We got up and had breakfast in the room on the top floor of the building. Sal’s coffee shot:
We had a few errands to take care of: 1) we needed sim cards since Project Fi doesn’t cover Vietnam, 2) we had a bunch of laundry we needed done, and 3) we needed money converted to Dong (yeah, yeah). We asked the front desk for help, and they sent one of the bell boys to walk us to where we could get SIM cards. Thank goodness for that, because these streets are crazy. There are so many motorbikes, so much honking, and so few stoplights it makes crossing the street similar to a game of Frogger, except once you step out into the road you are never supposed to step back. Listen, I’m used to traffic, but this is next level; New York City is a walk in the park comparatively speaking. It’s crazy. Most of the sidewalks are taken up by motorbikes. They. Are. Everywhere.
It was pretty painless to get our SIM cards, and cheap. We then went to what we thought was pointed out as the bank, to transfer money, only to find it some weird sort of space with people sitting on folding chairs, at a folding table, just looking out on the street. No idea what it was, but we thought we probably shouldn’t give them money. We went back to the hotel and clarified we needed a bank to transfer money, not an ATM. We also decided to just have them do our laundry. $10.50 for same day laundry service is not expensive. I had to remind myself of that.
One of the young ladies walked down a block with us to show us where the nearby bank was. We entered and proceeded to give the woman Baht to exchange. I had the bright idea to exchange all our leftover money, as who knows when we’d be back next to use it. I thought it was pretty smart of me! We just accepted whatever exchange rate, because it was still better than it just sitting in a drawer unused back home. After she figured out how much we got for the Baht I gave her the Singapore dollars. She would show the money to a coworker and they both got a giggle out of it (or us, not sure). We decided to go for a walk to the lake from there and let me just say that crossing the road without someone to help was stressful to me; Sal dealt with it much better than I did. We started near the top of the lake and began walking and taking some pictures.
By the time we got to the bottom of the lake we decided to go find a cafe somewhere for a coffee/tea. I found a place via Google Maps that had pics of some cute coffee art, so we tried to find it. We were walking back and forth on the same street at least three times before we figured out we should look at the actual address. We then determined Google Maps was wrong and it was across the street from where we were. Do’h! Scroogled.
We sat in the little seats that you always see when you see pictures of city life in Vietnam.
The good news is nobody asked us if we each needed two seats for our larger girth. The bad news is there wasn’t any foam art. We still enjoyed our drinks in our miniature seats, and watched Hanoi go by. The people watching is something else. I took a video of the view from our little seat.
We continued to walk, and stumbled upon this church (St. Joseph’s), which was interesting looking.
I also took a video of this side street just to show the traffic even in the smaller streets.
When we checked in at the hotel we were given a map, which had lots of various things marked that were recommended. We found a Pho place that was recommended and I proceeded to have my first Vietnamese food ever. It was delicious!
The restaurant was small, no AC, but fans. It was jam packed. People love their Pho and eat it pretty quickly. Sal decided to add some spice to his and ended up adding a little too much – a container that looked like vinegar ended up being chili oil. Yikes. We walked back to the hotel for a rest, managing not to be hit by any vehicles.
We had to rest up because our real adventure for the day was going to be happening: a Hanoi Street Food Tour . I had signed us up just a few days before. I think the group tour ended up being 10 people. The cost was $20 each. I would have paid $20 just to have someone help me cross the streets in this city, so it felt like a deal when you considered we had six different stops/courses and got a free beer out of the deal.
Our tour guide was named Windy and she had a lot of energy. Later on in the tour she said she drinks four big cups of coffee a day, so that explained the energy. She was friendly and spoke very good English. She was interested in everyone, which I thought was refreshing. She asked a lot of questions. She talked about how much she liked ‘big people’. Sorta funny. She was 20 years old. When we would come to a spot where we needed to cross the street she would yell, “sticky rice!” for us to all keep close together. There were 10 of us, I think, and there was only one time that three of us got left behind on the other side of the traffic. She had to walk back and get us. There was an American woman who was actually more scared of the traffic than I was, so I helped her a little bit, which was ironic. I think. Ask Alanis.
Sal took this video of crossing one of the crazy street.
Here were the course — I liked every dish!