Day # 10
Last day in Hanoi.
While I’m ready to leave Vietnam and the insufferable monsoon heat, I’m not ready to return to Korea.
Today I need to move hotels. I emailed various hotels to check availability, last night. Vietnam being the way it is, none of them returned an answer, so this morning I went hotel shopping on foot. I stopped by Veronica’s hostel to see if she arrived safely. She had booked a spot for me in her hostel. That girl seriously rocks. Travel buddies are total lifesavers!
For $7/night, I was booked in the Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel. Clean, spacious bedding and modern facilities with a free beer bong and rooftop frat party every day at cocktail hour, the hostel is a popular spot with the 20-30’s something backpacking crowd.
When I say free beer, I think you can guess why…
The Problems of Solo Travel
What if you’re just not feeling a country?…
On good days, solo travel let me follow my inner direction, curiosity. I can explore the streets with my camera or follow the recommendations of other travelers.
On bad days, I can feel lost without a compass.
My friend Veronica wasn’t feeling well. She had just been robbed a couple of days ago and was now coming down with a fever. She had 2 days left and wanted to change her ticket to leave around the same time as me. For her, traveling Vietnam alone was a bit boring; I can totally relate.
There were moments I found it boring myself.
When tourist sites didn’t interest me, I’d wander around only to get like feeling the neighborhoods felt like places I’d seen in other parts of the world. I didn’t know what else to do to stimulate fun.
Sometimes, having a partner in crime really makes a difference. Sometimes I just want people to do things with and none may be around. Travel buddies can offer sightseeing suggestions. And then there are times I want to feel the safety of friendly support when things go south.
Especially, if like Veronica, I’ve just dealt with travel theft.
For us, meeting up was a refreshing break. And so we celebrated with a one hour xylo ride around Hoam Kiem Lake and the streets of Hanoi! (picture above)
Three things I’m glad I did when I was in Hanoi (… I think):
Seeing puppets on water
All around the world, theater is the voice of the people.
If you want to know a bit more about old Vietnamese entertainment, Hanoi’s Water Puppet Theater is a refreshing break from motorbiking streets.
If you wonder what entertained Vietnamese living in rural villages and farms, back in the 11th century, then water puppets are it.
The puppet show is staged in water. A live orchestra sits on the side of the stage with their instruments. Puppeteers stand concealed behind a curtain in water, maneuvering the puppets through several humorous one-act plays dealing with Vietnamese daily life and farming.
The water puppet theater came about when farmers’ rice paddies would get flooded and this eventually created a stage for this kind of theater.
For 40,000 dong, it’s really a steal to watch such a performance, even if you don’t know Vietnamese!
Short clip on the water puppet show
I ate Vietnamese street food more often.
Eating at the outdoor food stalls I wanted to try at least once… twice… and three times.
Plastic tables and stools speckle a block and you can order food on the grill or from a basic menu. The good thing: most menus are in English.
Prices are standard and inexpensive compared to basic restaurants and service is rough, piping hot, greasy and quick, which is great when you’re in a hurry.
I’m not a big fan of street food– too greasy– though I’ve gotten bolder about giving it a chance.
my plate of garlicky morning glories.
Try Vietnamese fruit shakes
Travel gets adventurous the more you try things outside your comfort zone. The more adventurous you dare to be, the more you learn things you might have never known about a country or culture.
Like trying water-filled drinks in a country where you don’t know if the water is drinkable.
Being a firm lover of fruits and smoothies, Toi An street (aka “Fruit shake street”) was a street I wanted to check out. When my fruit shake came as fruits, milk and water in a cup, accompanied by a bowl of shaved ice, I was reluctant about the water.
The bowl of ice stared at me.
“Do not drink the water unless it’s boiled”
“Do not drink a cup of juice if it has ice in it.”
Travel warnings echoed in my head….
I’ve brushed my teeth with the tap water over the course of my trip and had no bad stomach experience. I decided to cross my fingers and take a chance!
Visual fuzz… visual fuzz…
But from the appearance of my drink, I began to feel they must’ve gotten my order wrong and gave me a tourist version.
My drink didn’t look like a “smoothie”; afterall, in the U.S., all smoothies are blended. So I asked my waiter to blend my smoothie. I may look like a tourist, but “I can take it blended” like any Vietnamese local!
Only after watching stool-perched locals take spoon to ice and crunch on it, while sipping and spooning their drink of mixed whole fruits, did I understand. Apparently, by sending my order back for a blending. I was acting very much like a tourist!
The Vietnamese fruit shake is not blended. It’s actually served separately with ice!
I downed my smoothie and just as I was leaving, I saw my young waiter take my used glass and do what then made me feel sick…
He swished it in a tub of dirty wash water and set it back in the dish rack as clean!
Visual fuzz… visual fuzz…
I was grateful it was my last day in Vietnam– if I needed to get sick, I could handle it more comfortably, knowing I was on my way back home to Korea!
Information on the Water Puppet Show: