Thursday, May 03, 2007

Vietnam Trip Day 6: Halong - Hanoi

0700 Hrs:

Dragged myself out of bed. Finish packing my stuff.

Go back to Hanoi loh!

A very cloudy morning.

0800 Hrs:

Went to the restaurant at the bottom of the slope to have breakfast. Minh Tuan was there having breakfast too before he goes off to work.

Had bun cha thit for breakfast. Something like thick bee hoon with char siew in it. Actually, I did not know what I was ordering. I went to the lady and saw them preparing the food, I just hand-signaled them that I want a bowl too. Hahahaha .....

The restaurant. The ladies at the left end were preparing the food.

Bun cha thit. Its very tasty. Cost 10,000 VND.

Took a few shots of the neighbourhood after I finished breakfast.

The bottom of the slope with the restaurant on the right.

The restaurant.

To go to the guesthouse, I have to walk up this slope. Its around 100m up from here.

A small drink stall across the road.

To get down to the beach or main road, I need to walk up this slope before I can reach the restaurant.

The guesthouse is in the building in the center up the slope.

We can see that in order to cater to the booming tourism industry, after land around near the shore were used up, the local started to build hotels and guesthouses up the slope.

Even at this point, there were new hotels being built higher up the slopes along the beach.

0910 Hrs:

Left the guesthouse in a cab for Ben Xe Bai Chay.

0920 Hrs:

Reached Ben Xe Bai Chay. The cab fare is 38,000 VND. It is not located in the Halong city but a good 10 minutes taxi ride away.

Went into the ticket office and bought the bus ticket. 40,000 VND. They also gave me a bottle of water plus a wet tissue.

Quickly found out which bus was it and board it.

0925 Hrs:

The bus left. The air con inside the bus was weak.

Ben Xe Bai Chay. Took this picture inside the bus just as it turns away.

Inside the bus.

1125 Hrs:

***** Situation *****

The bus stopped at a place which seems like somewhere for vehicles to stop over for passengers to take a short rest. At first I thought we had arrived but looking around, it did not look like Ban Xe Luong Yen. Its located somewhere like in the middle of nowhere. Not sure what's the name of the place.

The person in charge spoke to us something which sounded like "buy food" in English. I grabbed all my things and got down the bus. I tried to ask him how long are we stopping but did not think the understand me.

Looking around, there were several different stalls selling different and there was a stall selling bread, cake and biscuits. The other passengers went to order their food. The first thing I did was to go and relieve myself. Ha .... it had been a long journey from Bai Chay to here man.

After coming out from the toilet, I decided to used get a cake as I did not know how long are we stopping here. I was feeling hungry but a bread would be able to sustain it in such a situation.

Turning around, there was this guy who was ushering people to board a bus which also had the words "Luong Yen" at the front. I could not recognise the guy in the original bus I arrived in but he looks a bit like this ushering guy now. To make things worse, I did not remember the bus number of the bus I took. The ushering guy asked me where I was heading to and I took out my ticket stud and replied "Luong Yen". He told me to board the bus but I was sure this bus was the not one that I arrived in as the interior of the bus was different. Seeing that I did not want to board the bus, the bus began to move off. As it was about the turn into the main road, it stopped and the guy called out to me again. He shouted "Luong Yen! Luong Yen!" and waved for me to board the bus. Hearing that, I boarded the bus and the bus made off.

After a while, I suddenly realised what if I had boarded the wrong bus! I would thus be in the middle of somewhere which I have absolutely no idea of. I kept on telling myself to calm down and calm down and calm down. Need to react according to the situation.

I decided to eat the cake first and to observe the surrounding.

The cake I bought. Very creamy.

Its not as if I would realise that we were not heading towards Hanoi as I did not know the way. I kept on looking around left and right and there were only industrial estates, factories and farmland. It was only until I saw the signboard on the road indicating the distance to Hanoi that I began to feel at ease.

Inside the bus.

When I finally saw the two big bridge that I had crossed on the day I went to Haiphong, I knew that I was on the correct way.

Phewww .....

Looking back, maybe I should have waited for my original bus.


Yup, this bus is heading to Hanoi.

1230 Hrs:

We reached Ben Xe Luong Yen.

Ben Xe Luong Yen.

Ben Xe Luong Yen.

Seeing this, I realised that I had mistaken the petrol station outside Ben Xe Luong Yen for the bus stop itself.

The petrol station outside Ben Xe Luong Yen.

1245 Hrs:


Still around at the bus stop.

A taxi stopped in front of me asking me where did I want to go. I was just looking for a taxi to bring me to Prince Pacific Hotel. Just nice.

I boarded the taxi and showed the driver the card of Pacific Price Hotel, the hotel which I had stayed on Saturday. I had told the receptionists that I would be going back there when I return to Hanoi. The taxi went off after I got in.

