Tamara arrives in Hanoi safely! Wahoo! It’s been three whole years since I’ve seen her! Crazy. I meet her at 10:30am outside my spider hostel and we go to find a new place.
Some backpackers I met last night told me about another hostel just like 50 metres down the street from this one, but when we stop in to ask for a room we find all their dorm beds are full. We keep searching.
We find a small guesthouse a few blocks away, with a big room that we can have to ourselves, and is only 125,000 Dong ($6) per person. I won’t lie, it’s not the most pristine room I’ve ever been in, but I show the owners a picture of the giant spider from last night and make them promise I won’t see one here. Good enough.
We walk around the lake and visit a small temple on the water. I buy a pair of flip flops and some comfy pants, and try my hand at a little bargaining. I’m a bit off my game… it’s been so long! It’s also taking me forever to get adjusted to the currency here. 21,500 dong to the dollar is not an easy conversion to make.
We walk back to the Old Quarter for Lunch. We find a weird tall and skinny restaurant with a balcony and an Italian theme, and order a bowl of Pho. We chat and catch up on each other’s lives over the last three years sometimes in French, but mostly in English. I love when we can kinda mish-mash the two languages into one. I look forward to working on my French a bit while we’re here, it’s lost so quickly. What’s great about us catching up, is that even though so much has changed, it feels like I just saw her a week ago. Isn’t it funny how that happens?
After lunch we walk around to some travel agencies and get prices for a bus to Sapa (in the North West of Vietnam). I like to check out at least two or three agencies and try to bargain a bit so we can be sure to get the best price. A lot of them offer tour packages for cheaper than a two way bus fare, but I largely dislike the idea of tours. I like trying to discover stuff myself! We also don’t know how many days we want to stay in Sapa yet. Most places are quoting us $20 dollars for a one way bus ticket, but we happen upon one little place that we stop into on a whim, where we negotiate $15 for a sleeper with air-con. We take it. Now we can book a ticket back from Sapa whenever we like, and can find our own place to sleep without a giant bus full of other tourists beside us. I’ve heard there are some wonderful hill tribe people who open up their homes to travellers.
The bus ticket search takes up the better half of our afternoon, and by the end of it we’re hungry again. We walk around for a good hour before settling on a place to eat. We find some decent looking restaurants but the food is relatively expensive. I’m banking on a $3 meal, tops. We come across a cool looking restaurant with a kitchen out front and dining area in the back. It’s cheap, we’re hungry, we sit down. It’s Japanese food, which I somehow only realize once we’ve already picked a table. I’m definitely not opposed to it, but I had my mind on something Vietnamese. Oh well. I order a noodle soup and a steamed bun stuffed with pork. It costs 50,000 dong ($2.50). The food itself is sub-par but not terrible. What’s terrible, is the table of screaming children just two tables over from us. Their parents are enjoying their meal and seem completely indifferent to their two toddlers wreaking havoc on the poor little restaurant. Like actually smashing things with hard plastic beach toys and screaming about it. Rah! Some people’s kids, ya know?
Our walk back from dinner is pretty uneventful until we get about two blocks away from our guesthouse. For reasons I cannot explain, the traffic in the Old Quarter is out of control. Crossing the street becomes impossible. Well, a different kind of impossible. Crossing the street is a hard task at best in Hanoi, as there is no obvious right of way or any crossing signs, so you just step out into the street and play Frogger with the motorbikes, taxis, and busses.
This is worse though. The traffic is so intensely backed up, no one is moving. Still, bicyclists, motorbikes, and pedestrians all try to squeeze into any tiny space available to them, in hopes of moving forward. It’s impossible to find a gap to squeeze through just to get across the road!
Making it back to the guesthouse feels like a completed mission, where we can enjoy the peace and quiet of our room, away from all the relentless honking.