Farewell Hanoi, Those Train Rides Just Keep Getting Better!

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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi
October 31st 2009
Published: November 1st 2009
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At 5.30am on our 2nd last day in Hanoi, the alarm went off and we both groaned... Not the smartest idea we have had to stay out until 1am then do a sunrise tour! We stumbled downstairs grumpy as at 6am to meet our tour guide... and off we set on a walking tour... we headed to the lake where all Hanoians go in the morning to exercise.. it was a strange sight... on one side of the lake you had all these old people doing tai chi... or what were attempts at tai chi.. some were in groups but others were just standing by themselves doing really weird moves that looked more like an epileptic fit rather than tai chi!

Others were walking/jogging around the lake and there was one section were all gym weights equipment were set up on the footpath and the buff muscley boys were all working out on bench presses, chin up bars etc... so eyeopening... we walked further around the lake and on the opposite side were people doing some form of aerobics... kind of bollywood moves vs old skool aerobics... there were loud speakers set up blaring music and again people were either in a large group or by themselves just in their own world... very strange sight! I think there is possibly an opening for Les Mills here in Hanoi...

After our visit to the lake we walked to a small authentic local restaurant where our guide ordered us some breakfast... it was called Bun Bung Chan Gio (and was similar to a Pho Soup.. quite yummy but not sure I could stomach it at 7am every morning...lunch maybe!) I had asked our guide if we could grab coffee when we first arrived at the lake but she had said no I had to wait until after breakfast... WTF are you kidding... anyway after breakfast the first thing we asked was if we could NOW have coffee! She took us to an authentic little coffee house where we had the most AMAZING coffee we have both ever drunk... it was the traditional Vietnamese drip coffee which comes out with a little plunger like device sitting on top of your coffee cup and the coffee slowly drips into your cup... onto a layer of sweetened condensed milk.. sooooo good! We ordered a 2nd each and were on a complete coffee buzz for the rest of the day...

Our guide saw the bruising on McKays arm from her fall down the stairs the day before, and swore that Tiger Balm would make her bruises magically disappear ("melt" as she put it) so we went to a chemist and bought some to give it a go.... I can safely say that 24 hrs later there has been zero improvement!! LOL

We were then meant to do a cookery course for the rest of the morning as part of the tour. This was not the original plan as someone at Intrepid where we had booked the day tour had changed the itinerary and not told us... Grrrrr not impressed... We were both not too fussed on doing the cooking part of the tour as we have already booked and paid for a couse in Hoi An and by the time we got to the restaurant I had a bad case of stomach cramps and runny you know whats... so we told the guide we would end the tour early... she quickly took us to another small shopfront where we had these weird drink/desserts which was basically sweetened lotus seeds, black seaweed jelly, coconut cream and a sweet sauce in a cup over ice.. not bad!

We then walked back to our hotel and it was only 9am... we went to our room for a laydown.. at about 11am we were feeling quite peckish again (like we hadnt eaten enough!!) and went downstairs for brekkie... we were addicted to the breakfasts at our guesthouse! We set out in the afternoon in search of Fanny's - an icecream parlour that is always getting rave reviews... once there we ordered up... McKay got caramel and vanilla icecream with whipped cream and chocolate sauce on the side... I got 3 different flavours to try - coconut, cinnamon and chocolate/chilli... All 3 were soooo good.. the reviews are right... so right that we did make a 2nd trip before leaving Hanoi!!

From there we headed to KOTO restaurant... cause we hadnt eaten enough still... KOTO stands for "Know One Teach One" and is a restaurant that was set up by a Vietnamese Australian who takes street kids and puts them into a 2 year apprenticeship at the restaurant.. they learn to become waiters/chefs as well as learning english and other skills before going out and getting jobs elsewhere... KOTO has a 100% success rate for its students obtaining employment after completion of their training.. Its a great concept and is a registered charity in Australia which is tax deductible (hint hint!!)

We sat upstairs in their bar and knocked back Mojitos, a Mezze platter and some grilled sugar cane prawn rolls (where you take the meat and wrap it yourself in rice paper with other ingrediants and dipping sauce) .. the whole experience was fantastic, the staff attentive and the bill for 8 cocktails and food was $36USD!

