My Vietnam Launch – Hanoi Revisited & Beyond – 2018 Backpacking
This blog reminds me of a Pericles quote but I have put a slight twist to make it more personal/ relevant and hope it also resonates with you (reader). “What you leave behind is not what is engraved on your headstone, but what you engraved into the minds and lives of others”. I was blessed and rewarded with great parents, extended families (Aunts/ Uncles/ Cousins), life friends and mentors and hope that I may have been able to do the same to others along my life journey.
Settling back into my beloved Hanoi Hotel Gratitude after my Halong Bay Cruise and the overburden of food eating that should have lasted me for days I succumbed to a very light brekky of toasts with an egg and coffee. 10 course meal sittings are really pushing limits especially when mostly lounging around on a boat. In total it was 34courses of food over the 24hrs … I felt another 10kilos heavier and my clothes a lot tighter. LOL!!!!
This Hanoi day was classed as an easy chill out day with the most excitement in catching up with my young student Julia (17) who was ‘praying’ we would have a chance to meet up again and discuss more of her schooling lessons. She was thrilled with my ongoing mentoring and she was much like a sponge in holding onto every word I spoke and sent several texts to see if I was still in Hanoi.
I walked around the well-known French Quarter (Historical Centre) alongside the famous Hanoi city lake, Ho Hoan Kiem Lake, in perfect sunshine with plenty of time till Julia could join me. I did another pass-by of the impressive and historical Nha Tho Lon Ha Noi (Grand Catholic Church – 1886) and then headed to our favourite café, The Note Coffee. This café is West of the Den Ngoc Son temple which is located on its own island within the lake mentioned above. It is a very popular park area and this café is so unique with post-it-notes covered all over the walls from tourists around the world. I took a photo of my favourite one when Julia had her first smoothie and cake .. ever!! Such an experience and her first ‘brain freeze’ through the straw. A priceless memory.
Waiting out the front of The Note Café in pleasing sunshine was a young Vietnamese teenager greeting customers at the front steps. She was so welcoming you just had to enter the café and not walk past. We had a great chat in between her duties. She was so bubbly and repeated to me I must visit her home town next; Ninh Binh. She was so proud of it and said it was the next best stop heading South with major tourist attractions.
Julia has now arrived and limping badly towards me. Thankfully, I discovered she was not injured but now wearing her sister’s smaller shoes, as her neighbour’s dog mauled one of her only shoes on their verandah, the day prior. She was so relieved we went straight into the café so she could take them off. Julia was overwhelmed when she was granted another smoothie and cake while we discussed her studies and progress. Julia was well aware now of the ‘brain’ freeze effect and now confidently stating her progress on studies, breathing rhythms and feeling of a better understanding of her education. She is more impressive every time we meet up and I’m more than confident she will excel further into the future.
It was getting late and dark of night so I walked Julia to her bus stop a few blocks away. She was keen to start on the lessons I gave her while still on the bus. So amazed at her enthusiasm. Later that night she textd me with her answers and explanations of her lessons and she was thrilled she had completed them successfully and could understand the theory & practical aspects. I applied slight pressure to see if she is coming into the city tomorrow. She could only say “hopeful”.
After brekky, I walked the city streets being on a mission. First, I walked to the Historic Centre and proceeded along the lake, past The Note Café and again the vibrant usherette was out the front and recognised me from across the street, slightly yelling “Nihn Binh”!! I was so thrilled to see her again and couldn’t wait to walk through the traffic to confirm my hotel, Hanoi Hotel Gratitude, hadbooked my bus for tomorrow morning to stay at Nihn Binh and lodge at Go Nihn Binh, a hostel converted from an old railway station. She was so thrilled and wished me safe travels. She would call out to me every time I walked close to the café “Don’t forget Ninh Binh”!!! I will miss her and every time we talked, we were filled with joy and laughter, such that I never sought her name … I have no other reason for being so dismissive, so I’m left with the memory of her face and laughter. Mind you she didn’t seek my name either which probably confirms the previous sentence. I will also miss the other friendly effervescent people of Hanoi.
Google Maps was being a real pain today and kept walking me in circles. The inner-city streets of the Historic Centre have several streets dedicated to the one or two sets of merchandise. This includes the ‘Electrical Street’, ‘Linen Street’, ‘Appliance Street’, ‘Building Street’, etc and each street goes for blocks. If you can find the right street then you can save a lot of walking. For me, I had walked approx. 4-5klms extra so I’m so getting over it! .. just trying to find ‘Shoe Street’ & I was eventually successful without Google Maps assistance. I perused a few shops and took notice which shops I preferred.
It was near time to meet up with Julia so I took great notice of this street location so I can find it without the added trauma/ drama & headed off to near The Note Café/ roundabout where the road was now cordoned off for pedestrians only. There was a large crowd gathering on the roadway where a group of dance students showed their moves according to different songs on the stereo system. This was a joyous sight, seeing everyone enjoying this interaction spectacular. After a while I headed off towards Julia’s bus stop and soon found her limping again with her sister’s shoes cramping her feet. I explained to her I found something I wanted her to see and I pushed hard knowing she had about a kilometre of limping ahead of her. She eventually agreed so I took measures in dialogue to take the limping pain far from her mind. It mostly worked thankfully. When we turned the corner, she noticed the shoe shops starting and I said I have a couple of shops to show her. Julia was confused and then realised I was buying her a pair of shoes for her. She repeatedly hesitated and didn’t wish for me to spend more money on her (cakes & smoothies) but she ultimately knew I was always going to win. Best $13USD I had ever spent after she tried on several pairs. Julia was so over the moon and showed a few tears of sheer joy. She was happy to show them off for a photo and confirmed her feet were happy too.
Bouncing on her new shoes Julia was so excited to go back to The Note Café for cake, smoothie and to talk about life & education. She was so happy to put her sister’s shoes into the shoe bag. I think she might even sleep with her new shoes still on and said the dog won’t be getting these. We talked for ages and knowing not a second to spare. Julia was so happy but became solemn when she knew I was leaving Hanoi tomorrow. I was not one for leaving either but I have the rest of Vietnam to explore and manage the time required to do so. Julia will always be in contact with me so that is pleasing. Being so late I did not hesitate to walk Julia to her bus stop. A very sad goodbye followed and she joined her bus. A gentle wave and a wry smile followed. Julia remains in contact with me to this very day. How I wish to go back and catchup with her and see Hanoi & Vietnam again. She has changed so much when you see her photo below. Julia later excelled in her studies so much; she graduated at a higher level, a better school and to a level where she was granted a graduation in traditional dress. 2nd from left, white flowers suits her too.
I was almost back to my hotel when I remembered my laundry had not been picked up. Yikes!!! I hope the lady is still there? A huge U turn followed and I was totally aghast the lady was still there this late at night. She even remembered me too and went straight to a bag high on the shelf amongst, say a hundred bags and sure enough, the clothes were mine. She knew I was so grateful and her smiles were amazing, even before the extra cash I gave her. Such amazing people wherever I gaze.
Getting back to my hotel Maureen was all smiles too … confirming my departure to Nihn Binh with valet driver as well to the bus station. I’ll have to have a fast brekky to meet the timeframe but all is good. Maureen was pleased to upgrade my room as a new customer required my room later tonight. A valet even demanded he help me relocate. Certainly a great room .. but the TV wouldn’t operate. No big deal but thought I would let Maureen know for future maintenance. She was frantic on my message and kept apologising. I did not really need a TV but she would not hear of it .. within minutes I was relocated again to a wonderful room. The valet checked everything and rang Maureen to say all is perfect. The service was unparalleled and far beyond any expectations. Settling into the King size bed for a fast away sleep Julia texd me to say she arrived home safe, completed her education tasks and was off to sleep as well. I thanked her so much for her friendship, care, attitude and commitment and I think we both would have slept soundly after.
I was also very thankful in being able to thank Maureen face to face and wish her well, for she was on deck again on Reception the morning of my departure. She is an exceptional Manager & I told her so. Within minutes of that praise, the valet was picking up my backpacks and placing them in the car. It was now a rush to depart. Bon Voyage Hanoi Hotel Gratitude and Hanoi in general.
In stating the obvious, my next Vietnam blog will be on Nihn Bihn and surrounding area, and you will be most surprised on what I uncovered there.
Thank you again for reading my blogs and I trust you will stay safe, happy & healthy, especially through this COVID-19 pandemic and for 2021 to be a far better year. I do not receive any commissions &/or ‘perks’ from the above nominated businesses & locations as I am purely happy to provide the acknowledgement and connection.
I always look forward to seeing the feedback so don’t be afraid to comment. My next blog/s will be more of the amazing Vietnam experiences and quite a few were life changing, & not just for me.
Live life to the most and a quote that I truly love is from Eckhart Tolle ..
“If I am not the hero of my life … who in the hell could be?”