Liz and I landed in Hanoi and shared a cab with 3 Americans from Seattle and headed to the new Hanoi backpackers hostel. When we got there is was $8 a person per night... not bad... and the rooms were really clean and the staff was extremely welcoming. Since Liz and I had pulled an all nighter we decided to take it easy and see the Turtle Tower and go to a water puppet show.
The story of the turtle tower: "The Turtle Pagoda is a picture perfect little shrine in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake. According to legend, in the 1500's a golden sword was taken from Emperor Le Thai To by a turtle in the lake. In some tellings of the tale, the turtle was heroically returning the sword to the lake where it belonged. In others, the turtle supplied the gold sword to the Emperor so he could smite his enemies. Still others say the turtle stole the sword and the Emperor had the lake drained looking for it. And in another variation, the turtle indicated to the Emperor which way his troops should go to win the war. In any case, this shrine was erected to commemorate the a turtle and a sword." Fun little fact for the day.
Side note: When you get to Vietnam there are no crosswalks and if you want to walk anywhere to cross the streets you have to dodge 1,000 motorbikes just to get there. The traffic is insane and everyone and their mother drives a motorbike. You basically need to just walk and the people driving the bikes work their way around you. This took me awhile to get used to and I had to work up the courage to cross the street and not think about getting hit.
At night we went to the water puppet show. It was cute but not worth it. The puppets are made out of wood and the show was in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. There was a band and women singing songs it Viatnamese. After the show we had a couple of drinks and I met this crazy guy names Matt who is from Tasmania he kept trying to convince me to visit there once I ended up in Australia. I was not in a social mood so Liz and I called it a night.
The next day we wanted to do some sightseeing and go to the museums. Unfortunately most of the museums were closed on Monday so we did not get to see much. While we were walking the streets we bumped into the 2 Canadian guys who we were sharing our dorm room with and asked them if we could join them since we didn't really have a plan. We ended up going to the Presidential Palace where there were a number of guards in front of the building. We wanted to take photos in front of the Palace and there is a line that you cannot cross. If you happen to step over the line the guards start blowing a whistle. Well you know me... I had to mess with the guards and kept on hopping in and out of the line. Lots of whistle blowing!! Luckily I didn't get into too much trouble.
At the end of the day Liz and I went into a tourist office and booked our trip to Halong bay. We booked a 3 day 2 night tour which included sleeping on a ship for a night while we sailed through one of the wonders of the world. Across the tourist information office there was a restaurant where people sit down on little plastic stools and plastic tables where you cooked your own meat on a tiny hot plate. The tour owner told us to try it so we did. We sat down with the locals and the waiters brought us a massive plate of beef, onions and tomatoes. We also ordered some bread rolls. We cooked our meat and made steak sandwiches it was amazing. We also had a chance to chat with the locals and ask them where to go and eat.
Side note:When you go to Vietnam, especially the major cities, you will see lots of people sitting on small plastic chairs eating and drinking. I feel like people are always eating and drinking here.
So I found out that Chris, the guy I met in Thailand at the full moon party, was also in Hanoi. We had been facebooking back and forth to try to get together. I accidentally gave him the wrong address of my hostel and he was meeting up with a friend of his and things were getting kind of confusing. So I played the waiting game on trying to figure out where to meet.
While I waited Liz and I played some pool with the Canadian guys. We split the teams up so Derek was my partner. At first my pool playing skills were awful until I finished a couple of beers and I was playing pretty well. Liz even told me to close my eyes and hit a ball, which I did and the ball made it into the pocket! Finally got word from Chris on where he would be drinking so I went down and asked the owner of the hostel where it was on the map. It was kind of far to walk and I was about to say forget it. The owner was nice enough to have one of his staff members drive me on the back of his motorbike to my destination. Here I go again on the back of another motorbike just to see some boy!!!
When I got to the bar where Chris was he was sitting with Kait, a girl he had been traveling with who met in Chiang Mai, his friend and an older man he met at his hostel. Not going to lie it was a little awkward at first. I had to remember that we were not in Thailand drinking out of buckets and covered in neon paint we were sitting at a bar having intellectual conversations. After we drank a couple of beers we all walked down a dark street and the group was a bit hungry. Chris' friend from home had been living in Vietnam so he spoke Vietnamese and he randomly went up to this woman to see where we could eat some food. All of a sudden she is coming out with a small plastic table and plastic stools sits us down and serves us food and beer. Unfortunately I could not partake in the food as it was pork but the beer was nice.
Kait and the older man went back to their hostel and we waiting till Chris' friend headed back to his apartment. Chris and I had some privacy to catch up and talk about travel plans. He walked me back to my hostel and we said goodnight.
I was leaving for Halong bay the next day.