Along the way as the taxi made its way in the Old Quarter, besides looking at the scenery and people around, I could not help but notice that the meter on the taxi was jumping very fast. It was like increasing by 1,400 VND every few seconds. I felt that something was amiss. There was something fishy about the meter.

I was hoping that it would quickly reach the Hoan Kiem Lake. Having walked around on Saturday, I realised that I could use the lake as a landmark in the Old Quarter. I was planning to let him let me alight at Hoam Kiem Lake and I would make my way to the hotel by foot. I kept asking the driver if the road he was travelling on leads to Hoan Kiem Lake. The driver does not speak much English but replied me that we were heading to the Hoan Kiem Lake.

It reached a stage where I knew I need to get off the taxi immediately. The taxi fare was already 130,000 VND. The day when I took that taxi to Ben Xe Luong Yen cost only 31,000 VND. The return journey may not be on the same route but it could not differ that much. As I watched the taxi went off, I discovered that there was not company name on the car body. There was also no the typical taxi label on the car top. Somehow I thought the driver had just somewhere somehow got a taxi meter onto his hand and fixed it into his car and "tah dah" ..... he has a taxi!


From there, I took out my Hanoi map (the universal tourist-must-have item), asked around and asked (the most powerful method) for my current location. The direction to Hoan Kiem Lake was indeed where the taxi was heading. I began to walk along the road. Decided not to curse myself for not looking at the taxi properly before I boarded it just now. The money had been spent so just take this as a lesson learnt. Besides, I could now look at the buildings on both sides and the people around me as I walked. Hahahahaha ..... damn good at making myself feel better yah .....

Along the way, I saw this movie poster.

It was around 500m more before I have Hoan Kiem Lake in my sight but I was at the opposite end. I walked along the lake and came to the other side of the lake. (ok, those who had been there before will know that the lake is actually not that big)

There were more people at this end of the lake. Think its due to Hoan Kiem Lake was located just next to Old Quarter and this end of the lake was nearest to the Old Quarter.

Outdoor manicure.

From the lake, I made my way to the hotel. The way was roughly familiar as I had looked around on Saturday.

1345 Hrs:

I arrived at Pacific Prince Hotel.

Checked in and got the same room I was staying. Put down my things and had a bath. I was sweating from all the walking.

I phoned Hoang Son, the Vietnamese from HCM who I had met on the trip to Cat Ba Island. They had returned ti Hanoi one day earlier than me I we agreed that we would meet up after I arrive in Hanoi too.

1515 Hrs:

Met up with Son outside his hotel and we went to explore around the Old Quarter.

Hoan Kiem Lake. In the center in the far southern end (very small) is Thap Rua (Tortoise Tower) on a small islet in the lake.

Ngoc Son Temple. Located on the north end of the lake.

Ngoc Son Temple.

The entrance to the temple. Seems very small in size. Did not go in. Entrance fee cost 3,000 VND.


At the side of Hoan Kiem Lake, there was this statue. According to Son, this statue dipicts an emperor in ancient Vietnam who moved the capital to the present day Hanoi.

After our walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, the two of us were quite thirsty. I had always wished to go to one of the "cafes" located around here and try its drinks. Trying to blend into the culture of the people around.

We went to this small drink stall along the road. There are just a few small tables and small stools around.

The other customers in the drink stall.

I had iced milk tea. Son had iced lime tea.

The boss said we should try the green tea which was very cooling.

Green tea.

I saw other customers having this drink. This is ca phe trung da or coffee with egg. I am not a coffee fan but I must say that this is very nice.

The boss and me. He told us the drink ca phe trung da was invented by his grandfather and they are the only one selling it in Hanoi.

After the drinks, we met up with Stefen (also one of the people I met on the boat trip to Cat Ba Island). He was with his two other friends. The plan was to have dinner after which the five of us would go for massage. There was another guy who was also on the trip to Cat Ba Island who I have forgotten to ask his name. He is a local working in one of the hotels in Old Quarter and he said he had some vouchers for body massage and he could gave some to us. We would meet him after dinner at the hotel.

The five of us went to this stall selling bun cha.

This is our dinner. You eat it by dipping the mee hoon like stuff into the soup which tasted a bit sour.

The utensils and the serviettes.

Other roadside stalls beside us.

As it was still early after our dinner for the massage, we went to this Time Cafe which is some ten minutes walk away. A nice and cosy place with cheap drinks.

Time Cafe.

Lime Juice.

Stefen and his two friends. The one on the left was born in Vietnam but this whole family moved to Berlin when he was three. He was a neighbour of Stefen in Berlin. He came back to Hanoi for a visit. The one in the center studied masters in arts for four years in Berlin and learnt to speak german and also got to know Stefen.

When it was about time, we made out way to the hotel for the massage. However, the guy told us that we need to pay 100,000 VND each for the massage. Son and I did not want to spend so much money so we left first.

Son and I agreed to tour the city together tomorrow. He would find me at my hotel in the morning.

After I returned to the hotel, bathed and watched movies on cable TV until 0230 at night.

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