From KOTO we caught a taxi and had planned to meet up with Matt at his hotel... he was staying at the very expensive and very posh Sofitel Metropole.. which is rated as one of the worlds great hotels alongside Raffles in Singapore. Wow.. it was quite an experience.. I felt very out of place wearing 3/4 pants and havvies! We had drinks in the Angelina bar .. .which was named after Angelina Jolie after she stayed at the hotel in 2007! There were a wall with a stack of pictures of her and Brad along with a handwritten note from Angelina thanking the staff for such a wonderful stay... Drinks were on par with Australian prices.. I had a Geisha Martini to start which had Wasabi in it.. interesting combination.. bit of an aftertaste kick... then I followed it with another Martini that had honey and orange in it.. very nice... Our bill for 6 drinks $65 USD!!! Ouch!

We then headed to good ole Al Frescos which we visited on our first visit to Hanoi to consume Nachos, Fajitas and Frozen Margaritas... all exhausted from a few big days we called it a night early and headed off home... When we got back to the hotel "Spiiiiiderman" was at the front desk.. We chatted to him for a little bit .. the whole time calling him "Spiiiiderman" (which he loved!!)... Once upstairs, I was going to try blog when we got home but I was so exhausted that I was asleep within minutes of crawling into bed...

Last Day in Hanoi - Boo!

We had a nice sleep in on our last day in Hanoi (well I did.. waking at 930am), stumbled downstairs for a last yummy Serenity Hotel breakfast before heading off to finish the stuff on our must do list... we started walking to our first destination - a walk through the 'wet markets' however got distracted when we stumbled across a gorgeous little Art Gallery along the way.. I bought 3 really beautiful oil paintings in varying sizes and it only cost me $72... now painfully I have a massive cardboard tube to cart around for the rest of the trip! Once at the wet markets we both found the food vendors rude and the market somewhat over-rated... I've seen a million markets in SE Asia and this one was at the bottom of the pile.. While we were going through the market it started raining... Great just what we needed on our last day! We then headed for coffee at a restaurant on the lake... we had spotted this restaurant the day before when on our tour and wanted to go back.. it had a lovely terrace overlooking the lake... however while the coffee was pretty good the staff were so rude and we left somewhat disappointed.. I think the rain had put a damper on our moods..

To try cheer ourselves up we headed back to Fanny's for more icecream.. this time we went for a 'sampler' - it consisted of 10 different icecream flavours (of our choice) along with chocolate, carmel and strawberry sauces and fruit salad.. all of which were served in seperate waffle cups... Now lets see if I can remember the flavours... We had: Young Rice, Ginger, Coconut, Cinnamon, Stacchiatella, Rum n Raisin, Chocolate Chilli, Chocolate Mint, Green Tea and Peanut... Some were more outstanding than others and some just melted into oblivion (like Green Tea)...

Once we fed our rain blues we caught another taxi to the Hanoi Hilton (the old Prison NOT the posh hotel located nearby!) ... we havent done alot of 'history' stuff on our trip and this was the one place that McKay really wanted to see due to the American history attached.. it was your usual attraction, but was really interesting to see the propoganda in regards to the VIetnam war.. and interesting for McKay to give me the American perspective...

We met Matt for an early dinner at Bun Cha - the restaurant we ate at on our first day that we loved... and Matt was addicted to it by the time we left too... We quickly grabbed some baguettes for our 16 hour train journey before saying goodbye to Matt and heading back to the hotel...

Once back at the hotel we said a VERY sad goodbye to the staff of Serenity.. Son (the manager) was such a nice guy as were all the other staff... Son organised our tickets for the train and thankfully he did the right thing and got us real tickets (not vouchers)... Again I highly recommend Serenity Hotel for anyone travelling to Hanoi.. We paid $25 a night and could not have asked for anything more... For this we got an airconditioned room with minibar, tv, hot shower, really clean room (with free spider), a free breakfast, free internet in the lobby and free wifi in our room, the most fantastic staff and many more little extras... We were given a room to chill and shower twice (when we got back from Halong bay before heading to Sapa and upon arrival from Sapa) for free, we were given free breakfasts on two days when we hadnt stayed the night before, we were given a late checkout of 6pm on our last day to accommodate our train schedule... they were amazing...

