BootsnAll Travel Network

June 7th: Hanoi

I laughed as I woke up and asked Morrie what time it was. He responded by saying “Half past seven.” I thought it was funny considering I had begged him to sleep in a bit, and after all of that I was the one who woke up early.

I did not have much planned today before our over night trip to Hue. The train would take approximately 14 hours, which was longer than our previous overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but I was excited. I had enjoyed my two previous overnight train rides, both shorter. Today I was interested in seeing the Hanoi Hilton which was a former POW jail that the French first used and then after the French were run out of Vietnam, the Vietnamese used it as an American POW jail during the Vietnam War. Elizabeth and Meredith were both keen as going as well, so after I got and early breakfast with Morrie and spent two hours packing up my bag and checking out, I met the girls downstairs to go. Elizabeth insisted that she knew where she was going and Meredith wanted to walk so we were off. At a certain point both the girls wanted to turn one way while I wanted to go another. I was right. We should have gone straight a few blocks then made a right. But instead we went the back asswards way, it took a little longer, and even though it was sweltering as usual out, we got there. The entrance fee was a mere 5,000 dong or less than 45 US cents. It was pretty interesting. I mean I did not enjoy being in a place where Americans were probably tortured, killed and whatever else went on, but when looking at it historically, it was interesting. The highlight of the jail was getting a photo behind a closed jail cell and seeing John McCain’s gear from when his plane crashed during the Vietnam War and where he stayed. We didn’t get to see the actual cell, but this was the jail where he was kept as a POW. They had everything of his. His parachute, his helmet, air tube, clothing, everything that was on him, now became property of this jail and now this museum.

Eventually I lost Elizabeth and Meredith who were just walking too damn slow. I wondered around the rest of the museum and eventually just decided since I couldn’t find them to go off and do my own thing. I wanted to head back to the old quarter and try to find Bia Hoi corner again. That was the place with the really cheap local beer (2000 Dong per glass). I got on a motorbike, had to bargain heavily, but got my price and was taken to the old quarter. Instead of finding Bia Hoi corner I was side tracked by internet café’s and buying movies and other things. This time I ended up buying three seasons of House, and a few movies. And this time the girl was able to check each one of them and they all worked perfectly, including the tv show, which was not handheld. I did get two handheld movies, but that is because they are brand spanking new! After that, I wondered to the internet café where I killed time and spent a while just perusing the internet, making some calls on Skype back home and chilling out. I didn’t have much I wanted to see besides just walking around the city and absorbing the local culture. At the internet café I initially sat down next to this girl Amy who was from England and was doing several intrepid tours through Asia. We chatted for a while at the internet café but when I left we parted ways, at least for the time being.

After the internet café I walked around some more, just enjoying the sights of the old quarter. The streets are really cool. But I was still on a mission to find Bia Hoi Corner. And of course as I turned out of the internet café, two blocks down was Bia Hoi Corner! I had found it. I immediately put down my bags, and got a frosty brew from the lady. It came right out of a massive keg and was the coldest and freshest beer I had enjoyed in a long time. Ironically after speaking to two Japanese travelers at the same shop, Amy came strolling by. I said “what’s up,” she sat down we grabbed a few beers and chatted some more. I was back in my element and it felt good. I loved just talking to random travelers, having beers, enjoying the local culture etc…That is one thing that this tour had prevented me from doing, and while it is not a regret of doing the tour, because again I would never have had the chance to see the places I saw without it, it has definitely given me somewhat of a limiting experience. But Amy and I chatted for a while, we got some food, some beers and then before I knew it, it was 430 and I had to head back to the hotel to finish up packing my belongings and get ready for the train at 6pm. 6pm was when we were meeting to head to the train station. I was unsure about our mode of transportation there so I had to make sure I was there down in the foyer of the lobby in time. All of our stuff was in the day room, which is the room we put stuff in during the day when all of the other rooms are checked out of the hotel. I said goodbye to Amy and the others I had been chatting with, wished her good luck on her trip to China and on to Australia and other parts of the world and that was that. I caught another motorbike back to the hotel, went to the dayroom and gathered my belongings.

