The lights in the cabin were whacked on at 5am to make sure we were all awake, and we were off the train by 5.15am. I spotted a girl I'd seen on the night train up to Sapa getting off and asked her if she wanted to get a taxi into town, as she pointed to her hotel as being on the same side as the hostel I was trying to get to. A few taxis wouldn't take us, but eventually someone agreed and we piled in. He took us the scenic route past the lake, and then past the lake again, dropping us at her hotel and charging 30,000VND, but we each only had 20,000VND notes so he said 'ten for me'. It was 5.30am, we couldn't be bothered arguing. She went into her hotel and I walked back to the lake, realising I wasn't on the right side at all. I walked through the dark mist of Hoan Kiem Lake, watching everyone who walked past me, even though they were mostly exercising. I managed to walk through an outdoor aerobics class too, where orders were being barked out of a large stereo in Vietnamese. The lights kept on being turned off as I walked around, but eventually I asked a security guard where a hostel Nat had recommended was, his friend came over and helped, but I was in defence mode and kept saying 'no motorbike'. He directed me up a dark street and then right, which made me paranoid and so I took out my debit card from my purse just in case I needed money following another potential mugging. To his credit the cathedral and subsequent hostel were exactly where he said they'd be.
The hostel was in complete darkness, with someone sleeping on the sofa. I shouted 'hello' loudly until he got up, and then turned on the light. I asked for a bed and he took me to a dorm that stank like damp sweat, I'm pretty sure the bed had been slept in too, but I was fed up. I put my stuff away and sank into bed after seeing two of the girls from the Halong Bay trip in the same room, they were just off to Saigon. I didn't fall asleep straightaway, but this was probably due to the fact that I'd already slept for eight hours on the train. I woke up with a bang a few hours later after a dream that I'd missed meeting up with Nat at 11am - it felt so real! I showered, in a cold shower, and got dressed before checking out, when another pleasant surprise happened - I wasn't charged for the room as the bloke in the night hadn't written down my name, so I got away without even paying a dong. I then took further advantage of the hostel by using their internet for an hour.
I waited outside the hostel for Nat, but after fifteen minutes she still wasn't there, after checking my phone it seemed she was waiting at a different hostel. We eventually found each other and headed to a street vendor for one of those infamous Vietnamese baguettes. I had an egg one, which was pretty good, and made better by the 10,000VND price tag. Next stop was a little cafe that had footstools for chairs, where Nat informed me I had to have Vietnamese coffee: coffee on top of condensed milk with optional ice, all mixed together. It was a sweet delight. We then had some sunflower seeds as the locals did, and watched the gatherings around St Paul's Cathedral. It was a little strange just dropping the seed cases on the floor, but when in Rome. I was glad of yoga when sitting on those chairs too, they were certainly a stretch.
We looked all along the street I was staying on before heading to the one parallel and then across the water, where a woman placed her balancing dishes on my shoulder before I'd even noticed what was happening - she said 'no money', but I'm sure she'd have wanted me to buy some of her pineapple had I actually taken a picture. After all that walking we both decided we wanted to go back to the first set of shops we'd seen for our purchases. I bought some chopsticks and holders in an engraved box for $11, down from $15, but apparently this was still too much. I bought a few gifts aswell, and tried to haggle for dried fruit, but the woman was having none of it, so I ended up going back with my tail between my legs half an hour later after failing to find a better deal. I bought some 'I Love Hanoi' rock for Tuan and Lanny as a thankyou gift, and then set off in search of a wine shop for Nat to buy some, you guessed it, wine for her friends living in Vietnam. It made my rock look a little cheap!
As I waited outside the wine shop a woman selling the famous conical hats walked by, and after trying to sell me a mini one for 100,000VND I bargained her down to three for 50,000VND, having to state that was the only note I had in my purse. I think I still paid too much, but it's only $2.50. I pre-ordered two creme caramels for us whilst Nat paid for her wine, a request that got a couple of strange looks from the waiting staff. We ate our desserts with no main and then I found a hair in it, but just to prove I've been here too long I pullled it out and carried on eating. Time to go home. Nat and I said our goodbyes and I wandered off to buy my second Vietnamese baguette of the day, this time a meat one 'with everything' that cost me a little more than earlier, but was so worth it as I eat it on the way to the airport. The driver wasn't talkative in the slightest, so the baguette was my only friend!
I checked in at about 4.15pm, ready for my 5.10pm flight, and went through security, standing my ground in the queue at all times. I boarded and found my final surprise for the day - I had an emergency exit seat! Score. I could stretch my legs whilst listening to the coughing and snorting, and the sounds were drowned out a little by the air conditioning too. Unfortunately the flight was late, and as I stepped off the plane into the muggy heat of Saigon I realised Tuan had been waiting since 7pm: it was 8pm before I got my bag and met him in arrivals.
After making the necessary tall person adjustments to the seat, we made our way through the Saigon traffic, listening to the frequent beeps of Tuan's car as anything got too close. I was surprised to hear Tuan comment on my baggage as 'packing light', I thought my bag was super heavy - time for more souvenirs if that's the case. Apparently the traffic was mostly due to people stopping off at Christmas displays and taking photos, so we didn't arrive in District eight until 8.40pm. I hadn't spotted a bar running across the floor of the car park, about six inches from the floor, and managed to trip over it when heading to the boot of the car, almost smashing my carefully packed souvenir bag into the wall and looking like a complete muppet in front of Tuan. Yet another example of how I'm just too cool for school.
Tuan's wife Lanny had made some pork, squid, and beef dishes with rice, which were delicious, but my chopstick skills failed me at the pivotal point when I had to display them to locals! I admitted defeat and used a spoon to fill my face. Some icecream followed before heading to bed, where I discovered my toothpaste had leaked everywhere - the penultimate flight and it leaks.
To end the day I discovered Heathrow had been closed and was suffering big delays, so it remains to be seen if I'll even get home tomorrow.