When I woke up, I knew I had 2 things that must be done. One, I had to pack my bag. Two, it was time to get rid of the winter gear.
Admittedly it was still cold in Hanoi, but had been told the more South I went the warmer it would get, and I hadn’t actually needed the heavy jacket since Xi’An in China. That said, my jacket still has plenty of life in it, while the scarf was a gift, and my hat and gloves are practically brand new. I was also really interested in getting my jacket from Mongolia out of my bag for the space issues. So with that in mind, I packed up my stuff and headed for the Post Office.
Shipping anything internationally is always a pain, but it helps when you’re really in no hurry for it to get there. Took some communication to be understood (my Vietnamese is coming along tragically slowly), but I ended up shipping my items via Seamail. Really the only option when you realise my winter jacket alone weights 1.5kg – not going to arrive in Australia for 3 months, but frankly its not like I’m actually going to need them when I get there.
To be honest I’d more or less done everything I’d planned in Hue by this point, so it was more a case of wandering round and seeing what I’d missed of just the local area. Did eventually hop on a motor taxi to go up by the first Pagoda again, as I found a leaflet in the hotel for a second hand bookstore, ‘Bookworm’. Popped in with my current book and walked out with 2 small books (How to Speak Vietnamese and How to Speak Thai, respectively). The Vietnamese one was going to be a godsend, I still only new a tiny amount of words, and I hate coming to countries and not learning at least a little. I was a nightmare in China, and I’m in Vietnam long enough that I should at least attempt to make an effort.
The staff of the hotel got very used to seeing me hanging round the hotel most of the afternoon if I’m honest. Weather was miserable, and I was still behind on my blog, so used the time to try and catch up. Every few hours I’d pack everything away and go for a wander again – the longest time I left was to go have a proper look at the Night Market just a stones throw from the Water Puppet Theater. I was hoping for something interesting or at least different from what I’d seen in Hanoi until then, but its essentially a road filled with shops spilling out onto the pavement trying to call you in. Admittedly unlike other night markets I’ve seen, this was predominately clothes, some actually looking very nice.
The side streets cutting off from the main one were more interesting though. There’s a surprisingly large population of Christians in Vietnam, and Christmas is apparently a big thing here. Definitely seems that was from the sheer amount of Christmas decorations I saw for sale. The gutters were literally filling up with silver glitter and water. Very strange to see.
When I came back, I ended up befriend some very high strung new arrivals who had bonded on their flight to Hanoi and had been trying to find accommodation together (took some doing but they succeeded). Since they were hungry and I needed to eat before I went on the Night Train, I offered to take them to Cuisine Street since the food was a decent price and relatively good. They all agreed, and we all headed over. Two of them were from Germany and one was from Poland, and they’d all been teaching in Bangkok up until recently. They’d decided to take a long trip back before they ended up in cold Europe again.
Tried to find the place I’d been the day before on the grounds that it had an English menu, but failed. However, one of the girls liked the look of a place directly opposite from one we’d been looking at, so we ate there instead. Menu was in English here too, so I ordered Pho Ba again, while they others ordered chicken soup, and also ordered spring rolls for the table.
While we waited for our food, we spotted one guy sitting down on his own, and we all agreed to ask him to join us – he was a yoga instructor who worked in Singapore here on holiday, and was meeting friends in a few days. We all had a talk about where to go in Hanoi (and what to do in Bangkok and whether or not the current political situation might be a problem). When it was time to pay, the bill had barely hit the table before our Yoga friend whipped out his wallet and paid for the table! We tried to get him to take our money but he refused – thank you very much for the meal.
He was looking for some warmer clothes as Hanoi was cooler than he’d been expecting, so I recommended the Night Market I’d seen earlier – plenty of jeans and jackets available. The others were interested in seeing it too, so they all headed off, while I decided to stick around the hotel – too close to my time for me to me hiking up to that part of town, getting distracted and then having to come back down again.
Finally, 10pm rolled round, and I said goodbye to the very helpful Bodega staff, and hopped in the taxi for the five minute journey. When I arrived, I was a little wary – never been on a train in Vietnam before, how the hell do I know where to go?
As it turns out, there was no need to worry. Three steps into the station and I spot 3 female backpackers to the side and make a beeline. Ask them what the procedure was, and find they’re on the same train and coach as me, so stick around with them until they begin calling us on.
We’re in the cabins next to each other – they have a spare bunk while I have 3, and vaguely wonder if I can swap my berth for that one. While I’m pondering that though, in comes a woman with a toddler.
Oh, and a very large painting that she has to put under my bed as she wedged a giant suitcase under hers. Nobody is going to trade if I have a toddler – not even the elderly Vietnamese gentlemen the girls are now sharing with. My other bunk mates are a young Vietnamese man who has a giant box (a cot to be put together) that also goes under my bunk leaving my bag relegated to the table, and a backpacker from France who has been seperated from her 2 friends who are sharing with 2 other backpackers. Something of a mess.
Thankfully, 16 month old Anne was a very well behaved infant. Only burst into tears twice, and calmed down relatively early. Onwards to Hue!