Friday 1 September, hazy, fine, 32°
We had a wee sleep in and got up at 7:30am, went upstairs for breakfast and left at 8:30am to walk to Ho Truc Bach and Ho Tay Lakes. We walked through the old town and then northwest to the lakes and arrived at about 9:30am ( it would have been quicker if we could have used the footpaths to walk on, but they were busy as a parking places for scooters ). We then got nabbed by a couple of fruit sellers, who offered to take photos for us and then immediately put their hats on us so we felt obliged to take photos with them on, and then to buy some bananas and mangoes from them. Probably the most expensive fruit we have ever bought!
We stopped for a drink at the Highlands Coffee, which is located in a 2 storey building, on a floating platform on the edge of the lake, and then carried on walking to a Taoist temple, Den Quan Thanh, just south of the lakes. After a few weeks of visiting Buddhist temples it felt a bit strange to be able to keep our shoes on as we wandered around inside the temple. After a quick look around ( temple fatigue is probably starting to set in ; we are not as wowed as we used to be by temples ) we walked along the causeway that separates the 2 lakes, past people fishing and chatting, to another temple, Chua Tran Quoc, which sits on a little island in Tay Ho Lake. This is a very photogenic temple, with a very tall Chinese pagoda dominating the island, and is the scene for a few sunset photos of Hanoi. We were there in the morning in the haze, so it probably wasn't looking it's best, but we walked around and took some photos ( shoes off in part only of this temple ) and then headed back across to the main causeway at 11am.
The lakes were not looking there best this morning with the haze and a fair amount of floating rubbish in the water, but it was a pretty part of town with the temples on the lakes and the tree lined causeway.
We needed to check out of our hotel at 12pm, so we walked ( briskly ) back from the lakes through the Truc Bach district and back into the Old Quarter. We arrived at the hotel at 11:45am, went up and finished packing, and then checked out. We had time to kill until our train at 10pm, so we decided we would just relax and wander around with no real plan.
We headed for a Starbucks for lunch ( but mainly to get 4 hours of good speed free wifi ) and then to a couple of camera shops, another cafe for a juice, then up Pho Ly Thai which is quite a pretty street, and back to Highlands Coffee for another drink to people watch for a while and connect to the wifi.
We hadn't bothered buying sim cards in any country ( and weren't planning to ) but instead had relied on free wifi at the cafes, restaurants and hotels. It was actually quite nice not to be constantly connected to the world ( and those constant notifications and emails that come with it ) but instead we could choose when we wanted to check in and see what was happening in the rest of the world, and then unplug and focus on the places around us.
As I was looking for locations to shoot the upcoming sunset on the net I noticed that the May de Ville Hotel ( which was literally across the road from our hotel ) had a roof top bar / restaurant with a view to the west. So at 5:15pm we walked up to the hotel entrance, walked through the lobby, told the receptionist that we were heading upstairs to the bar, rode the lift to the 10th floor, walked past the staff in the restaurant and headed up to the roof. We had a great view out across the Old Quarter and to the CBD between us and setting sun. At one point one of the waiting staff came over and asked if we were just taking photo, and she seemed happy that we were ( and probably thought we were guests ) and then left us alone.
After we had watched the sun disappear behind the clouds we headed back down to ground level and back to the same restaurant that we had dinner at last night, had another great dinner, walked back through the walking street Night Market ( which happens every Friday ) and then back to our hotel at 8:30pm
We ordered a Uber ( D25000 / NZ$1.50 ) and jumped in when it arrived and headed to Ga Ha Noi ( Hanoi Train Station ), which took about 15 minutes. We joined the multitude sitting in the waiting room and waited for our train to be called. We knew we were in the right place when lots of other foreigners started to arrive, obviously grabbing the same train as us.
We got on our train ( SE3 ) at 9:15pm, settled in to our lower bunks ( we had a first class cabin, which had 4 bunks, 2 up and 2 down, and a table ), said hello to the Vietnamese couple who were in the top bunks ( they spent most of the trip with their family in the next cabin ), the train left the station on time at 10pm, and then we went to bed. Right from the start the train was rocking all over the place but we were both tired enough not to care. We made a few stops during the night, which normally woke us when the train stopped, but we both slept well.
This leg of the train trip cost us D2,000,000 / NZ$120 for the 2 of us.
We would see where we were when we woke in the morning.