After arriving in Hanoi, she’d decided to go out for dinner by herself. On the way back a tall Nigerian guy tried to chat her up and insisted on walking her around several bars and so on to “make sure she was safe”. Apparently he’s a professional footballer and was trying to get her to go to his hotel room so he could show her his passport as proof.
I mentioned this to Max this morning, and he said that the guy probably was a footballer! Many come over here on the promise of a decent wage (couple of thousand dollars a month), then don’t make the grade and cannot afford to fly home.
While she was out with him, she used an internet cafe (ours was down at the hostel) and lost an hour’s-worth of typing when the PC crashed. She stormed off without paying… and without a bag of books that she needed.
Today’s first task was to retrieve the books. This wasn’t too easy as Fiona wasn’t that sure about where the cafe was, apart from “near the lake”. Amazingly, after only an hour or so, we found it. I popped in and the books were sat on a shelf. I grabbed them and legged it.
We then had a day to kill, so we had a brief wander round the streets (the lantern shop street is very pretty) then caught two bikes up to the Tran Quoc Pagoda – the oldest in Hanoi. This was Fiona’s first time on the back of a bike, but she seemed to enjoy it. Either that or she was screaming, I’m not sure.
The second we got there, we were surrounded by people trying to sell us fans, postcards, fruit… And the pagoda was shut. The guidebook didn’t mention any times, but it seems common for museums and so forth to be closed from 11:00 to 13:30, so we decided to wander around a bit. Fortunately, the West Lake are really is pleasant. Less traffic than Hoan Kiem and more trees, flowers and grass.
Up the side of the lake, we found a small cafe (go past the statue of the revolutionary towards the lake, turn left, follow the dirt path, past the rat with it’s stomach hanging out and you’re there) where we had a couple of lemon juices and I had a lovely bowl of vegetable soup. Grand total, 70p or thereabouts. Quality.
It was approaching 13:30 so we walked back to the Pagoda and it was indeed open. A small boy decided that we were going to buy some postcards from him and went through every single one he had, counting them out in batches of ten.
Eventually, he trailed off with a “You buy from me later, yes?” and we walked around the peaceful surroundings. It seems some people live in the pagoda and we stumbled upon their house. We were brusquely shown the correct path to take and walked into the altar area where a handful of people were praying.
In honesty, there was not a lot to see, but it is a lovely building. The roofing was being worked on when we were there and it’s good to see that it is so well looked after.
We made the decision to walk back to the hostel rather than getting a bike. This involved guessing where south was and walking that way until we found something we recognised. Or something I recognised as, in fairness, Fiona had really only seen a small part of Hanoi and that at night.
Two hours. In baking heat. But we made it back. On the way we passed a statue of “V.I.LEN IN” (Vietnamese seem to divide a lot of names into two words) and some fairly official-looking buildings. Finally, I realised we were on Hai Ba Trung (though I guessed the wrong end) and we popped into the shopping centre just up from it for Fiona to get some sun cream.
Suntan lotion / sunblock is hard to get in Vietnam. They sell it, but it only comes in tiny containers – enough for you to use on your face. Vietnamese work on the assumption that it makes more sense to wear long sleeves and trousers than smear cream on, and they don’t go to the beach to sunbathe. So Fiona ended up with four dinky containers with factor 50 cream in them.
As seems traditional, I took her up to the City View where she made her way through three shakes and a bottle of water (we had been walking for ages) and I had a beer before we went back to the hostel.
Warning – boring techie bit
The internet was still chuffed (two days) when we got back, but later in the afternoon someone came from Viet Tel to fix it. This he duly did only he didn’t check it properly before he left. I wasn’t watching, but I think he reset the router and then re-entered the passwords. I have a feeling one of these had been changed, but as we couldn’t log into the router itself to check what the error was, I couldn’t fix it. We now have the password for the router so can check in future.
However, when he did this, it sorted three of the PCs that are connected by cable. One PC and my laptop, i.e. those on wireless, weren’t working after he went. I had a dig and realised that rather than one router, over time they’ve been supplied with a cabled router, a hub (utterly unecessary) and a second router for wireless. A dig on the internet got me the default username/password for the wireless router, I logged in and it was on a different subnet from the newly-configured cabled router. Quick change, two “repair”s on the wireless machines and we were back in business. My next task is to remove the pointless cabled boxes and leave just the wireless one.
Back to boring day-to-day bit
I was also called in to burn some CDs as the one here has broken down. Someone was asking Max who said they could have a free blank disc, but he couldn’t help with the burning. I could. Free beer from the hostel owner for keeping the punters happy!
Fiona and I then went for the belly-busting pizza buffet for dinner. I managed two margheritas before they guessed that was all I liked and started putting different types out. Damn them!
On Max’s advice, we then headed for the very posh Melia hotel for a “Mamba Night” with a live band. Free entry, free Bacardi shots, horrendously expensive bar. By the third drink, we were collecting our funds together to see if we could afford another drink. Rather embarassing with the cigar-chomping brigade walking around!
The band were great, though rather loud, so we spent most of the night out on the balcony where it was warmer but quieter. Most of the rest of the guests had the same idea. We met Max’s wife, a lovely Vietnamese woman called Ann. She runs a company called Hidden Hanoi who take tourists round areas of the city you can’t see too easily (as the name suggests!).
It was a great night, but really dented my wallet. Between this and the chocolate fest, I’ve spent far too much the last couple of days. Purse strings will be drawn tighter!
As an aside, I heard from one of my old neighbours back home. Her patio window exploded due to the heat this week. The glazier who came out to do the work said he’d had several similar calls recently. I’m glad I’m over here where it’s only 35 degrees!