For the last time of our trip, we’d have to wake up at 7am. We gathered our thoughts after the alarm clock rang, put on some clothes then stumbled down several flights of stairs for breakfast. We were given another feast with various dishes to choose from, they included eggs, fruit, bread, and like always, my least favourite… Rice. James and Jamie joined us halfway through, after they received a wake up call from Popeye. The guys informed us, after we left them the night before they headed to a karaoke bar. There was incriminating evidence on James’ phone that showed the drunken louts murdering some well known favourites. When we were done we all returned to our rooms. With 20 minutes left to spare before having to leave the building, Sarah had a quick shower. We were supposed to be on the bus for 8:30am, however, when the clock rolled around to 8:31, we had Popeye knocking on our door to hurry us along. In the lobby we paid for the drinks we had been drinking during our stay, then hopped on the minibus waiting outside. This bus took us half an hour down the road, where we’d get back on the Fantasea boat. On the bus journey we had the pleasure of listening to happy hardcore techno music, combine that with the fact every seat on the bus had no more than ten centimetres of legroom, it made for a very uncomfortable ride.
On the boat the four of us remained around the table for the while journey. As sitting on top deck would have been somewhat redundant given that the weather outside was grey and miserable, meaning the views of the spectacular surrounding islands wouldn’t have been as impressive. When we reached Halong Bay the captain dropped anchor about five hundred metres from the port. He did this so we could enjoy one last feast, before climbing ashore and enduring a 4 hour bus journey back to the hell hole that was Hanoi. The food was just as good as any it’s predecessors, the staff brought out dish after dish. For dessert they brought out a plate of watermelon slices which were arranged to resemble a fish. After the boat was parked at the harbour we were guided by Popeye across the street to a road side coffee shop. We had to wait there for half an hour before our minibus showed up, it was then a rat race to get aboard before anyone else, and ensure we got seats with reasonable legroom.
It was Sarah and I against an older Spanish fellow. With me lumbering the bags it allowed Sarah to hop on first. She chose a set of seats behind the driver, which although had limited leg room, it would suffice for the journey ahead. During our trip we made a small half an hour stop at a service station much like the previous one we visited on the way there. They sold a strange array of items from ceramic dishes to jewellery. Noticing they sold fruit, and it was lacking in our diets, Sarah bought half a watermelon, yes half. We did our best to weed out the pips. I devoured the most part of it, on accounts of Sarah being full after only a few slices. We then boarded the bus for the final hour and a half.
Eventually arriving back at Hanoi amongst the hustle and bustle of it all, we were dropped off outside James’s hotel. We were told when the bus stopped we had to move quickly to prevent blocking the road. It reminded me of the scene from Saving Private Ryan when the troops have to run up the beach. Inside, the kind lady who arranged our trip informed us she had reserved a room at another one of her hotels. Jamie wouldn’t be joining us as he had a train to catch that evening. We said our goodbyes to both him and the lady, before being given an escort to walk us to our new hotel.
This sister hotel was just as well ran and went by the name Little Hanoi Diamond (formerly lucky star hotel). I highly recommend this place to anyone who is thinking about visiting Hanoi, as you are certainly well catered for. Unfortunately there were no elevators in the building, meaning we had to climb five flights of stairs to reach our room, James had to climb six. The rooms were amazing. Very spacious, containing a double bed, a single bed, and an en suite bathroom (including a tub). Without question, we were very happy to be spending a night there.
While Sarah had a bath I attempted to Skype my mum, she didn’t answer unfortunately, so I used that time to unpack the bag from our trip. When Sarah was dried and dressed she then decided to ring her parents. The call went on for around 40 minutes, during which time James came down and caught the tail end of it. The 3 of us then went out to enjoy some food. Being the one leading our expedition, I suggested we went to the lake. My followers were pleased with this idea. However, Sarah took the lead of finding us a good spot when we arrived. After passing the weekend night market we lost her, all she could think about was the tat they’d be selling.
James then stood up to the plate, he crossed over the road, heading back in the direction we’d came (and possibly with a bit of luck), he found a place called Avalon. Inside, we had to catch an elevator to the fifth floor in order to reach the restaurant. When we sat, they had the best food we’d had yet. I ordered some ribs and a pizza, Sarah ordered spaghetti bolognese, and James ordered a delicious Vietnamese dish comprised of beef and noodles. Before we left, we took some photos from the balcony of the surrounding city streets, then headed back to the hotel.
We couldn’t just go straight to the hotel however, as Sarah really wanted to visit the night market. The darn thing covered several streets in length. James and I were not all that keen whatsoever, but knew we couldn’t leave Sarah to walk around alone. You could even say we were mortars that evening. We eventually made it all the way around, ending back on the road that would lead us to our hotel. James didn’t want to join us in our room for movies and chilling, instead, for reasons unbeknown to us, he returned to his own room alone. When the pair of us got back in it was around 11pm, which meant it was a reasonable time back home to ring our parents, again. This time I did get through to my mum, but it was quite distracting trying to make a phone call with another one going on at the same time. It was good to know everything was going well, and everyone was ok. I then said my goodbyes, happy in the knowledge it was near freezing back home and we’d soon be leaving Hanoi for warmer climates down south.