|Saturday 28th Sep
We had a comfortable night last night, Tony is up around 5am to catch the sunrise, unfortunately not a spectacular one, but pretty all the same. He gets a few photos and heads back to bed for a bit more sleep. Cynthea is up early for a bit of Tai Chi on the top deck. Breakfast is at 7am, a bit early but that is how they do things here, governed more by the sunrise than by the clock.
Since arriving we have noticed that people appear to be playing musical boats, some that were with us last night are no longer here, and there are new faces. After breakfast we get in the tender to go to Luon cave to do some kayaking. On the way we stop at another boat to pick up a few people that had slept in and missed their tender to go kayaking. At the cave, the kayak is moored at a floating jetty, so it is difficult for Cynthea to get into the little boat. We see that there are large boats that seat a few people, and Peter arranges us to go in one of those instead. We have the boat to ourselves, costs us an extra US$7 ($11). We come out of the cave to see a group of monkeys on the shore. One of the others in a kayak has nosed into the shore and a couple of the monkeys have climbed on board (what did they expect), and have to be gently encouraged off. Not sure what they were after, they will not (should not) be used to people feeding them because those in kayaks are unlikely to have food with them. There is a bit of a scrap between the males, and we are amazed at how well they can climb the cliff face.
We are back on the boat by 10am to check out of our cabins, so the staff can clean them for the next group (when we arrive back at the marina another group boards within minutes of us leaving).
At a cooking class, we are taught how to make rice paper rolls with varying degrees of success, and no actual cooking was involved. We get to eat the evidence of a botched job.
Lunch is served early, and we are back at the marina around midday, We pay our bar tab, two beers and a fruit juice VND296K, $21. Then it is on to the tender to take us all of 300m again, and we wait for the bus back to Hanoi. It is another four hour trip with a stop at another expensive factory, selling the same stuff as the first one we visited, at the same high prices.
We are back at Hanoi Sky, this time our room is on the top floor (7th), we have a small lounge this time, separate from the bedroom. We are slowly getting used to the rocks in our mattresses. We look out the window to see that the fire escape is completely enclosed, and we have to open a window and climb out that in an emergency. Probably not good if that area fills with smoke. There is a ladder taking us all the way straight down to the ground floor, no stairs. We hope we don’t have to use it! Guess that is why there is a gas mask in the room, but there is only one, a case of first up perhaps?
Night markets are on tonight, so we walk down town to check it out, a must do when you are here over a weekend. The market is at the head of Hoan Kiem Lake in town, by the crazy roundabout. A lot of the streets are closed to traffic (except for a few cheeky buggers on scooters). The main market street is about 1500m long, and pretty much anything you want is here for sale. Lots of knock off stuff, some of it quite good quality (they call them super fakes). We see the police clearing a stall, and speculate as to why. We didn’t see what was being taken away, and wonder if they did not pay the police any fee to remain there? As expected we are constantly hassled the whole time we are there, but we cannot buy too much. It is food we are after, and we try roll up ice cream. It is a big thing here (we will see it everywhere we go), and for VND30,000 ($2) we get a tub of ice cream, made on the spot. They have a cart with a freezing plate, dump the ice cream mix on the plate, add flavouring, and then set about mixing it with spatulas (they look like paint scrapers!). They chop up and down with the spatulas, spreading the mix out, chopping it again, spreading it out, probably a lot of it is for show, and like everything else around here it is done with a lot of noise. Finally they spread it into a rectangle shape, and let it freeze, then cut into wide strips. Then they use the spatulas to roll the ice cream into tube shapes which are dropped into a cup. Something different. They also have “cloudy” ice cream, balls of fruit ice cream that are dropped into liquid nitrogen, to freeze instantly, and they “steam” when you eat them. We don’t try them, but see them in lots of markets as we travel around.