And so it’s all coming to an end… This morning (well, late morning, if we’re being honest) we went across the road for breakfast, and to camp out and wait to catch Lee to say goodbye. A table full of us just sat there spying every exit so that she couldn’t escape (she doesn’t like goodbyes) but we caught her!
After breakfast, Katie and I got our bags and went off to our new hotel for the last few nights. It was easy enough to find, situated in a tiny side street not too far from the other hotels, and within walking distance of basically everything still. We were a bit early for check in and asked if we could just leave our bags, but as it turns out they had just finished “cleaning” our room so we could already go up. The room was small, darkish and pretty dingy, and to add to it all, there was construction happening right outside… Thanks Student Flights, I have officially learned my lesson about booking through you.
So after a bit of a laugh, and definitely a cringe (especially at the bathroom – yikes!) it was time to get our adventure on again. We hadn’t tried egg coffee yet, so off we went to find the place that everyone had been speaking about. It’s this little café up a flight of stairs, off a side street, and we sat on the balcony and had our first ever, super fresh egg coffee and what a treat it is! It was so sweet and creamy!
Needing a bit of a snack after our coffee, we stopped off at the bistro down the road from the old hotel, and had desserts. Because, desserts. I had the most divine chocolate fondant. The waiter there was awesome. He spoke English really well, and had a big chat with us about it and working in Vietnam, and groups we should join on Facebook if we want to come work here for a bit.
On the way back to the (very crappy) hotel, we stopped for some souvenir shopping as it was about time we start making sure we have gifts for everyone back home. We got a whole lot of things from the one store, and the lady there was so nice she even gave us free bookmarks with our purchases. We saw a minion at the IT store (and obviously took photos) and then went for a power nap/relax at the hotel. We had booked for water puppets for tonight, along with Gabby, Phoebe and Meg, so we went to that.
The water puppet show is a traditional Vietnamese art form. It’s very interesting, and a little strange, but also pretty cool! I’m glad it was something we did at the end of the trip, because I felt like I could relate much more with the stories and link them with experiences we’d had and things we’d seen.
We made plans for dinner with a few of the others still hanging around, and ended up in a Bar and Grill kind of place, because most people are over noodles by this time. A few more goodbyes to some of our new family (sad face), and then we headed back “home” (gross). We did however manage to get some sleep, but the room didn’t look any better when we woke up…
Next morning we woke up to a “partly sunny” forecast on Katie’s weather app, and ventured off to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We had breakfast at the hotel (no more buffets… what will I do?) and then got a cab (which seemed like the easier/cheaper option). We got there all okay, and then stood in the line. I must say that although it is quite a long line, we did get there pretty early. Also, the line is super efficiently organised, so you do always know what’s going on and then that you will get inside. But then you get inside, and remember that not all cultures have the same concept of standing in queues as we are brought up with (in other words, don’t push) but we just went with it and had a good laugh along the way. You can’t take cameras in with you, so if you have it you have to hand it in to security at the front. Also, it is one of the few places you need to observe temple dress so shoulders and knees covered. You pretty much speed walk through the building, and have about 10 seconds to actually check out “Uncle Ho” (as he’s affectionately known by the locals) before being swiftly ushered on to continue out. It is pretty cool though (okay, and pretty weird) but definitely worth a visit if you’ve got the morning in Hanoi.
After strolling around a bit, we took a couple of photos and then decided we would walk back to the hotel. We made it fine, but it is a fair bit of a walk so only do it if you have time – as it turns out we walked over 20 000 steps this day! On the way back, we found a bunch of shops and so decided to do a little bit of clothes shopping.
Side note: the timing gets a bit off for the rest of the day here, I’m not really sure of the order things happened in haha and as I took very few photos I don’t even have those as a timeline.
What I do know, is that we ate brunch at Joma Bakery (the greatest place ever invented), and had massive sandwiches. I got a “Forever 21” dress (maybe….) from a department store, and Katie also got some pretty things. And then, the most important thing happened, and that is the chocolate buffet.
Okay so Lee had told us about the buffet while on the boat, and said its one of her favourite things to do when she gets the chance. It’s at the Sofitel Metropole hotel, and you can’t book, you have to just show up and hope for the best. It’s a really nice hotel, so a bit of an excuse to put on a pretty dress, and then stuff your face full of chocolate – and no, I am not exaggerating. It’s certainly not the cheapest day out (our total bill came to just over 1 million VND) but it is absolutely worth it. There are lots of different chocolates, mousses, desserts, macaroons, chocolate-covered fruits, a fondue station, a crepe station, and ice cream. There are also mini sandwiches, should you wish for a break from the chocolate. My weakness were the crepes (duh), but the chocolate mousse was divine too. Actually, everything was. We all left in very serious chocolate comas. Just by the way though, the drinks are suuuuper expensive with water coming in at around 150 000 VND (almost the same price as a giant fresh juice).
We went on a mission to try find silver street, and some more jewellery like in Hoi An, but no luck. Phoebe was kind enough to let Katie and I go shower at her hotel (read: Honeymoon Suite) which we were overjoyed about. Then it was dinner time with the last few of us (we went to Yin & Yang restaurant, thanks Facebook!) where I had spring rolls and pork with coconut cream, and last minute market shopping for everyone to get their last minute souvenirs. I got a really cool kimono, and we were finding chopsticks for everyone and things like that. The goodbyes were not easy. At all.
And just like that, it was our last full day in Vietnam. Phoebs was still around, so we have all made plans for a final fancy dinner tonight. Deciding to give the (incredibly average) breakfast at the hotel we headed to Joma – obviously – for breakfast bagels and iced coffees. Knowing that we had seen so many awesome things in our brief shopping trip yesterday, we decided to give it another go and head out the way towards where we had the buffet. Except like half way back it started raining. But we would not be deterred! So onwards with rain ponchos and squidgy shoes, we did what we needed to do, eventually seeking refuge from the rain at the pizza place… The rest of the day is unknown to me. According to my notes we napped, and Katie ordered her personalised shirts, and we packed.
Katie, Phoebe and I then went to Cau Go Vietnamese restaurant (after a nice shower at Phoebe’s again haha), which overlooks the lake. Well worth the visit, especially for a last night in Vietnam and for really good Vietnamese cuisine (okay but with South African wine, because all the wine we’ve had so far has been not good). Had the most divine food, with a beautiful view, and an amazing last night with great friends.
Our final morning, we had one last breakfast at Joma, as well as taking spare bagels for the flight (haha, like we believed they’d actually make it). I had booked for a mani/pedi and then Phoebs and Katie were joining up so we could all have massages. So so cheap compared to home prices, and so so good. We went to Mido Spa, which is just next door to the Contiki hotel. Feeling super relaxed, we got our transfer to the airport, and began our flight home via Hong Kong.
Funny story by the way – I just couldn’t remember which night it happened – but Katie and I learned that our hotel we were staying at was so budget they literally patched their sheets when they got holes in. So, yeah. Don’t stay at the Hanoi Ciao hotel – thanks for nothing Student Flights…