3 Days in Hanoi + 3 Days in Cat Ba

Oct 4, 2017

It’s been a while since I last blogged, so please forgive me for my lack of memory (hint: a lot of alcohol has also been consumed, so my memory’s a bit hazy). I always wake up just before 10am, so I can eat breakfast and savor every ounce of sleep I can get. I got eggs for breakfast (big shock) and made my morning tea (black with sugar and milk). Today was the day that the girls, Charlie and Hannah, would finally meet up with us! Their visas didn’t start until Oct 4th and they were taking the 24 hr bus from Vientiane to Hanoi.

After a slow morning, me, Liv, Josh, Jess, Mike, & Sam decided to explore. We went to Hien Kiem Lake, the famous lake around closest to downtown where apparently Hanoi was named after? The temple in the middle of the lake, which I forget the name of, is apparently a really sacred temple. We also had to cover up, no knees/shoulders shown. I had my sarong while Jess & Liv had to put on some very hilarious dress cover ups. There wasn’t really much to read/see, Vietnam doesn’t have very descriptive signs so we kinda just roamed around and enjoyed the sites.

I know this is really bad, don’t judge us, but we wanted to get some Popeyes for lunch. The Brits & Kiwi don’t have them in their country, and I had to show them why/how Popeyes was better than KFC. So, we got it right, and it’s so much different than the one in the States (go figure). It also didn’t make my stomach feel very good, probably karma for eating Popeyes in Vietnam. Liv needed to check out a different pharmacy that hopefully had bug spray with deet more than 10-15%. It was near the museum that we wanted to go to (The Vietnamese Museum of History), so we all walked with her that way. 

The pharmacy ended up being closed but there was a huge mall that had nice AC (very key after long walks) so we went inside and checked it out. There were really fancy stores like Dior, Louis Vuitton, etc in there so we really didn’t look around, we just went up and down the escalators LOL. It was also pouring outside, so we wanted to kill some time before walking in the rain again, or hopefully it would surpass by the time we got out.

Luckily it did, so we took that time to walk to the museum. I thought this national history museum would be a good one, something very informational (which I really really like). I LOVE learning about different cultures, it’s something I enjoy doing when I go to a different country. However, this museum was nothing like I expected. Instead of exhibits with descriptive signs, appealing artwork, and culturally significant dates, it just displayed a lot of rocks, artifacts of different time periods with maybe a small description of why it was important. I was kinda disappointed, but I can’t expect everything to be like the British Museum or Smithsonian’s in DC.

We were all really exhausted by the end of the museum. We’d already done a lot of walking and been on our feet the whole day. Some of us wanted to take a taxi back to the hostel, that’s how tired we were. But it was only .8 miles away, so we opted to walk again. I got some boba to kinda give me that little oomph of energy.  Please don’t mind me, I really forgot what we did the rest of the night.

I think we met up with the girls around 6, who said their bus ride wasn’t bad at all (stark contrast to Ida who had a bus ride from hell). They said they would do the bus if they could again, because their experience was that good. I don’t remember what I had for dinner, it might have been another Banh Mi. Liv and I went to go find alcohol. Our hostel gives out free beer from 6pm-7pm, so I think we had some free beers before going to find cheaper alcohol.

We couldn’t bring alcohol into the hostel, a stupid rule they give to so that we buy overpriced alcohol from their bar. Liv and I said FUCK DAT, she bought a bottle of wine while I bought a small bottle of vodka and drinking yogurt (for chase). We brought the alcohol in her room where we pregamed (or in British terms predrink). It was really funny because Liv didn’t have a cork screw for the wine bottle, so she took a pen and pushed the cork all the way through. I almost finished the whole bottle before we went outside where the rest of the gang was at. Across the street from our hostel, there are 2 Vietnamese older ladies who sit outside with a keg, selling beer for 5,000 dong. Josh, Charlie, Hannah, Mike, Sam, and Jess were all sitting there. Hannah gave me 2 more shots (after I nearly finished my bottle in the room), and I got pretty dang drunk.

I don’t remember the rest of the night, just snippets, but I know we went back to the hostel and danced. At around 11:30pm they have a “pub crawl” but really it’s just a fancy name for them to gather everyone and kick them out so other’s can sleep. So, at 11:30 we went to this “pub crawl” and they brought us to this random club. They basically just dump everyone at one place and leave because this club was the only place we went to that night. We were there for nearly 2 hours before it got so hot we couldn’t stand it anymore. It was so close to our hostel so we just walked back and I went to sleep.

