The morning saw us up early and ready to be collected for the long, long journey back to Hanoi. I had awoke with a bit of an earache – must have been the rice wine the night before eh – but this would not hold up the proceedings today! We waited downstairs with our gear at the ready until eventually the bus arrived and once again we set off back to the point where the small boat had dropped us off yesterday only to be collected by the same boat and be taken back to our much larger boat to be greeted by our former crew.
Once aboard the boat we made some tasty Vietnamese Spring Rolls – well I say made, we actually rolled the filling in some spring roll skins. The chef mentioned in front of the assembled that I had a bit of flair in my rolling technique which, to be fair, should have been quite good – thanks to Daloon (a spring roll manufacturer I had worked for twenty years ago – but you never forget … lol). These rolls that we had ‘made’ then became the centre piece of the lunch which followed and it was all very delicious, even the spring rolls! Once lunch was eaten we then embarked upon the journey back to Hanoi. This was an absolute trek and a half by anyone’s standards and by this time we considered ourselves to be almost hardened travellers, you know backpackers (or even flashpackers) of sorts.
Our boat took took the reverse journey of the other day, first back to Ha Long port and then the long bus journey back to Hanoi. Although somewhat protracted it is not one of the World’s worst journeys as it was quite interesting. The road is not the greatest considering it being a major roadway and there are a lot of holes and a lot of roadworks as you near the city but the views it offers, although not exactly scenic, are somewhat charismatic. The rice fields, unlike those in the countries we had visited thus far, were being worked on a more industrial scale and in earnest, these were not fields that were simply there for the tourists. These fields were there to produce rice and in some quantity, there was even a greater degree of mechanisation than we had seen before but we are still not talking cutting edge engineering but Vietnam is definitely a country seeking improvements to their standard of living and you can see this in their work ethic. There were also a lot more industrial factories along the road too and some of these were of a look not unlike their European counterparts either. Once again we stopped off at the ‘service station’ and although tempted, I did tend to feel that a 500kg Granite statue of Buddha was a touch too much to carry, maybe next time we are passing through.
As we neared Hanoi though the sky was doing some sort of ‘end of the World is nigh’ look, grim was not even close and the clouds actually seemed to be swirling. I would not have been surprised if I had seen Dorothy’s house (from the Wizard of Oz) spinning around and descending towards the Earth. The heavens did open as we arrived at our hotel and the weather was so bad that it actually caused a blackout at the hotel and surrounding streets. Once inside though we rested up for a while whilst the mega-storm raged on outside – I say storm but although the Vietnamese on the streets were getting soaked they did not bat an eyelid. We did not know whether or not we should be changing into our swimwear for the night’s events, which were to involve meeting an old friend of ours from the Philippines – All Hands to be precise – Muriel, our French petit chou-fleur and un all round good ouef.
We went to a restaurant near Saint Josephs to meet our friend. The eatery was French too but Muriel when she arrived was accompanied by a couple of Brits so it goes to show that all things balance out I suppose. They seemed a good bunch and Muriel seemed to be really up for the challenge of teaching the Vietnamese children under her care. The food was also very good and we did not have to be up too early tomorrow so treat ourselves to a beer or two, however Muriel and her helpers did have to be up early and they had a ways to get back home so they got a taxi whilst we made the arduous walk home but at least it did not rain any more so we did not have to swim!