Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11 September - lest we forget.

Awake but unprepared to move we lolled about for another hour. 'Zing' our cutsie teenage pursor knocked persistantly at our door. K leaned out the window and summoned up all the manners her mother had taught her to greet her. We were told it was breakfast time "NOW" 7.30am. We begrudgingly readied ourselves and got another terse reminder from Zing. It seemed they had a schedule we were not abiding by.

No amount of table dressing could disguise their disappointing attempt at providing a European breakfast. Nor could any amount of make up disguise my reaction. A sparse and unappetising array of limp white cold toast, bacon cut from a pressing and two fried dead eggs with three pieces of dragon frit awaited my growling stomach. After force feeding myself one piece of white death covered in NZ butter (better) and strawberry jam I filled myself uncustomarily on the Vietnamese coffee in a bid to revive myself.

That over, we were herded onto a rowboat where our captain rowed us 'punt-like''(with oars) to a nearby cave entrance where we passed through to a cute bay to look awhile. The five minute oar back was hampered by a head wind so our sole rower had to dig deep to get all 7 of us back.

Back on board for a slow and peaceful return to the drop off zone ready for collection by our driver. Our entrepreneral staff had many souvenirs to foist upon us and I purchased some lovely little pearl earrings for Georgia for $30USD. A final lunch was gratefully inhaled which left me in high spirits regardless of the downpour that followed our every arrival or departure in Ha Long.

Cossetted back in the car with the same driver from yesterday we resisted the urge to offer the spare seat to the (unwashed) German backpacker. His failure to amuse us on board had left him out on his own. K took up residence in the front seat this time to divert all oncoming traffic through a series of hand signals and shocked expressions and to avoid potential nausea.

A quicker trip back left us 'safely' deposited in our room at the Serenade in Hanoi. Showered and regrouped we then set out in a search of local 'must sees'. We dawdled in raincoats and Crocs combing the shops for all they were worth. We stopped awhile in a really interesting shop choccer with antique foreign (for Vietnam too) jewellery and tried on a really strange array of necklaces and bracelets, me settling on four bracelets to go. The owner was a man with one inch well manicured finger nails who had a really easy feel about him which made the whole transaction quite pleasurable. Some of the stuff looked like artefacts and I got a small bad omen when K put on a snake necklet with an unusaly locking mechanism. With my wrist now six deep in bracelets, I felt satisfied with my ability to maintain a collection and we marched on.

As one can never have too much lacquer ware K purchased a beautiful set of trays and me some shocking pink bowls for Trudi's upcoming birthday. (It is tradition to bring home something pink for Trudi Hall's birthday).

Hungry now, we called into a nearby Vietnamese family run cafe and settled into the cramped area alongside a couple of sets of Australians and a lone Swiss. The Swiss man reminded us of Al HW with his short grey hair and marathon running look so we engaged him in conversation. He was a maths tutor at university and on a wee sojourn (not a paedophile on the make a K had suspected.
We all sat bemused as our teenage waitress repeatedly got every instruction cocked up
while trying valiantly to run the four tables on her own. Her mother looked on from the bar eyes rolling in disdain as we smiled on knowingly.
The food was nice (fried tofu and buttery corn) the drinks average.

Back on the street, renewed, we wandered on taking note of the historic tube house that had long closed and the busying streets amping up for the evening. We were now ready for the main street event as we contemplated a local cafe called the 'Tamarind' with it's large interior and 10% discount and extensive menu we silently concurred and entered. Seated in a well air-conded area on comfy cushioned sofa seats we ordered 2 papaya cocktails, fried mushrooms and a Thai glass noodle salad to complete our vegetarian experience. The drinks, food and rest were well received and we mentally high fived ourselves on another good pick.

With repacking to do for an early start tomorrow we sauntered sated back (skillfully navigated by K) in the direction of our hotel. Nearing the turn off to our street K's scientific navigational calculations had been temporarily displaced by the recent erection of a street market around 100m long. Not one to miss a shopping opportunity or (a recent erection) we lingered through the showery weather already damp and close to a drying zone. Jam packed with sunglasses, wallets, undies, perfumes and make up each stall was much alike. We finally submitted and returned to our expertly positioned hotel Serenade to shower, repack and set the alarm for a 6.45am pickup. Once the entire contents of our bags had been taken out and reinputed we rested easy and put out the light. That's when the mosquitos or some other creature decided to dive bomb me repeatedly. Stealth on its side I couldn't hear it or see it coming but I managed to scratch myself into an irritated slumber woken rudely by the alarm at 5.30am.

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