Oct 5, 2017

I was a little hung over this morning, so instead of eggs, I finally mixed it up and got some fruit with yogurt (you had to buy the yogurt for an extra 10,000 dong but it was worth it). It was a slow morning but we all gathered together to go back to the Note Cafe, where we got egg coffee the first time.  The girls wanted to try it, so instead of getting an egg coffee I wanted to try their coconut latte. We all sat upstairs where we filled out more notes and fucked around till our coffee came. I was the first to order and the last to get my drink. It was like 20-30 minutes later, after I’ve repeatedly told the lady I got a coconut latte, where she came to me and told me she gave my latte to someone else by mistake and if it was ok that I’d take the egg coffee instead. I really wanted the coconut latte, so I was like, no thanks I really want the coconut latte. After waiting for another 10 minutes I finally got my coconut latte. It was pretty delish. 

So, don’t judge me again, but we were still really craving some Western food. We went into the same complex as the Popeyes and decided on Dominos. I had a yummy personal pizza to myself. We were all pretty hung over and tired, so after pizza all of us except for Hannah and Charlie went back to the hostel to chill on the 5th floor. The 5th floor basically a lounge with couches, bean bags, computers, a balcony, a TV and a bar. Most of us tried to nap/relax. I think I got like a 10 minute nap in, but I mostly just chilled for like 3 hours. Ida had also joined us, she was staying at another hostel before this and didn’t come to Sapa with us because she’d already seen it.

Around 6pm, we went back downstairs for the free beer. There was also a Pub Quiz at 7pm, so we just chilled in the lobby, drank some beers, ate fries (again with the Western food I know). The Pub Quiz was kinda fun. There were 4 rounds of 10 questions with different categories. But between each round, they would have like a 15-30 min break that lasted way longer than it needed to. They really just wanted people to buy more drinks during this time so I think that’s why it lasted so long. By the time the 4th round came, people were so uninterested because the breaks were so long and people just kept leaving. I don’t even think we got the results in because they tallied it up while we were outside drinking again. This time I split a big bottle of vodka with Sam. I have no idea what was in that vodka (or maybe it was the 4 mix drinks we had previously) but I got REALLY drunk. I think we went to the Prague Bar to smoke again (where I lost my precious fan) but I don’t really remember the rest of the night (I think we might have been the only people DRUNK).

Oct 6, 2017

I woke up around 9am since we had to check out today and the bus to Cat Ba would pick us up around 11am. I still had to pack, eat, and get ready. While this seems like an easy task, it was incredibly difficult because I woke up drunk. I have no idea why I woke up drunk or how, this has never really happened to me before (because when I usually wake up drunk it’s at like 5-6am and I can just go back to sleep and sleep it off). But, this time it was at 9am in the morning and it lasted all the way until I got in the bus. 

The bus to Cat Ba was so incredibly difficult. By the time I was on the bus, I started to sober up and felt really really sick. It didn’t help that I was on a moving, uncomfortable bus. So once we stopped I made myself puke (it was all liquid even tho I had breakfast) and immediately felt better. In order to get to Cat Ba, we would have to take an 1 1/2 hr bus to a harbor, take a 15 minute ferry to Cat Ba, then sit for another 45 mins to our hostel. The journey was interesting, but I was just happy to finally get to our hostel. We booked Central Backpackers Hostel, it was pretty far from town, something we didn’t put into consideration when we booked. It was also raining when we arrived, so we couldn’t do anything without transportation. 

Since it was far away from town, we just ordered food at the hostel’s restaurant. We heard that this dish “Bun Cha” was really good, so 4 of us ordered that. It was a super rich dish, that would’ve probably been better on the streets of Hanoi but I still enjoyed it. The rest of the night we just chilled and drank. I was feeling pretty ill from the night before (or morning???) and I tried to drink. But the first drink I had, I just couldn’t stomach it and thought it would be better if I just stayed in for the night and take a night off. The rest of the group’s plan was to take a taxi to town since the bars are open to pretty late. When they finally decided to book it, the front desk said that taxis usually don’t run after 12am. It wouldn’t make sense for them to go out at this point since it was like 10:45pm. I went up at this point to try and sleep while they all went into the pool, drunk.

Oct 7, 2017

So, I didn’t sleep like at all. I forgot that I had drank a whole pot of green tea at 9pm to help with my sore throat the night before. I sat awake all night trying to sleep, which I did finally at 6:30am. This always happens to me and I always forget to not drink caffeine after a certain time. My dorm was also the first one up the stairs from the lounge area, and the music and people echoed so loud up to my room. The music didn’t stop until 12am (the latest I’ve heard any hostel turning off their music) but people were well loud up until 1am (again, something not very common in most places because they usually kick people out around 12 at the latest). So I woke up in time for breakfast and ordered fruit and yogurt. I was super exhausted at this point since I’d barely gotten any sleep. It was pouring down rain at this point, so I told them I was going up to try and nap for a little bit longer.

