We needed to apply for our Indian visas and because they would take 7 days our plan was to take some time out from Hanoi and head to Halong Bay for a few days to relax. So we went straight to the embassy where the guy told us we could only pay for our visas using us dollar, not local currency (Dong). The problem with this is that you can’t change dong to dollar in any bank or exchange office anywhere, but he assured us at ANZ Bank we could do this, so when we walked around the city and found ANZ bank and realised we couldn’t we were puzzled. Then round the corner came a local lady with a huge handbag stashed with cash she kept whispering “Dollar, dollar, you want dollar?” Ahhh we understood what the guy was talking about now. We bartered for t semi decent rate, took the money and walked a few blocks back to the embassy where we were interrogated on our reasons for visiting India. I really wanted o say “I just love curry” but let Justin do the talking. Job done we walked around the city back to our hotel.
We called home that night and heard then Justin’s parents had to get the cat 'Cola’ put to sleep so we said goodbye on the webcam before he went to the vets, very sad to hear, he lived for 19 years so a very good innings indeed, goodnight Cola!
The following day we walked around to do some sightseeing, firstly we went to visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum – CLOSED, so we walked to see Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum – CLOSED, apparently he is sent to Russia once a year to be pickled so we just presumed he was off on his holidays, shame really I had a box a popcorn all ready for the viewing. So off we went walking over the road to see the palace and we got wrong off a guard for getting too close to the gate. Maybe the monument would be ok? – CLOSED. We just burst out laughing; security is so strict we just didn’t get to get up close to anything. Now coming from Cambodia where we were climbing all over Angkor Watt we found this odd. Undefeated we thought we would see the famous Water Puppet show in a theatre in Hanoi. It was virtually unknown out of Vietnam until 1960. Some local rice farmers were working in the rice fields they thought up the idea to control puppets under water and thus put on a show ‘The Water Puppet Show”. It is over 1000 years old and only about an hour long and was very basic, but a real treat to see, and what made it nice was that they have changed very little about it, it’s not modernised or changed in any way, so although it looks basic, it’s as it was. We had to guess the story as there was only music over the show, but the small group of musicians were great.
The next day we took a bus to Halong Bay to spend some time on Cat Ba Island.
Another bed night bus to Hanoi but this time we caught an earlier bus which meant we were the only foreigners on the bus, for some reason they put travellers on the 6pm bus. We did feel like the minority but the locals were really friendly, one guy in front of me kept passing back banana cake. We stopped for food at 11pm at a really shabby outside cafe, the locals were laughing at Justins ability to use chopsticks and as I went to use the hole in the ground (loo) an old lady was offering me her food (chicken foot) I politely shook my head and thanked her. Everyone kept staring at us, it must be so unusual for white people to be travelling on that bus. We were dropped off at 6am in Hanoi's armpit and jumped into a taxi to our hotel. They were really helpful and offered us a cup of tea and a room to crash until ours was ready which was nice, but then when he upgraded us to a bigger room and gave us free bottles of water then followed it by saying "You give me a 100% on hostel booker’s review" we realised he was kissing butt for us to get him a good review. Now the reason we chose to stay in this hotel was because of his amazing 100% happy customer base, it all became clear why that was.