Breakfast was quite basic but hey, we’re on a boat in the middle of Ha Long Bay and dining to scenery that many people wouldn’t believe even with their own eyes. We had toast, fried eggs, some ‘laughing cow’ cheese and coffee. Fine, but not luxury.
We were lucky with our morning position which meant that we were able to make it to a little island as the first boat to arrive, and when the island opened at 7:45am we had the chance to walk up the hill to a small pagoda or swim in the sea. I chose the both option, rushing up the hill with Yvonne and snapping a few photos before heading back down for a quick dip in the water before we had to move on. It was really nice to cool down after the stairs upstairs, and the water was pretty pleasant even at 8am.
Once we finished our swim, it was time to get back on the boat and head back to land. I grabbed a last shower in the boat (which was surprisingly good) and packed up my little day bag – the full bag had stayed in Hanoi at the hotel. We also had our bills to settle, and mine came to 471,000 for the drinks and kayaking – not the cheapest drinks in Vietnam, for sure!
Whilst the captain brought us back to land, the chef gave us all a demonstration of creating vegetable flowers for presentation including an intricate lattice carved from a carrot soaked in salt water for a few hours. It was quite impressive and filled the time nicely as we headed back to the shore.
Once the demo was over we only had a couple of minutes sailing left before we reached the harbour and disembarked from our overnight home. A quick toilet break in the harbour and we boarded our bus to head back to Hanoi – another 4 hour run, meaning we would arrive in Hanoi after lunch time. Dek had promised us a stop at a restaurant but what happened was we ended up at the statue place again, where we discovered the cafe was closed and were forced to buy overpriced snacks to keep us going. I bought a couple of snacks and some postcards, and amused myself on the bus by going through some of the photos you’ve seen in the previous posts.
Once we arrived back in Hanoi, we checked back into the same hotel and they very efficiently dropped our bags back in our new rooms for us. It was nice to get back into a proper hotel after a night on the boat, but the scenery was less glamorous.
Dek had told us about a Hanoi speciality which I really wanted to try – called Egg Coffee, it is literally a shot of coffee with whisked egg yolk on top. It’s a pretty odd sounding combination which meant I had to try it! We met up after a few minutes in the hotel and headed to the cafe which is supposedly the origin of this recipe – originated as a solution to a milk shortage in Vietnam when the French occupied. Navigating the busy streets of Hanoi is an acquired skill, since there are no zebra crossings or stop lights – it’s just a case of plucking up the courage and going for it – slowly – as you cross the road and mopeds zoom around you on either side.
Cafe Giang was quite literally a back alley place, but perfect for it. We ordered our egg coffees and they quickly appeared – the tradition is to stir everything together (good, since the egg on top could literally support the spoon when it arrived) and then drink… It was a taste sensation!
I really liked the taste – review sites have likened it to liquid tiramisu and that was exactly our conclusion as well. Definitely try this if you go to hanoi!
Once we finished off our coffees, we had a little free time where I went to explore the city on foot. The streets being arranged by business type takes a bit of getting used to, but makes a lot of sense.
In the early evening we met up again as a group for our Cyclo Tour – which would give us a chance to sample the city and the crazy traffic at extremely close quarters! Our cyclos gave us a quick tour of the old city and the french quarter, which was fascinating and absolute mayhem at all the road junctions. Talk about putting your life in the hands of someone – those cyclos aren’t the most manourverable things!
Our cyclo tour dropped us off at a training restaurant which is supported by Gadventures. This restaurant helps disadvantaged teenagers train to be chefs, waiting staff and allows them to work in the restaurant setting to earn a small wage as well.
There was a set menu presented for us as part of our tour, including a simple noodle salad, spring rolls and some curried vegetables. The food tasted good and it was nice to feel we were supporting a good cause.
Once we finished our dinner, we grabbed a normal taxi back (there were too many of us to justify tuktuks) and then I shared a beer with Karl and Petra on the hotels rooftop bar before we headed to bed – we had another 7am start coming!