BootsnAll Travel Network

June 5th: Hanoi, Vietnam

When I left you yesterday I was typing up a storm catching up on the past few days. After I was done typing up my updated blog I had to go back to the internet café but this time I came back with my mini hard drive. I figured it would save time and money to type the blog offline and then just upload it to the computer and copy and paste it in to an entry.

So I walked back to the same internet café and showed them my hard drive. They signaled me to use one computer but it didn’t work. The guy who worked the shop tried a few things and a few computers and finally gave me one that apparently was fast enough or had USB 2.0, either way I was good. I loaded up my blog and started to copy and paste each entry. I decided this time to break the entries down a little, and not have one really, really, really long entry. Instead you got a few really, really long entries, haha.

I also checked a few websites and was on my way back to the hotel. I only had a few minutes to get back so I had to rush. Oh quick side story. On my way to the internet café the second time I randomly stopped and looked down on the ground, and what was staring me in the face, but my fourth extra battery! I didn’t even know that I had lost it, but it must have fallen out of my pocket as I was going back to my hotel the first time. I was real happy, and realized once again that everything happens for a reason, good karma.

So while I was walking back at a swift pace to Victory Hotel I took a misstep into the famous “Hanoi sludge,” and ripped the skin off the front of my toe. I exclaimed “Ohhhhhh,” and just kept walking, I had to keep up with the pace of the motorbikes, people and traffic. But now I was walking swiftly but with a limp. My foot was covered with an unknown black substance, I could see my toe was bleeding, but since I only had a few minutes to get back to the hotel to meet the gang, I had to hurry. As soon as I got in to the hotel, everyone was waiting I said that I had fucked up my toe and needed the nurses (the three woman on the tour) to help me out. I dropped my hard drive on the table and hobbled upstairs. Penny told me to soak my toe in the bathtub and try to clean it off. I hobbled up the stairs, pain was rushing through my toe with each step. Of course I was on the fourth floor with no elevator! I had about three minutes to get upstairs, clean off the toe, change, and get back downstairs before our trip to the famous Water Puppets. By the time I got my shorts off, turned the water on and put my toe in, Penny had come in to my room. She told me to try and get as much of the sludge off my toe as possible, dry it off, put some antiseptic hand gel it to sanitize the toe, put some medical powder on it to heal the cut and keep it dry and stick two band aids on it. I did all of that and was still in a lot of pain. Then Andy came to the room to see how I was doing. I was fine, but that initial shock and rush of pain through the toe from ripping off fresh skin had passed and I was alright. It was definitely stinging quite a bit with each step, but I was fine and toughed it out.

I hobbled back down the stairs and was quickly directed in to a cyclo! I cyclo is like a rickshaw expect no one is pulling you but instead someone is pushing you on a bicycle. It was really cool. We got a tour of the old city and around Hanoi for about 30 minutes and the final destination was the Water Puppet Theater. I videotaped the tour for about 10 minutes on a few clips. I filled up a memory card with the video, but it was something that could not be missed. We were weaving in traffic, along people, cars, bikes, push bikes everything. At one point the driver of my cyclo decided to just head straight in to oncoming traffic to make a turn. I was like “ohhhh baby,” and the driver laughed.

Hanoi traffic is ridiculous. I mean everyone is going in every direction, road rules really don’t apply and there appears to be an unofficial guide to the road rules. People just seem to know what everyone else is going to do, and everyone stays calm and just makes their way through the streets. Tourists don’t have a clue, like myself, but to observe it in action with a ton of traffic is a sight to see. I tried to take some more pictures, changing memory cards, but was down to my last one, and it was my smallest one (1 gb). I had to save some space for the water puppets and the rest of the night. For the last few minutes I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was slow paced, but extremely fast paced around me.
We finally arrived at the water puppet theater, got our tickets from Morrie, found our seats and sat back and were ready. It seemed to be a traditional Chinese Water Puppet Theater/Show. There was a traditional live band, with traditional Chinese instruments. There was a brief English introduction, but the rest of the show was in Vietnamese/French. Again, there is still a ton of French influence in Hanoi. Restaurants, cafes, the food, menus are in French, signs etc…Definitely not what I was expecting at all.

