May 31, 2016 11:41AM JST
Waking up from the alarm, I felt refreshed waking up. No more heavy rain, but light rain. Quickly brushing my teeth, I gathered my belongings and went to the lobby for breakfast. Others came shortly after me. The breakfast was a buffet of western food – pancakes, bananas, juice, and etcetera. The Indian solo traveler did not join us – he had a package of packed breakfast and went straight with his boat at around 8AM. Two hours later, I was ready to go. Again, I was the only one who was going off on my own while the French couple stayed behind to wait for their own boat. Saying goodbye, I quickly followed the guide and jumped onto the boat.
Arriving at the port, I was back with the original group again. It was different people this time, as some of them were staying for only two days. Two large families of five children and six children from the UK and Germany respectively were there. I remember the other solo lady from the US as well as a group of four young people in their early – middle 20’s (the Canadian is exactly 20), and I don’t remember the rest. On our way heading back to Hanoi, we relaxed inside the boat since it was raining outside. The kids played board game that I did not know what the game was about – but it looked like the Chinese board game I used to play when I was a child – a set of pins moving and ‘killing’ another while the holes are all taken then the player wins. Some others were just talking with each other, reading a book, and playing cards.
When it was time to have lunch, one of the boat operators showed us how to make spring rolls. Some of the kids were happily willing to, but most of us just stay put and enjoyed in their own space, while I was just talking to the mother of the six children but mostly staring at nothing and outside.
This time, lunch was not as delicate as earlier, but it still had plenty of varieties and each was good, with lots of leftover remaining at the end. Time was short. We arrived at the port and same as before, we stopped at a souvenir point. The souvenir stop looked different from the other day, but I later realized that it was the same one – we just came from different side.
It was basically a short day coming back from Ha Long Bay and we arrived in the city center in no time. Some of us got off in the middle of the city centre, along the main busy road with lots of motorbikers and cars. It was traffic. It took some time for us to reach the main hostel/hotel area.
I did not rest when I came back. I just dropped my backpack onto the bunk bed, ready to relax and talk to people for dinner plan. I started off to walk around to find if there is a nearby place to buy a SD card. I asked around but I was afraid I might get lost so I did not try, and hoped to find it some another time. Back to the hostel, I talked to the same McGill girl. She was waiting for her friend whom she met at the airport in Hanoi. Her friend eventually showed up with her bike. This friend was from Europe (I don’t remember where exactly) and she was working in Hanoi as an English teacher (I think) for her friend’s NPO and she lived some 15 minutes away by motorbike. They were originally planning to drive to a place a little far to walk together. Since I was extra, we decided to go somewhere close. We passed many street food places. I got sick as I am always very sensitive to strong smell. In this case, it was probably the raw meat. I had nausea and saliva all came out. I couldn’t quite breathe. Thus, we decided to eat at a western restaurant. I held my breath and walked quickly to avoid the horrible smell.
The restaurant was definitely not a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. The menu had a wide range of both western and Vietnamese food. I picked chicken satay with rice and vegetables, a Vietnamese dish. I couldn’t finish the dish because the chicken was cut into pieces and it looked like the meat is from an unfamiliar bird and I was afraid to devour it. A waste, but not only am I very sensitive to smell, but also taste, in particular, the exotic food. I wished I had their food because they had soup and spaghetti (I think) – they looked tasty.
The McGill girl was waiting for her local Vietnamese friend, the exchange student at her McGill in the previous year. We talked a bit after finishing our meal. Her friend showed up with his bike. The Vietnamese man looked like a typical smart student, with glasses and a typical face of an IT professional. They were planning to drive to a cheap street food area but I decided to not to go as the smell would most likely kill me. The girls rode together while I shared the bike with the Vietnamese friend. Together, we drove back to the hostel and they dropped me off. It was still 9PM or so. I didn’t want to sleep yet, so I chilled out.
There were a couple of people around getting ready for the New Year’s Party for the next day. They were making masquerade masks with fancy materials. I did not make any as I knew I probably would not go to the party. I promised the McGill girls and two others whom I talked previously to enjoy New Years together. Some of the hostel dwellers were drinking at the top of the building while some were drinking elsewhere, and some were sleeping in their beds, no doubt. This is indeed how backpackers travel, and most of them indeed stay in hostels to save money.
With nothing to do, I retired to my bed early and slept for many hours.