Monday, 27 June 2005

Hanoi day 5, Monday 27 June

Monday 27 June 2005

Awoke before 5am. Jogged to Hoan Kiem Lake to meet Ron Brent, as arranged, at 5:30am. We jogged around three times while chatting, then walked another lap taking photos. We both used the video options on our cameras and should have some good footage.

To the usual breakfast in the hotel about 7:30am. Called Carolyne. The hotel had not delivered my laundry as expected yesterday afternoon, so chased that at reception. The staff brought 5-6 bags for me to check, but no luck. Then they told me it would be another 2 hours, while they checked at another hotel. This was not good. It turned up an hour later.

My first priority was to arrange the next step in my journey. After much reading and discussion with other travellers - Fiona & Sam in particular - decided that would travel to Cat Ba Island and Ha Long Bay independently and give myself as much flexibility as possible. Went to a reputable-looking nearby travel agency (there are hundreds to choose from) and bought a combined bus ticket Halong City and boat to Cat Ba Island (127.000D). Once there can arrange my own accommodation and guide to the national park. After one or two days hiking will arrange an overnight boat trip in Halong Bay, the immediate north of the island.

Spent time shopping for the second successive day: two sets of chopsticks, each comprising five pairs, made of wood and tipped with oyster shell (40,000D); a 300,000D Vina recharge card; another pair of light, local shorts, better made than the first pair, for 55,000D; two oranges for tomorrow's journey; and two minature bottles of Ha Noi vodka (5,000D each). At the Vina card shop the proprietor offered me 600,000D for my phone before I leave Vietnam. He explained that he needed a robust second-hand one for customers who need a phone while having theirs repaired. Bought a sweet rice bun, a coconut bun and a savoury roll for 8,000D.

For lunch went to Dong Xuan Street, my favourite eating lane beside the Dong Xuan Market. This time went to a place which operated like a minature buffet: a bloke served rice onto a plastic plate from a huge pot of rice, and stuck a small, flat metal spoon in the top. Then each person selected the desired food from possibly fifteen bowls, I chose mustard greens, string beans, pumpkin/squash in garlic (first time had seen pumpkin/squash), tofu in tomato sauce, squid, beef and peanuts in chilli. Sat on a tiny plastic stool and ate the bowl from my lap. Was delicious and cost the princely sum of 5,000D (the cost of a small bottle of water).

Spent some time on the free Internet in the hotel. During the day there are few guests around so the computers are usually free. Had a shower and a 40 minute snooze. This was lazy living! Then some more time on the Internet. Returned to the same little store to download the videos and photos i've taken since yesterday. Very friendly bloke who plays classic guitar very well.

Back at the hotel checked on my laundry. Despite all the hotel guff that says that laundry is returned by 5pm, it was not yesterday and was not today. Complained and explained that will be leaving early. The fellow wandered off to retrieve it from elsewhere for me so gave him 10,000D tip - we were both happy.


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