Hanoi, Halong Bay & Night Train to Hoi An

13 Things We’ve Learned So Far...

 A street vendor in Hanoi

A street vendor in Hanoi

 

  1. You can order Uber Moped in Hanoi.
  2. Toilet paper does not go down drain but rather in bin next to toilet (doesn’t smell as bad as you might think).
  3. Tipping is typically not necessary but quite common in tourist areas.
  4. Most Vietnamese cannot swim.
  5. Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language meaning every word is one syllable. That said, one word can have various meanings if said with differing intonation. 
  6. If you use the toilet on a boat, close the curtain as a woman might paddle up to your window and attempt to sell you vegetables.
  7. 90% of Vietnamese still eat dog, but because of custom, not because they like the taste (They actually heavily season it with ginger root and another spice to make it pallatable. Vietnamese mothers also tease children when naughty, asking if they would like to meet the spices used to cook dog.). They also only eat a certain breed referred to as Vietnamese dog.
  8. Vietnamese workers typically work 25 days of the month with only Sundays off.
  9. Vietnamese cannot easily leave the country as there is a heavy burden of proof by other countries for an individual to prove their ties to Vietnam so they will not violate their visa.
  10. Chinese tourists are universally disliked for traveling in groups and being loud and rude.
  11. Korean tourists also travel in groups and are loud but hilarious and like to take pictures with white people (whiter/taller/blonder the better).
  12. The best Vietnamese coffee — Weasel — is made from coffee beans that have passed through a carniverous nocturnal animal and then collected (and I assume somehow cleansed?). Don’t worry, Derek — I’m sending you some.
  13. Egg coffee is rich and delicious. Appears to be a raw egg along with condensed milk poured on top of a coffee. ALSO condensed milk is delicious.

It’s been five days since our last entry, during which we’ve spent a day in Hanoi, three days on a boat in Ha Long Bay and one on a train on our way to De Nang (and in turn Hoi Ann).

On Hanoi, we’ve learned it’s currently ranked second most polluted city in the world (behind Dehli) which makes since as the sun seems to set a few inches higher above the horizon than it should. We’ve also gotten the hang of crossing traffic which essentially requires someone to keep moving and assume mopeds and cars will go behind you. We also learned the small altars located at many hotels and restaurants are for daily prayers and offerings around the Chinese New Year. There is often money, biscuits, fruit and vegetables donated here — after which, anyone is free to receive these gifts as a reward from the gods (I couldn’t pin down exactly which religion it was). 

On our last day in Hanoi we also visited a section of homes and business built along a railroad track. I had wrote on Instagram that it was abandoned — it was not — these homes and businesses simply packed up when the train came and braced themselves until it passed. One coffeeshop even had seating and signage on the tracks that they would move when a train approached.

 Halong Bay 

Halong Bay 

Before we left for our trip, our friends in Minnesota had surprised us at our going away dinner with a OVERGENEROUS wad of cash to use on our travels. A few days ago, we were presented the opportunity to take a boat tour through Ha Long Bay for two nights and decided to use the wad on that and it was absolutely incredible! There was about 12 guests on the boat which included a cabin for each couple, along with a shared dining room and deck above with deck chairs and another seating area for dinner. We spent the following three days kayaking, swimming and sightseeing through Ha Long’s various caves and mountain views. Since Vic’s last visit here four years ago, it has became significantly more developed, with many more boats flocking on day trips than previous seasons. That said, our second day was excellent as we were able to take a smaller boat down south where there were less big groups and kayaked to a small natural beach where we swam and sunbathed. The meals were incredible and included about 5 courses for lunch and dinner. So, of course — THANK YOU FRIENDS!