Day 3: The Hanoi that Rocks the Cradle

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I worked so hard to stay up last night and get on a proper sleep schedule. I drank a Red Bull AND a Monster just to be safe. We managed to make it to midnight and I was rewarded with exactly one extra hour of sleep.  Hard awake at 5am. Good morning Vietnam. Time to make another cup of this 3 in 1 instant coffee.

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It’s good, but it’s mostly for people who travel by helicopter.

We started our day yesterday with a fantastic breakfast on the Van Chai resort patio which was about 100 feet from the ocean. Actually I’m being told by google maps that it’s the South China Sea. It’s beautiful, whatever it wants to call itself. The whole color palette for the beach and ocean are different here. The blues a little lavender, the whites a little rose. It’s subtle and lovely.

On to breakfast. I don’t know why we haven’t done a better job of taking food pictures. I mean it’s like 90% of blogging. They had an unbelievable fried rice with egg. I ate some shrimp porridge, which was great. It helped that I put cilantro in there. Any culture that likes cilantro as much as I do is alright by me. There was an omelette bar, fried dumplings, which were these little Vietnamese donuts, and a tasty homemade yogurt.

We packed up our stuff, checked out of the resort and got our gear back onto the bikes. Joe even found a solution to his debris problem.

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Shaka Brah, Joe. Shaka Brah.

We got back out on the road and started our long journey back. This ride was different for a few reasons but my favorite was the fact that we knew where we were going. If one of the farmers we passed had flagged me down and asked me for directions to Hanoi, I would have been able to provide them.

“Oh yeah sure you just stay on this road here, go straight through the roundabout, keep the river on your right. Eventually you’ll see a super tall pagoda off to your left, that’s where you hit the 1A. Go the wrong way up the exit ramp, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do here, take a right and stay on that road all the way to Hanoi. Can’t miss it.”

There was significantly more traffic this time around, I think because of the holiday. More cops out too. We passed a huge police escort for a bicycle race going in the other direction. That was cool. The cops had this big truck that looked like a firetruck but for the cops. I’m not sure what the purpose of it was. It seemed like a big light and sound machine.

We also rode next to an old soviet train for a while which was a lot of fun. The thing that I don’t think I mentioned in the post about our ride south, which totally blew my mind the first time and did so again on the return trip, are the humongous abandoned construction projects lining this road from Ha Noi to Thanh Hoa. It’s the QL1A on Google Maps, the 1A on signs here and as I probably mentioned, it’s pretty rural. But every 20 kilometers or so we’d pass these HUGE buildings in various stages of completion, with absolutely no one near them. We’d be riding past tiny, single story shops and homes, next to open farm land, and then, in the middle of nowhere, a 30 story apartment building would appear and you could see the lobby was never finished. I cannot impress on you enough how big some of these things were. Four building, 15 story office quads with no windows. Incredibly ornate cathedrals with grass growing all over them. Beautiful, Italian condos, domed roofs and elevated walkways between the wings and NOTHING around them. It is, so weird.

Other than the occasional traffic snarls, we made pretty good time back to Hanoi, shaving an hour off our original time. We were cruising along so comfortably, we missed the turn for the scooter road and ended up BACK on the no scooter road, but only for about 100 feet. We stopped, turned around and went the wrong way on the shoulder back to the turn, because you can do that here. This time we got to experience a lot more of the Hanoi city traffic which was fun. That’s where the real game is. That’s where the pros ride. We made our way back to the shop and dropped off the bikes, not a scratch on ’em. I don’t think I ever posted a picture so here’s what we were riding.

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Love these.

Went back to the office and turned in the helmets. Got our ENTIRE deposit back. Natch. Big thank you to Flamingo Travel. If anyone is ever in Hanoi, HCMC, or Hoi An and needs to rent a bike, these are your guys.

We checked back into the Essence D’Orient Hotel, also a fine establishment and got acquainted with our new room.

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Picasso Mastodon wants to fight you.

We spent the next three hours lying in bed and watching VHD, a multicultural music video channel that plays no commercials but a lot of promos. We saw one for an Australian band called With Confidence. The lead singer looks exactly like the two of us mashed into one person.

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Right?

We forced ourselves out of the room around nine and went looking for King’s Pirate Club, an extremely well reviewed bar on TripAdvisor. It’s great, they said. Best place in Hanoi, they said. Right by your hotel, they said. Closed. Probably for the holiday but come on! AND the karaoke place we’d heard was good had been turned into something else. Prague Bar. I guess they don’t do karaoke in Prague. Directionless and hungry we wandered, eventually finding ourselves back by the lake we passed when we first got here. I learned later that they close the streets around the lake every weekend and it’s just kind of a year long festival atmosphere. It was a’ight. It had street performers.

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Soldiers

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Weirdos

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All of a sudden, we found ourselves on another long walk. I got a little short with Joe because his requirements for food were very specific and since none of the places we were passing met them, we weren’t eating anything. I don’t want to call it our first fight, but it was our first fight.

Finally we passed by this lady and her man sitting on the sidewalk next to what kind of looked like a wooden popcorn cart but instead of the popcorn maker and bin, there were a couple of shelves and Bahn Mi fixins. Joe gave it his nod of approval and we ordered two sandwiches. I don’t know what was in them, but they were delicious. We ate them on the walk back to the hotel. When we got there, we sat down at a sidewalk eatery and ordered some food. Baby bok choy and garlic and fried beef noodles. We sat and ate, again, and watched Hanoi pass by. Then we went up to our room and passed the fuck out.

Off to Da Nang today. So long, northern Vietnam. You’ve been real cool.

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