- We flew to Hanoi because it was an entry requirement for our visas.
- We arranged for airport pickup with the hostel we stayed at (under ~$10/night). There was a driver with “Amanda” written on a sheet of paper. VIP, baby.
- It’s super cold (high 40’s) in Hanoi and I was not prepared for colder weather.
- We wander into town, but it’s difficult to navigate with diagonal (and very busy) streets. We learn the art of street crossing – Be gutsy. Walk slowly and predictably.
- We find a local joint for dinner – Bia Hoi Ha Noi. We eat fried pho noodles with gravy.
- We visited the Women’s Museum and were both impressed how much Vietnamese women were involved in the war.
- We walked around the lake in the center of town. Many people of all ages were exercising around this area.
- We saw the water puppet theater performance. It was odd, but cool.
- In Hanoi, each street in the shopping area specializes in a specific product. For example, all the stores that sell jackets are all next to each other on “jacket street.” We headed to that street to buy warmer clothing!
- We are awoken by loud music and announcements over a loud speaker, so loud you couldn’t go back to sleep. When I asked the guy downstairs about it, he said they were announcements for the new year. He also mentioned that at 7am every Saturday they play music over the speakers so everyone knows to move their trash to the street. Very different.
- We hopped on a bus to go on a 3-day Halong Bay cruise. We cruised through thousands of rocky islands.
- We kayaked around a section of the bay and even kayaked through the cave on the 200 dong bill. We found an inlet that was ~3 feet deep and completely silent. Speechless.
- We returned to the boat to warm up. Mandy jumped off the top deck into the cold water. I stayed warm on the boat.
- Slept on the boat.
- Woke up early and cruised to Monkey Island. The group on our boat were the only people on the island (~15 people, staff included).
- We trekked to the top of the island for views from up high.
- Although it was freezing cold, we decided to go kayaking anyway to hunt for monkeys. After a long hunt, and some misleading monkey tracks, we found some!
- We got a bit close and the monkey chased us. We ran for our lives and I was ready to hop back in our kayak!
- We returned to the island to play games with our group and swap travel stories.
- We returned to Hanoi by boat (all-day trip) and met up with one of our boat friends for dinner. He had a friend who has lived in Hanoi for a few years.
- We let his friend order for us and ate all sorts of great stuff!
- They took us out bar-hopping – a communist-style bar, a joint that is “so backpacker,” a club on a boat, and an ex-pat spot on the river. It was a great sampling – thank you Duhwee and Tuomas!
- We packed up in the AM and ate lunch at Koto for lunch. The food was good and the restaurant also served as a vocational school for local students.
- We visited the Temple of Literature and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
- On the walk back we got lost in a motorcycle maze. It was cool to see where people actually lived.
- We ate dinner with some friends from the boat cruise and discovered “bia hoi” – fresh beer made on site. Very tasty and cheap (~$0.45/glass).
- Mandy and I parted ways – I hopped on an overnight bus to Hue and Mandy got on a flight to LA. 😦