Vietnam Day 2: Hanoi

We had yet another great breakfast at the hotel. They have these little passionfruit yogurt cups that were amazing. They called them “passion cheese” which is a whole lot less appealing than they really were, a sort of thick yogurt like a custard but with a nice refreshing passionfruit flavor.

Our first item of the day was a self-led walking tour around the Old Quarter. We had a few places on our list, but no strict plan. First up though was to walk around the lake, maybe have a look at this temple on an island in the middle, and then down to the National History Museum.

The temple on the island was close by, but not especially appealing, and we figured we had plenty of time to come back if we felt the need to.

We moved on towards the National History Museum. Along the way we had a lot of stores to pass, many with names like Prada and Gucci. Everyone is pretty upwardly mobile, and well to do. People are dressed fairly well, and when the streets had closed down there were a lot of people out shopping. Our receptionist was using an iPhone 6. I get the feeling Vietnam’s growth is reaching the average person, and they have a quickly growing middle class. The country is technically “communist” in the way that China is communist. It has a single party (though often multiple factions within that party) and that party rules completely, though more than half the people work for private companies.

Hanoi this time of year is always “hazy” though I’m not sure how much of that is actual haze, some does seem to burn off, and how much is pollution.

The National History museum provides free lockers for you to lock up your stuff. I brought my camera bag which isn’t small and just couldn’t quite fit it in the smaller lockers. When I went to move it to a larger one I couldn’t find the lock they had handed me! I checked my pockets and jacket and the locker I’d put my bag in, it was just gone. The guards then started to do an audit of the locks and couldn’t find it either… We picked up an audio tour and moved on.

The museum wasn’t that large but had a few interesting exhibits for us. The first were these bronze drums used in a ceremony to call for rain. They apparently sound like Thunder. The second was on how Viet people used to bury their dead in large ceramic jars. And lastly about how they fought off Mongol invasion 3 times by retreating into the jungle with their food stuffs, the Mongols would then capture the cities, run out of supplies and start to retreat at which point the Vietnamese would come out of hiding and ambush them. It was very effective, and wouldn’t be the last time they’d use that tactic.

This morning Chuck woke up super early, which is his normal schedule back home, and since he wasn’t interested in the Women’s History Museum Jenn and Pam wanted to visit next, we found him a guy on a moped who would take him back to the hotel.

The Women’s museum was sort of interesting. It had 3 exhibits, the first was on family and child birth practices, the second was on women during the revolution and wars against France and the US, and third was on the costumes of the different cultures. The second exhibit was had the taste of propaganda. The third was interestingly mostly for the exhibit on teeth lacquering. The first exhibit was the best talking about the different minority groups in the country each with their different wedding traditions.

Back at the hotel we collected Chuck and walked the few blocks to a place the book had recommended. We were to eat something the lonely planet said would be a capital offense to miss, beef served in different ways over vermicelli noodles called Bún chả. The place recommended was a normal street vendor called Bún chả hàng mành – Đắc Kim that looked pretty non-descript from the street level but instead of the floors above the space being a house, each was a floor of the restaurant with us walking up a tiny spiral staircase to the 4th floor and there being more above us. The food was really good and disappointing all at once. The food itself I could tell was really great, but was nearly cold by the time it reached us. Enjoyable none the less.

We made a quick stop at the pharmacy on our way back to get some Azithromycin just in case. Jenn is sick, Pam is coming down with it, we think it’s likely viral, but if it sticks around for 2 weeks, and shows signs it might be bacterial, we’ll be on a boat in the middle of nowhere Myanmar and wouldn’t have an option to get any then. Better to have it available than not, and here you don’t need a prescription. At the time of this writing 5 days later, Jenn is over it, Pam is most the way there and Colin has come down with it, and we won’t be needing the z-pack.

Somehow Pam and Jenn got pulled into a painting gallery by an impressionist horse painting. I wasn’t very impressed but they loved it and ended up having the ladies make a copy on a smaller canvas, as well as having them do 2 additional originals. I tried to pay with my credit card, but again was declined like in Taiwan, I clearly need to call CapitalOne.

We then stopped in at the tailor. I thought he’d said it would be done by 3, but when I showed up he had the jacket partway done, with the vest and pants completed. He made a number of marks on the jacket, I asked for a change to the vest because I’m uneven and it was bunching a little under my right arm, and the pants were perfect aside from not having dress shoes to wear to see where the break sits. I’ll likely have to take the pants in to my tailor at home for that.

Back at the hotel I messaged CapitalOne on their instant messenger service since I read Google Hangouts Dialer doesn’t work in Vietnam. Worse comes to worse, I think I can VPN into work, which would then have my connection to google coming from a US IP address. Either way CapitalOne wasn’t helpful. Apparently I was shipped a replacement card with a chip about 2 years after I first asked for one, and they then deactivated my current card before its expiration date despite my having never activated the chipped card. It blows my mind that wasn’t part of what ever automated system they had setup. It would be stupid easy to just add a check to it for if I only have 1 card and it’s not a chipped card, don’t deactivate it! I was instructed to call their specialist number, so I gave Google Hangouts Dialer and it worked! The specialist also couldn’t help. They couldn’t re-activate my existing card, and they could send me new one in 10 working days, about when we’d be getting on a boat in Myanmar, so that wasn’t particularly useful. I chewed out the poor representative, it wasn’t entirely her fault.

I tried to take a nap, but was fuming still, and then I got a call from an 800 number which was capital one calling me back. I heard a little bit about an emergency card before the call dropped, I called back and went through all of the re-verification process before getting transferred back to her. She had talked to her supervisor and had been told about doing an Emergency card that would be delivered in 24-48 hours so I had it mailed to Siem Reap where I was sure to get it. They even put a $30 credit on my account. So win I hope!

We finally got to sleep and the nap ended up waking up 3 hours later around 7!

Pam asked about the flight number for their flight to Bali, so I looked in my emails and couldn’t for the life of me find it. I told her I probably filled it out to email her, but we searched her email and couldn’t find it either. I started to panic a little thinking maybe I didn’t book it. Only Mint showed me I had a 2 charges from AirAsia and the costs match my notes in my excel sheet. I tried to do an instant messenger with a representative, only I kept getting disconnected so I brought my laptop with me to dinner.

We ate at the hotel which wasn’t half bad, though again too much food even though we tried to order small!

Eventually I did get connected to AirAsia and the rep helped me easily get the itinerary which I sent to Pam. It had been with her email address, so maybe her spam filter was picking it up? Either way it’s all sorted now!

Tomorrow we’re off to the famous Halong Bay!

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