep-beep” from her lungs. It was hilarious.  By the end of dinner the only logical business she could have been running was valet parking for mopeds. 

After dinner we did a little bit of shopping around the markets again for thongs – still none about for Sparkies big feet.  We got home to pack for the ‘one night’ trip on the Treasure Junk and organize our big packs to go into stowage at the hotel.    Then it was down for the count in the GIGANTIC bed. 

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