Liv came in my room around 12pm to tell me the plan. We’d go to town around 2pm and just stay there for the rest of the night so we wouldn’t have to pay for another taxi. I got ready and gathered with everyone. I’d only maybe got an hour of sleep but I felt a little better (and less exhausted). Our plan was to go to this beach bar, but before we left most of us got food from the hostel. I had some spring rolls while we played Bullshit, a fun card game that I learned back in Chiang Mai.

We got a huge taxi for all 9 of us to take us to this beach bar. It was probably a bad idea because it was pouring down rain. When we got there we realized it wasn’t a good bar, and all the people there (maybe Chinese tourist) were all huddling in the bar for cover from the rain. We were there for a good 5 minutes before we reevaluated and decided to leave to Oasis Bar. So we paid for another taxi to take us from the beach bar to Oasis.

By this time it was already 4pm, and we were like well fuck we might as well stay here for the rest of the night (we heard it was the best bar in Cat Ba). The stupid thing was that we started drinking so early, ate, then tried to drink again but didn’t get drunk because we were all full from the food. I spent a lot of money because I split a bottle of wine with Liv, had a few cocktails with Sam, ordered fish which was expensive, and got a few balloons. Not very economical this time around…and I didn’t even get drunk (lame). We were all exhausted by the time 9:30-10 rolled around, so we just got a cab back.

I was SOOOO tired because I didn’t get a good nights rest the night before. The hostel wasn’t as crazy this night but the music still blasted into our room. Everyone who was in our room actually was in for the night, and we all were talking around 10pm. I didn’t even realize that I fell asleep I was that tired. All I remember was talking with my roomies one second, and then the next waking up in the middle of the night for a drink of water.

Oct 8, 2017

So, I was really happy I got a good nights sleep because we had to wake up early for our tour that would pick us up at 8am. I was also really happy that I packed the night before so I wouldn’t wake the others in our hostel. I got semi ready (everything except brush my teeth) and went downstairs for breakfast. I got scrambled eggs again (so shocking, I know). We were all ready to go at 8am when the bus picked us up. We were really nervous about booking this tour since it’d been raining nonstop the first 2 days we were in Cat Ba. We didn’t want to stay on the island any longer, so we booked this tour hoping for the best.

When we woke up in the morning, it wasn’t raining and there were some blue skies behind the thick cloud coverage. Our bus took us to a harbor where we were to board a boat. This would be a tour of Halong Bay where we could kayak, snorkel, and hike. On the boat they took us through the fishing village of Halong Bay where the community literally lives on boats. It’s so cool to see: there are kids playing in the water, dogs on each house boat, tons of nets out (which also might be a bad thing since I heard something about overfishing), and people living and thriving on the water.

Our first stop was kayaking and I shared a PINK double kayak with Sam (it was the only pink kayak and I felt really special lol). When we got out onto the water it was also sunny! So sunny Liv even got sunburned (poor thing, luv ya Liv). It was so beautiful, kayaking through different tunnels and areas. It was peaceful and amazing at the same time. All I could do was take in the beauty (and paddle my ass/arms off). There was a really cool cave that we paddled through that even had bats flying around. The only negative to this beautiful place was all the trash (and quite a lot of it) that we paddle through. It just reminds me why I’m so eco-friendly and why to try my hardest to consume less. We’re polluting our planet at such a rapid pace and places like this won’t be beautiful anymore the more we consume/waste.

After kayaking we got on the boat to eat lunch. Lunch was included and they prepared a really nice meal for us. There was tofu, chicken and veggies, fish cakes (that were so gross and fishy), veggies, salty peanuts, and fried spring rolls. It was very yummy even though I couldn’t eat a lot of it (cuz I have a small tummy). We then made our way to the next stop which was swimming/snorkeling. Once there, we could jump from the top of the boat to the water. Most of jumped from the top. It was pretty scary but thrilling jumping from the very top to the ocean below. At first I grabbed goggles, but after I realized they sucked I gave them to Mike. So, I didn’t really snorkel but I swam and enjoyed the little beach with the others. The water was so warm but refreshing at the same time. 

Whilst this was happening, we still had great weather! We lucked out for sure, if it was pouring rain while we were kayaking I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did (I would’ve probably been a miserable, cold mess). We made our way to the next stop, Monkey Island. We were able to chill on the top of the boat as well, taking in the sights and sunshine. When we got to Monkey Island, we were told by our guide that we could feed the monkeys that live there, and also hike to the very top of the island where we could get a beautiful 360 view. There was also a beach if we wanted to swim.

Most of us opted to hike, except Liv (who was very sunburned at this point) and Jess, who was sleepy from the night before. We saw the monkeys immediately. Our tour guide was giving them nuts, literally handing it to them. We watched them for a little then made our way up the mountain. We thought it was going to be an easy hike…SIKE. It was basically rock climbing, you had to use all 4 limbs to stabilize yourself because it was steep and rocky. There was also only one way up and one way down. So if people were coming down you had to get out of their way so they can safely make their way down. There was also a wait at the top. It was that narrow that only a few people could sit at the very top at a time. But, alas, we all made it to the top. The worst part was getting down. The jagged rocks seemed steeper than they did on the way up. It took us way longer to get down than up, but we all made it.