This morning while we were having breakfast I used the last of the Seasoning sauce on my baguette.. When McKay asked them for more, one of the staff grabbed some money from reception, ran out the door and within two minutes was back at our table with more sauce! Who does that?! Again, we were really sad to say goodbye to both the staff at Serenity and Hanoi.. both were so amazing and I will definitely be back...

Once we were safely on the train, we again waited anxiously to see who we would get for bed partners... we got lucky with two females.. one was Vietnamese and the other a European backpacker... The trip was really uneventful for the first half... we had a 16 hour train ride so we settled into our bunks early and read books until we fell asleep....


At about 5.00am I woke to the Vietnamese lady packing her stuff to get off the train at some random stop.... as she left the cabin I decided to get up and go to the toilet before getting a few more hours sleep... I went to the toilet but when I came back there was a guy laying in the bed where the Vietnamese lady has just been... it was still slightly dark but I could see him just laying there staring at me with a smile on his face... My immediate thought was that it was the backpackers boyfriend who had been put in a different cabin but as my eyes adjusted I realised it wasnt him... my 2nd thought was "Oh F*ck, I've gone into the wrong cabin" .. even though we were in the first cabin from the toilets... so I walked back out of the cabin to check, only to discover it was MY cabin he was in!

I was a little nervous but walked back in, smiled at him (he was smiling at me so I felt obligated) and got in my bed... there was NO way I was sleeping with him laying next to me! I wanted to get McKays attention but she was above me fast asleep.. so I started phoning her mobile and texting her 'wtf' messages! She kept sleeping...

About 15 minutes later another dude walks into the room... dressed in the Railway staff uniform and jumps in the same bed... they then spoon and proceed to fall asleep... the whole time I am laying there stiff as a board thinking 'OMG is this really happening!?' ... about 2 hours later (I'm still wide awake protecting the sleeping beauties) the backpacker girl wakes up... I spent 5 minutes trying to get her attention and when she eventually looked down my way I frantically signed to look under her... the look on her face was priceless!

About 15 minutes later I looked up to see McKay peering over the side of the bed above me with an absolute look of horror on her face.. I completely lost it laughing almost wetting myself! I then passed her my camera to get a photo as she had a birds eye view of the boys! The boys ended up staying in our cabin almost 4 hours and after they had gotten their beauty sleep they decided to just hang on the bed and stare at us! Creepy!!

Anyway stay tuned for the next blog... We are halfway through the trip almost and there are alot more adventures to come!

Love to all
Reet & McKay xxx

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 31


1st November 2009

HOOKED on reading blogs and looking at photos. Keep coming back to re-read and re-read again. McKay's little sister horrified by tales of eating crickets; thankfully I had photos to prove it! Ice cream, coffee, (NOT Weasel), and spa sound heavenly. Sorry about your fall, Poopsie-looks like quite a bruise. Maybe consider 1st floor rooms only??!! Thanks for blogging and the glimpses of all of the exotic experiences you're living. LOVE and Kisses, McKay's "Mum"
1st November 2009

I want to go!
Now I REALLY want to go to Hanoi. My aussie friend in Bangkok raves about it for all the same reasons. That coffee ... yum!
2nd November 2009

I want to go too !!!!
Really enjoying your blogs and photo's, Hanoi is now on my to do list one day, thanks for the laughs and you two girls continue having a great time...
2nd November 2009

Reet, you really need to be a little more choosy with your sleeping partners. Love your stories. x
2nd November 2009

Hello Girls. Hanoi sounded wonderful....even if just 4 the icecream, the pix looks soooo yummy! And Reet, do they have cabins with 2 beds?? I'd be wide awake keeping vigil too. Keep the blogs coming, loving it. Be safe, Cheers, Lynn

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