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August 21st 2014
Published: August 21st 2014
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We arrived to the Especen Hotel early on Saturday the 16th ready to explore the city. Our small and quaint hotel is located on a quiet street in the cathedral district and the staff was more than helpful in recommending places to visit and eat during our stay. The hotel was only $12 a night and Victoria and I both had queen beds and shared a balcony with a view of the cathedral. What a great deal! We put our stuff down and went out to a restaurant that our concierge recommended called An Ngon where we had a great lunch of fresh spring rolls, fried rice, and of course some pho! Afterwards we walked to the Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the city and went over the lake bridge to a small temple to look around a bit. We then walked around the old district and cathedral district to get our bearings on the city. By that time we were fairly exhausted from traveling and walking around all day so we went back to the hotel to shower and rest before heading to dinner and the night markets. We got to the old district just as the markets were about to set up so we stopped in at a little restaurant called the Gecko (mostly because they had 2 for 1 beer deals) but the food turned out being awesome! I had some sweet and sour shrimp with rice and a few tiger beers. About half way through our dinner it started thundering and shortly thereafter the torrential rain came so we decided to wait it out and have a few more drinks. It ended up getting worse and worse so we skipped out on the night markets and ran back to our hotel. Luckily there are so many awnings on the storefronts so it was a fairly easy (and dry) journey back to our place. We had the best night just sitting and laughing and talking with some people at dinner that when we got back we grabbed a few more beers and sat on our balcony for a few more hours. We woke up the next morning and tried to go see the cathedral but it was closed until 6pm that night for mass so we decided to go back later and see what a Vietnamese mass service was like. Until then we did some more exploring and shopping and then had lunch at the city center that overlooked the lake and city. Such a beautiful view that we had an extended lunch and cooled down there for a few hours. We heard some fellow Americans a few tables over and ended up finding out that they were from the east coast and both went to school in Virginia (UVA and Mary Washington) the two schools that my sister Jennie and my mom went to! What a small world! We all joined the same table and sat and talked with them for hours. Jessica has been living in Koh Tao, an island off the east coast of Thailand, and getting her diving masters. Before we went out that day I had been looking up places to get my advanced open water license in Thailand so this was too perfect. We got her information and are planning on meeting back up with her in Koh Tao and hopefully doing some diving with her company Simple Life! After watching the sun set on the lake we all went to the night markets and then grabbed dinner and some drinks at a place near our hotel. It was so much fun getting to know them and we plan on meeting back up with them now that we're back in Hanoi. The next day we made the three hour trek to the Ha Long Bay Barbour where we would start our three day, two night cruise on the Legacy Boat!

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