Day 8 – Hanoi
Christmas Day came as we got up to a slow start being another free day on our own. Another round of pho for breakfast plus more western breakfast sets kept us satisfied for the morning not forgetting the Vietnamese coffee and fruit juice as well. After breakfast, we went back to our rooms to rest. This morning we were waiting for a Vietnamese young man to meet us at our hotel to show us around town. He and his friend used to stay at our home for a very short stint during a school exchange program years ago and we were going to catch up with him this day. So there was nothing much to do while we waited in our room and did some packing again. Soon our friend came and we decided to meet at our boys’ room where there was a big sofa set for us sit and talk. We had a great time chatting and getting to know how he was doing in Hanoi after coming back from the UK having spent time studying there. He was doing well and had gotten himself a house by the river in the suburb of Hanoi and he even designed his own house as well as he proudly showed us pictures on his phone.
After some time, we decided to venture out and he brought us around the Old Quarter and showed us where to buy the stuff that we needed. So we roamed around town and reached the Umove shop selling sports and hiking gears. We went in to look around for a short while and then left. Our friend’s family had a shop just across the street so we went over to meet and greet his parents and siblings who were busy doing business during the day. We didn’t want to take up their precious time so we moved on and enjoyed the street scene.
There were street vendors selling stuff we would not imagine in our own home country. The overloaded transportation on bikes were quite unimaginable as well.
We came to a street where it was closed and blocked by the police. It happened that a fire broke out earlier in the morning and fire fighting vehicles were there for the fire rescue operation. Apparently an incense shop was gutted by the fire and a small crowd was still there watching the ongoing mopping up operation. It was an interesting sight for us to run into such incident during a vacation.
Our friend then brought us to a local restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was serving another type of noodles that was different from pho. The restaurant was crowded and in fact very popular with the locals who would grab a quick lunch and then get back to work. The tables and chairs were low seating type and we felt like we were squatting though we were sitting on those low stools. The noodles were very delicious and we enjoyed our lunch. We would not on our own patronize such a restaurant had our friend not brought us here and introduced us to another great local food.
We left after lunch and my dear wife asked about the fresh rice papers for making Vietnamese spring rolls. So he brought us back to the market and being lunch time some shops were closed. They usually take a break during lunch, especially during hot days. With the usual shop he normally bought the rice papers closed, he brought us to another shop. We bought all the rice papers the shopkeeper had about 90 pieces for only around 30,000 VND which was incredibly cheap. The rice papers we bought from our local supermarket weren’t good at all. Making spring rolls from those factory packed rice papers from the supermarket was close to a disaster. Hence we were extremely pleased with this purchase. In fact my lovely wife had been making fantastic spring rolls back home after the holiday.
After that it was time to bid our friend good bye as he had other matters to attend to. It was a little sad as we see him go as we went on our way to continue with our shopping. We remembered this young man was so quiet when he stayed at our home years ago because he could not speak much English. Nowadays, he could carry on with an intelligent conversation in English without any trouble at all and we were very happy for him.
With our shopping at the Old Quarter done, we made our way back to our hotel. Before arriving, we went to the supermarket one street behind our hotel to do our final shopping. We bought those waffles we found on the train ride to Sapa and coffee and tea as well. Together with a few other stuff, we made payment and went back to our hotel and packed up for our departure for the next morning flight back to Singapore.
We began winding down and rested in our rooms till dinner time. Watching TV and surfing the internet on our phones via the efficient wifi provided by the hotel kept us occupied. So dinner time came and we hit the streets again with renewed vigour. We walked towards the French Quarter and went straight to Hotel de I’Opera Hanoi. We had already recced the place the previous day and we loved the ambience of the hotel so we decided to have our Christmas dinner there.
We were warmly greeted and ushered to a nice table in the restaurant. The restaurant looked posh and we were delighted. We had western meals again and the presentation of the food here was superb and the food tasted very good as well. A great dinner indeed and another wonderful meal over Christmas in Hanoi. Once again we enjoyed great discount as Accor members and being members, it seemed the hotel took special care of us.
After dinner we hung around the hotel to enjoy the facilities and its nice ambience. We spent some time watching the movie Charlie Chaplin at the hotel courtyard. This hotel in the French Quarter near the Opera House no doubt deserved its 5 star rating.
Finally it was time to leave. We took a slow walk towards the lake. The Christmas decorations and lightings were still there but the crowd was gone. It was so strange when we ventured onto the streets in the day; there was no Christmas mood at all. There wasn’t even any hint it was Christmas Day at all. It was a crazy night on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seemed to vanish on their calendar. Anyway, we enjoyed the Christmas lightings at the French Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake without the crowd and we could take more pictures without distractions.
We slowed down at the lake and enjoyed the park at night under the cooling winter weather. There were some locals there enjoying the night out as well. In fact, there were workers tending to the garden at the park at night which was an unusual sight for us. Though it was winter, it was just cooling and not cold that would bite. So we continued our slow walk and as we entered our hotel, we knew our holiday was going to end soon.
Back in our rooms, we did our final packing as we would leave for the airport before 8 am. Once we were satisfied with everything packed and ready to go, after a final shower, we reached for our comfortable beds. We also reminded our agent Tien from Halong Sapa Tours regarding our transfer to the airport early next morning. The TV and our phones kept us company during the evening and slowly we drifted into the night tremendously happy with our vacation in Northern Vietnam. It was made more enjoyable with the whole family able to come together for a holiday. Soon we lost physical and mental sense of the surroundings and entered blissful sleep.
Continue to Day 9 ...