The show lasted about an hour, and seemed like the perfect amount of time. Since the show was not in English it is hard to stay focused for much longer than that. I mean the music was good, the puppets were fantastic, but again, it is hard to focus when you don’t know the story or what is going on. Throughout the show Deb and I were going back and forth questioning how the puppets were being moved. At the end they revealed the puppet masters, and I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone who might check at a water puppet show in the future!

After the show, Andy had a local restaurant picked out for us which was close, and she said seemed alright. We walked in, went upstairs and ended up on a balcony overlooking the street below. Just as we got to the restaurant it began to pour. One of those typical rain storms we have seen throughout our time in SEA.

The food was cheap and plentiful. There was a lot to choose from. I decided to go with some rice and beef, a common dish for me to get. I could not have pork or shellfish and generally did not like to have chicken (depending on the place), so I settled for that. I was sick of drinking beer so I decided to get a cocktail, a long island ice tea. Elizabeth ordered the same. When it came we both took a swig from it and both looked at each and said “there is no alcohol in this drink.” We immediately got our waiter and in broken English told him “no alcohol, put more alcohol in drink.” He looked at us and stared for a second, let it sink in and said “ok, ok. The drink I was brought was much better than the first one. It actually had some remnants of alcohol in it. I tasted it a little, but for 2.50 it wasn’t terrible.

The rain continued to pour down as we sat and enjoyed the meal and the drinks. Next to us was a group of Spaniards and we started chatting with them. They were ripping on the Australians, as they should, and I laughed. Once they asked me where I was from and I said “New York,” I gained immediate respect. It seems like if you are from America you usually get shit, but saying you are from “New York,” kind of gives you some “street credit,” among other travelers. I mean they assume I am from the city, but I usually say I am from right outside the city, but still “New York” is “New York.”

After a few more drinks and hoping the rain would stop, we eventually just decided to move on to another place Andy knew about. This place wasn’t really a place it was more of a set of street corners which came together to form “Bia Hoi Corner.” “Bia Hoi” or “Fresh Beer,” translated from Vietnamese basically is what it says. It is beer that is locally made, out of a keg like contraption and is really cheap. Now when I mean cheap, I mean cheap. We are talking about 2000 dong here, or about 8 US cents for a glass! The beer is not incredibly strong, but after a couple you are feeling alright. We decided to go there even though it was still drizzling a bit, just to see what it was all about. When we got there we picked our place (there are several on the corners to choose from all selling at 2000 dong a glass). We sat in our little preschool chairs and ordered a few Bia Hoi’s. We again saw our Spanish friends across the street. See at the bar one of them had come up to us and asked us where they should go. They claimed it was too early to go to sleep so they wanted to continue to drink beer. Ironically enough Andy knew of a us, which was Bia Hoi corner, a beer drinkers paradise and explained to them how to get there, and that is why we saw them when we got there. I had several of these beers, which were rather tasty. Unfortunately like most drinks in Southeast Asia the beer was not that cold. I managed, while others continued to winge(complain) about how warm the drinks were. Some of them constantly complain about how warm the beers are, the water, the soda, and I’m thinking to myself “Jesus just drink it, we are in Southeast Asia not Sydney or Melbourne or New York!” But I just continue to let it go, and enjoy watching them suffer through the warmness of the beer.

It wasn’t that late, but not that early and people were ready to go home. The rain had stopped but the ground was wet and as we started to walk back instead of taking some sort of local transportation (again due to the cheapness of some of the gang) Penny forgot her bag with the dragon in it she had bought from the water puppet theater. At that point we said “alright time to hop on a motorbike and get home.” I negotiated with one of the drivers who were constantly barraging us with “Moto, Moto, you want Moto,” like every five seconds. And the thing about these moto drivers is that they don’t just bother you from the sidewalk, at night they literally drive right up to you like less than a foot away, get in your face and then ask you “you want moto?” At first I thought they were just passing by like any ordinary motorbike on the street, but then I realized after the first one that they were looking for a fare.

Eventually I was able to talk him down to only 10,000 Dong for the ride, but when I got to the hotel Deb stuffed it up and was just like in her drunken state “just give him a dollar, we paid much more than you anyway.” I was like “thanks DEB, I already told him 10,000, but since you insist I’ll pay him more!” That got me pissed because my negotiating was none of her business. So I begrudgingly took out my US Dollar and handed it to the guy for the fare. Deb really didn’t think it was such a big deal, which is funny considering how cheap of a person she really is. I moved on, went upstairs and packed it in for the night.


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