Hanoi, July 14
Being evacuated from Halong Bay a day early had its advantages. The most obvious being that we were not trapped on a remote island when the typhoon hit, but also because our tour company put us up in a 3-star hotel in Hanoi with a king size bed and a flat screen television with plenty of english movie channels. What more could one ask for when torrential rains are about to hit?
That evening the girls decided to have a night out. The night started at a local backpacker bar with shots of tequila and a shared fish bowl of booze, and ended at another backpacker bar to finish the night. The next day was Jackie's last day so we decided to brave the storm for some last minute shopping. The rain was not co-operating and down poured so hard that umbrellas were useless. Cameron elected to avoid bargain shopping with three girls during a humid monsoon, it was a tough call but the decision had to be made!
There is loads of shopping in Hanoi with full blocks designated for certain items (for example - shoes, sunglasses, bags etc). The tricky part about navigating through the streets of Vietnam is crossing the road without being hit (see the attached video). Motorbikes are everywhere and the move in all directions at all times! We realized the trick is to walk very slowly so they can maneuver around you; accidents tend to happen if you change your speed too quickly and they cannot predict or time your next step. After wet afternoon shopping, we said goodbye to Jackie who was about to tackle a Vietnamese overnight train. By late afternoon the sun was shining and the hot, humid weather was back, the typhoon had thankfully moved on.
That evening we decided that cheap street side beers were in order (seemingly a common occurrence?). We pulled up a small plastic stool on the side of the road and enjoyed some large bottles of Tiger beer, a moment we had looked forward to when planning our trip to SE Asia. This is where we met Tracy and Jodie, two Americans who are teaching English in South Korea. We teamed up with them the following evening and went on the hunt for a place that sold bia hoi, which is ridiculously cheap beer that is brewed daily and served to thirsty drinkers outdoors along certain streets of Hanoi.
We had heard of this type of beer from the couple that we met (Dee and Marcus) back in the Philippines and were on a mission to find it. After asking countless locals and foreigners, we finally found the spot, an intersection with a beer stall on every corner. Excited to have found the spot we grabbed a seat and ordered a round. Frustratingly, within minutes of sitting down they ran out of beer!! We quickly finished our glass of beer and moved on to the opposite side of the street to a different beer vendor, along with everyone else who was not ready to call it a night. The beer was actually pretty tasty, and for only 19 cents CDN it is likely one of the cheapest beers we'll ever drink!
A few traditional Vietnamese dishes are dog and snake. While exploring the local food markets we saw butchered dog for sale (head and tail included!) and small animal brains, both considered delicacies but not something we intended to partake in. It is also common to go out for dinner and eat snake, but someone must drink the blood and eat the palpitating heart. Neither of us was keen on the thought so we passed and stuck to the delicious fresh spring rolls and fried noodles.
We enjoyed our week in Northern Vietnam but knew that our time was running out because we planned to meet up with Andrew and Nicola in Cambodia in less than a week. This meant we didn't have enough time to properly explore the Vietnamese coast so we decided to skip it altogether. We had heard the train down to Ho Chi Minh City was an uncomfortable 41 hour ride so we booked a cheap one hour flight instead.
We were at the airport once again, next destination… the city formerly known as Saigon!