I still did not have any food for the train ride. I had not ordered through that breakfast place we went too Koto’s the day before because I thought it was overpriced, so I was on my own. It turned out to be a huge mistake. After wondering around for about an hour plus trying to ask people if they did “takeway,” nobody understood and nobody had takeaway cartons. When it was all said and done I had two rolls of long French style bread, two pastries, one whole dragon fruit, a bottle of whiskey and that was it. I was not happy, but could do nothing about it. I did it too myself, being stubborn and cheap to not order with the rest of the group when I had the chance. 6pm rolled around, the bags went in to a taxi with Elizabeth and the rest of us made the short walk to the Hanoi Train station. When I got the train station, Andy had been informed that I did not have much food, so she insisted I walk around the vendors to find some stuff. She claimed I would be hungry, I thought I would be fine with what I had, but anyway I went to look for food. The first thing I bought was a glass bottle of 7up. Man do they taste good. I know my soda binge has been awful, but I spent a year drinking water at Law School, I could have some soda. When I return home, I will go back to water so that is fine. After downing that I needed to find some real food. In the end I had to bargain heavy and still got ripped off for a package of Ritz crackers and some laughing cow cheese. Laughing Cow cheese is the best cheese I have had in a while. It is creamy, not too strong and just good. Goes on anything and I was introduced to it initially at breakfast in Vientiane I think.

So I had a few things, nothing substantial, but enough to get me through the train ride. I mean I figure that I would head to bed relatively early, since I didn’t plan on drinking much, and lunch I had from a local with Amy was not agreeing so well with my stomach. We all boarded the train and settled in to our tiny 4 person carriage and we were off. The room consisted of Morrie, Andy and I, along with a local teenage boy. He ended up switching with me to the top bunk so he could lay down and sleep, since we had been previously occupying his bed while chatting and whatnot. Morrie updated his journal; I just walked around the train, ate some food and just killed time. The girls were drinking, but I really wasn’t so keen on it. The train was really hot, even with the A/C going and I was sweating like crazy. I have sweat more on this trip to Asia then I can remember. I mean everyday I sweat going to the bathroom. I sweat coming out of the shower. I sweat during breakfast, while I’m taking a dump; I just sweat all the time. I am sweating a little sitting here in my hotel in Hue writing this blog entry! Sweating sucks, boo sweating. OK enough of a sweat rant. Right before I went to sleep I noticed a cockroach looking bug near where my pillow would have been. I tried to get it but it jumped on my hand and I kind of swung it off. This was after I had already killed one in Meredith’s carriage with my bear hands. I was just reading one of those gaudy British magazines when one popped up from the side of the bed, and I just went splat with my hand and killed it. Meredith looked up and went “did you just kill that with your hand?” I was like “yes and I have no idea why, I just saw it and reacted.”

We both had a chuckle about that. So anyway before I went to sleep one popped up and then for some reason I decided to lift the bed up and saw so many bugs of the same type underneath. Holding back my puke from the sight of so many bugs beneath the bed I was about to sleep on, I quickly put it back down. Andy noticing what I was doing exclaimed “why would you look? You know looking is never good, you don’t look when going to the bathroom in a squatter and you don’t look underneath a bed on a train!” I was like “sorry I forgot, and then she took out her sun tan lotion spray and sprayed a good portion of my bed all along the cracks. She claimed that might keep them from coming up from underneath the bed, I was skeptical, so I threw back two Nyquil and tried the medical approach to sleeping.

It was a tough sleep. This time unlike the previous two times I was on a train, we were laying across the train, not in the direction the train was moving. I thought it rocked way too much and if we had been lying in a different position, with the direction of the train, I don’t think I would have felt as much rocking. I was also a little nervous about all those bugs beneath me, disgusting.


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