Andy and I took a walk to get some errands done and things didn’t work out too well. It began OK when we found a little pagoda on an island in Hoan Kiem Lake. 3000 Dong entry fee (12p) and a pleasant little environment. Certainly not as ostentatious as some temples and the like I’ve seen recently. There’s also something in the water there that grabs flies off the surface but makes a heck of a splash doing it. I never quite saw it, just the ripples afterwards but it sounded big.
A trip to the Post Office for me to phone Lou ended in a 17500 Dong bill (not that much, really) and me only leaving a message on her answerphone. I got through once, but she couldn’t hear me. Second time, right to voicemail and I have no idea if she could hear it!
Next we were accosted by a very pushy Vietnamese guy who’d helped me sort out the international call. Good English and expensive postcards. But at least I have enough now to do me for my entire stay in Vietnam!
We then walked up the road and had a woman insist on us holding her bamboo stick over our shoulders with her hat on to have our photo taken. “No money! No money!” So no harm, then.
Suspicions should have been raised when she crouched behind a motorbike when the police drove past. We got our photos, then got charged 100,000 Dong for bananas and pineapple which is stupidly over the odds. And when Andy got back to the hostel he noticed his passport had gone missing. Now we’re not certain but he reckons she may have pilfered it. I think he might be right.
We’ve searched everywhere with no luck at all. Fortunately, he at least has a photocopy but a replacement will take around 10 days to come through and the consulate doesn’t re-open until Wednesday. We don’t get back from Sa Pa till the following morning anyway.
To cap it all, it took us 3 ATMs for me to be able to get any money out and 6 before Andy could get one that worked. Also, the machines only seem to dispense 50,000 and 100,000 notes – hardly any merchants can change these, making them difficult to use. Again, the banks are shut until Tuesday or Wednesday because of the long holiday weekend so getting change isn’t easy.
Overall, not the greatest of days but dinner at the Sky Caf&eactute; kind of helped (chicken burger again). The view during daylight hours is really pleasant. Hoan Kiem Lake to the south, and a major junction to the west with no traffic control at all. Astoundingly, despite literally thousands of vehicles going through it (including buses which seem to be exempt to no entry and one way directions), we only saw one low-speed bump between a moped and a bike. One driver even parked his lime green Daewoo in the middle of the junction and got out for two minutes!
I’m currently sat in the hostel waiting for our ride to appear to get us to the train station. My laptop’s staying here for safety and convenience, so I’ll hopefully update again towards the coming weekend. Sa Pa here we come! I hope it doesn’t rain…