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Day # 10. It’s my last day in Hanoi. I’m ready to leave Vietnam and the insufferable monsoon heat.
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. If 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 curiosity. I got to explore the streets with my camera and follow the recommendations of other travelers freely as I pleased. On bad days, I can feel lost without a compass. Travel buddies can offer sightseeing suggestions. 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.
Veronica wasn’t feeling well though. She was robbed a couple of days ago in Hoi An and was now coming down with a fever. With two days left, she wanted to change her ticket to leave with me. For her, traveling Vietnam alone was not only disappointing but a bit boring. There were moments I found Hanoi boring too. When tourist sites didn’t interest me, I’d wander aimlessly through neighborhoods not knowing what to look for.
Top 4 Favorite Things to Do in Hanoi
A Xylo Ride
Xylo’s are like bicycle rickshaws. A driver takes you around Hoam Kiem Lake and the streets of Hanoi. Of course, sometimes, he can take his time as if he’s doing it on purpose so as not to have to go far. Xylos will be outlawed soon. They are only allowed to operate on certain streets.
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
Hanoi street food
Eating Hanoi street food at outdoor stalls was something 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.
Vietnamese fruit shakes on Toi An street
Travel gets adventurous the more you try things outside your comfort zone. Like trying water-filled drinks in a country, where you know the water is probably not drinkable.
Being a firm lover of fruit 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…
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”; 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!