Slept like a baby. Thank God all the street noise (ie. CONSTANT honking) dies down around 10:30pm.
The hotel provides a nice breakfast selection: I had a ham & cheese omelette, toast, and coffee, pretty much just like in the US. The staff here are extremely friendly.
I had planned to follow a walking tour suggested by my tour book, but I only did about half. There is just no way to describe the chaotic streets here in Hanoi; your senses are absolutely overloaded by the traffic, the crowds, the street vendors, aaaah! I can't wait to post the videos when I get home.
I got up my nerve to eat lunch at a street shop that the locals eat at, but that appears intimidating to most tourists. I had a tasty lunch of bún chả (soup with grilled beef, noodles, and lots of different veggies) and nem cua bể (fried spring rolls). The proprietress wasn't overly friendly, but the food was good so who cares, right?
After lunch I walked and walked, taking in all the craziness. One small shop caught my eye, and I'm so glad I stopped, because inside was an old mahjong set with wood-and-bone tiles. I was very interested in it, but wanted to make sure it had all of the pieces. The woman running the store was quite friendly and started helping me remove the pieces and sort them out.
During this time, a group of about 6 tourists (they spoke Chinese, and English with a Singaporean accent, so that's where I'm guessing they were from) came in the tiny, tiny shop, and here I was crouched down in the tiny, tiny aisle, trying to sort out the mahjong pieces. At first I felt bad kind of being in the way, but then a couple of women in the group were getting very pushy with their haggling, so the shop owner seemed relieved when they left.
I asked the price of the mahjong set (500,000d), which I was willing to pay since I just had to have it. However, this was the kind of store that one should haggle at. I felt a little bad because the other customers were kind of rude, so as friendly as possible I offered 400,000d. She countered with 450,000d. I said OK, as long as she threw in a nifty drab-green Socialist cap with the red star in front. We had ourselves a deal.
Now I was on a shopping roll. I bought postcards and stamps, then found a shop selling propaganda art so I picked up a poster for my apartment.
I headed back to my hotel room to write postcards (2 hours?!). Now it was getting time for dinner. I walked to a restaurant that was recommended in one of my brochures, but they said they were all booked up for the night. So I wandered toward the Hoan Kiem Lake area. Again, I was feeling overwhelmed by all the people (including tourists) and street vendors. I found the answer on Hang Hanh street: A massage place.
The guy who got me to go to this place even had brochures printed with the prices, so I figured it was legit. However, I started to get nervous when he led me down a long, narrow passage between buildings. At the end was a small staircase, and I was instructed to go up to the third floor. I was really nervous at this point, but I was here for an adventure, right?
Anyway, The place had 6 massage tables, soothing music (thank God it wasn't Viet karaoke) and the smell of aromatherapy in the air, so I relaxed. I got a fantastic, relaxing one hour full-body Thai oil massage; the masseuse even walked on my back. I'm going to try to go again before I leave.
I had dinner a few doors down, at a place called Rainbow. Yuk. I paid way too much for some beef dish that had no flavor until I drowned it with chili sauce. I say 'way too much', and 95,000d does sound like a lot, but actually that's less than $5 US.
Walked to Bistro Frank and had a mint cappuccino for the second night in a row.
Now it's time for bed, then Halong Bay tomorrow.