Published: July 25th 2011July 21st 2011
We spent only 1 night (2 days) in Ha Long day. It was definitely not enough. After leaving Ha Long Bay we returned to Hanoi via a 3 hour minibus ride. It rained on the road and it still amazes me how these people manage to don ponchos while driving their scooters at 40-80km/h. It also never rains with a lightning storm. We have yet to hear thunder, though. Which is odd, because I'm used to seeing lightning and then hearing the thunder a few seconds afterwards.
Upon our arrival Claire went for a lie-down as she was feeling a bit sick. I went for a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter (my usual haunt nowadays, it seems) and promptly got lost. At one point I stopped at a small cafe and ordered my first iced coffee in Vietnam. The people drink it as much as they eat rice, so I had to try it out.
I wasn't dissapointed: Ambrosia on ice! It was brought out (about 150ml of black coffee) in a tall glass filled with ice, along with a small jug filled with sugar syrup. They rarely drink their coffee with sugar. Also, white coffee is not black coffee served with milk, rather a liberal dose of condensed milk is poured into you cup/glass before adding the coffee.
To be honest, the hot coffee taste horrible over here. The ice-coffee, the opposite. The hot coffee is far too sweet (both black and white), brackish and oily. That's my opinion, but the locals don't share my sentiment, because they drink coffee in copious amounts.
So, I had 2 glasses of ice-coffee that first time and when I stood up from my table I felt a bit light-headed.
I then bought some chicken-on-a-stick that was fried on a busy pavement, stuck it in a baguette (the best legacy of the French occupation. I will be saying this often: The quality of Vietnamese bread is one the most pleasant surprises since I arrived) and took one for Claire who was still in bed back at our hotel.
When I got back the hotel staff invited us for dinner with them, which I thought was very sweet. In all the time we've spent in Vietnam, the staff at Rising Dragon hotel in Hanoi has, by far, been the most helpful and friendliest, and spoke the best English. (Interestingly, all the elderly folk speak near-fluent French; they were tought French in school back when it was still a French colony/occupied territory).
Claire had her baguette and joined me downstairs while I ate with the staff. They dished out a shitload of food (pardon my French). They then had a taxi waiting for us which took us to the train station for our train to Sapa.
The train stations here, it seems, are always busy and the trains fully booked. We shared a four-bed compartment with Heike and Robert from Belgium. We felt lucky not to have to share with party animals (we could hear people drinking and laughing further down the coach), cuz we were knackered by then. We chatted a bit and then we all fell asleep. Except me, who got car (train) sick, and I managed to get about 2 hours sleep during the overnight 7 or 8 hour trip.
The next morning at 5am we arrived in Sapa...