An early introduction to Hanoi – arriving at 1.30 in the morning, we zoomed around the streets expecting them to be empty but were surprised to find that either the city is home to a vampire community, or that a large proportion of its population seem to be nocturnal, driving around and setting up stalls at close to 2am in the morning.
On the whole, we’ve spent the most nights in Hanoi than we have in any other city we’ve visited, and this meant we were able to approach it differently. Not only could we spend days meandering the Old Quarter, where we were staying, and find little coffee shops and bargains, but it also meant we got a proper chance to party, because we weren’t required to be up at some ridiculous time in the morning (except when we found out that there was free breakfast by the third day!)
And party we did. After making a tactical choice to take an afternoon nap (though only twenty minutes) I made it out the first night, though without my amigos. Luckily, I had been reunited with our fantastic friends Kyle and Peter, and with them and a few new friends, we hit the town. Or at least one bar, the good old Gecko bar, whose poor waiter would soon become very, very familiar with our faces. That’s what you get for having Happy Hour 24/7 I guess. I seem to remember visiting one dance club, where Kyle and I shared a screaming orgasm…(don’t worry mum, it’s the name of a drink).
Amidst getting lost in all the buzz and fuzz of Hanoi, we did happen to find a few memorable moments. During a hungover lap of the lake (although not for Hannah who seemed to still be feeling the alcohol at 4pm the next day) we discovered a interesting aerobics session, and an overpriced cafe where we treated ourselves to a “shit and run”. Although we were coping the brunt of a wild night out, we still managed to walk about ten times faster than all of the other couples romantically strolling the lake. My only possible conclusion for this is that we must have gotten fitter since having had to keep up with Anna and her incredible pace for the majority of the trip.
We scored an 100 per cent genuine fake North Face jacket each, and almost haggled down an exclusive, one-of-a-kind pair of sunnies coveting both the Karen Walker and Rayban emblem. We got lost in a mad multi-story market, but found the best local food joint in town. A visit to the Hoa Lo Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”) shed some light on the history of the town, and country during times of conflict.
We did a day trip to the beautiful Halong Bay, and although we prepared for freezing temperatures, we were welcomed with sunshine and clear skies. We kayaked around incredible floating villages, and walked through a cave (although it was much more touristed and tacky than some of the more undiscovered caves we had been treated to in Thailand). A delicious lunch of fresh seafood – whole fish, spring rolls, prawns, and veggies was much appreciated. The seven hours of travel there and back, not so much, but I guess it’s not every day you have the Vice President of an esteemed travel company fall asleep on your shoulder, or help you in a challenging level of Candy Crush.
*WARNING, I’m about to get a bit mushy and sentimental. Those with a weak stomach may wish to look away*
From my time on this trip, and more so in Hanoi, I have come to appreciate one fundamental thing. Everyone in life is on a journey, whether it be to happiness, salvation, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it. But I’ve come to believe that it isn’t really this final goal that is the important part, it is, and in the words of the one and only Miley Cyrus, the climb that is important. It’s the places you take yourself, and the people you travel it with. That is what happiness is. This trip has taken me to some amazing places, and with some incredible people. With both new and old friends, I have enjoyed myself such an incredible amount, and am so thankful to everything and everyone that has got me here (even bloody VietJet Airlines and their crappy service).
But enough of that. Back to the fun things. We were up reasonably early on the last morning to catch a flight, and were blown away to find Kyle and Peter who had gotten up early especially to say goodbye. We rewarded them with some Vegemite toast, which Kyle didn’t seem too fazed about but Peter responded with the more expected and more entertaining reaction. I think it’s safe to say, Vegemite is one of those things you have to have grown up with in order to be able to handle it, like the Vietnamese have to the tap water and meat that has been prepared on the street. I still like feeding it to foreigners though (Vegemite that is).
Can’t thank the boys enough for all their fun! Will definitely miss them and if either of you are ever in Australia, give us a call! Vegemite is only the beginning!
Peace and love,