Once we joined Liv and Jess, they discreetly told us that someone had been bitten by a monkey and another stung by a jellyfish. I didn’t feel bad for the girl that got bit by the monkey, it was the same girls that took 983747232347 pictures on the boat, on the beach, with the snorkel, in different poses, basically the whole time instead of actually taking part in the activities (who takes bum pics on the beach?!? I mean really come on). She was probably taunting them with the food to get a selfie or something (her poor boyfriend was taking all the pics too).

After they told us this, we heard a scream. I immediately turned around and saw a monkey running back to a tree and a girl grabbing her leg in pain. It looked like she got bit. I asked her if she got bit, and she showed me her leg. Our table was right by the first aid, so I felt compelled to help her. She had some band aids but I told her she needed to clean it. At this point she was either in shock or a lot of pain because she was in tears. I gave her the antiseptic ointment and she just shook her head as she sobbed. I was like (in my head), well fuck you need to clean it a damn monkey just bit you. So I took the initiative and put that stuff on a cotton ball, she still shook her head and said “no, no” like I was going to kill her or something. FInally after some encouragement from my friends she let me clean her wound. I then put two band aids on it. She was thankful (kinda), and then for some reason asked me if I worked there. LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL I know I’m Asian but there’s no way I sound remotely Vietnamese, I have a damn American accent. So that was a little racist but whatever. I just thought I’d be nice to her cuz she didn’t know what to fucking do. One of the Vietnamese guys that worked there told my friends that people get bit everyday because the monkeys get agitated and the tourist get a little too comfortable. I guess if you try and approach them with no food then they’re like “fuck you” and bite you.

So after that crazy fiasco, we were finally on our way back to Cat Ba.  We went through the fishing village again, a sight so amazing to witness. Once back at the hostel, we all took showers and changed. We wanted to go back into town for dinner and had to call another cab. We found this local Vietnamese restaurant (they lured us in with free beer). I got this delish fried rice dish with chicken and tomato paste (?). The restaurant was run by this super cute Vietnamese family who were eating dinner as well. They had 3 cute little boys and a black lab puppy chained out in front (soooo cuuuute).

After dinner we went bar hopping. We had one drink at Oasis again and ended up at Rose Bar, where we spent most of our time. I guess we were having too much fun there because we under estimated the time. At around 11:40pm we asked the bar to call us a cab, but they said the cab companies weren’t responding. Well fuck. So we walked back to Oasis bar hoping they could call us a cab. They said no one was answering. So, we were running around with our heads cut off trying to figure out how we’re going to get back to the hostel. It would be a 45 minute to an hr walk. Finally, some of the people in our group asked some dudes on motorbikes if they would take us back to our hostel. With a bit of convincing ($$), they agreed to take us. There were 4 people on our bike…a little sketchy but we made it. After, I packed a little, chatted with our roomies, and went to sleep.

Oct 9, 2017

I woke up in time for breakfast again (don’t ask me what I got because you already know). We chilled out before our van picked us up at 12:30 to Hanoi. It was the same company that took us to Cat Ba. So it was a van, to the ferry, to a bus. I was super tired so I slept majority of the time on the bus. It wasn’t full so I was able to sprawl out on one seat and get comfy.

So, that basically took most of our day because we arrived at Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel Downtown (the same hostel we were at before we left) around 5pm. We were really hungry so we went on a hunt for food. The group was craving Banh Mi, while Sam and I wanted something different. Right as we were approaching the Banh Mi shop, there was a Pho Bo food stall that looked so delish.We decided to eat that while the others had Banh Mi. It was probably the best pho I’ve had in Vietnam so far. 

The rest of the night consisted of drinking across the street at the 5,000 kip beer stall, sneaking drinks in our room and drinking/having a great fucking time, and ending up at Prague Bar. Ida and I drunkenly got pizza downstairs hahaha. The rest got like 2 banh mi’s after Prague bar because they had the munchies. It was a great night that doesn’t need to go into much detail other than we got drunk and had a merry good time. We also we all in the same room which made it even better.

Thanks everyone for paying attention to my mundane blog. It’s a little hard to remember so far back but I’m trying really hard to remember all the best details. If anyone has any advice/comments/concerns please don’t be afraid to voice them. I would love to know what you feel/how you feel about my thoughts and if you have anything that you would change or do differently when it comes to what I put out. Thanks for reading up to this point, I love and miss you all! Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!

*P.S. My pics aren’t loading and I have hella more I can upload so I might do it later, just not now 😢

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