Hustle in HANOI: On the Survey

Hanoi, May 12th  2010

Fourth destination: Sunshine Travel's office to pay and get the train tickets for Hanoi - Lao Cai return and to pay the car rent. I also brought a gift from Indonesia, shrimp crackers (krupuk udang) for Mr. Manh and his staffs.

Fifth destination: Xuan Dieu Street, West Lake or Ho Tay. Exactly on this same date but in September, I and 4 of my friends will be in Hanoi. We plan to stay at Paloma Hotel (I don't want to stay in Old Quarter!) and dine at Bobby Chinn's restaurant. One of my friends said that Bobby Chinn's restaurant is closed already, but another friend said that she had dined there. So to make things clear, I better go and see for myself. I asked my driver whether he knew Bobby Chinn's restaurant. He said, no. So I just pointed on Xuan Dieu Street on the map and asked him to go straight slowly while I watch left and right.

When I was almost desperate, my eyes bumped into the icon of bean which was exactly like in Bobby Chinn's website. I don't know what you call these beans in English. In Indonesia it's very well known. We call it "pete" or "petai". It seems to be a delicacy in Vietnam, too. The restaurant was nearly at the other end of Xuan Dieu Street.

I got off and entered the gate. As soon I stepped on the porch, a young man sitting there stood up and was about to open the door for me. "How many persons, mam?" he asked.

O, ow. That should be an answer already. An answer that the restaurant is still open. But of course I couldn't walk away just like that. So I said, "I'm not eating here now, but I will be coming here with my friends. You are open, aren't you?"

He looked rather offended, I think. "Of course we are," he said.

Hopefully he couldn't read my mind or he'll feel even more offended. What I meant by "will be coming" was "4 months later"! From May to September, that's 4 months.

On the way in search of Bobby Chinn's restaurant, I spotted out a shopping centre which I think was Syrena Shopping Centre. I asked my driver to stop there. I forgot to jot down the name. There were only 3 floors and not so much to see. I settled down at Highlands Coffee.

First purpose was to try what Highlands Coffee tastes like. Second purpose was to get my mobile phone charged, because I will be on a train the whole night and thought that I won't be able to charge my mobile phone. It turned out that an electricity power socket was provided under the table in my train.

I watched carefully from outside the cafe to see whether there would be a place for me to charge my mobile phone. I saw a few men working on their laptop. So I thought I would get a place, too. Yes, I did.

I ordered for hazelnut coffee. 62.000 dongs was rather costly. And I forgot to take a picture of the drink. I was so thirsty after taking that walk from the post office and around. The coffee tasted quite fine and the waitresses were attentive. One of them tried to help when I wanted to plug my charger. I also got a free glass of mineral water. Through my experiences traveling in Vietnam, a glass of mineral water can be a luxury. Meaning, none is without a price.

In Highlands Coffeee, wi-fi was free. So I started emailing and replying friends, mostly my folks from church. As I had just been assigned as the leader of one particular section, there were several things I had to take care of. I also emailed some of my friends telling that Bobby Chinn is still open. Yayyy!!

There were a few Japanese women chatting in this cafe, not only at one table. I imagined them the wives of Japanese expats like those working in my office. This is how their lives might also look like in Jakarta. Wow... I kind of envy that.

I spent almost an hour in Highlands Coffee and when I unplugged my charger, my mobile phone was still close to empty just like when I had just come. Apparently using it on wi-fi had consumed the power up.

I went upstairs to buy bread and etc in a supermarket. I entered in just like that and forgot that I had to put my stuff in a locker. It was a repeated mistake I did before in Saigon. I bought bread, yoghurt, and a big bottle of mineral water. I'm very fond of Vietnam's yoghurt.

At the cashier line I suddenly realized that there was a handle on our shopping baskets which could be pulled up and there were wheels under the basket. We could drag the basket just like we drag suitcases. What a brilliant idea! In Indonesia, sometimes it gets too heavy and hurt my hands if I use a basket. But if I use a cart and don't have so many items, it would be rather inconvenient pushing and turning the cart, especially when there are many people. Such a basket will definitely solve the problem. I did not realize this until I saw a westerner in front of me pushing something. Wow! There's a handle! Had I known, I would have shopped for more. LOL

This is Paloma Hotel where I and my friends will be staying overnight 4 months later. I booked this hotel through Agoda dot com. From outside it doesn't look as luxurious as the photos on the web, but it still looks okay to me. As a photographer myself, I know how to make a photo deceiving.

And this is the view of West Lake in front of Paloma Hotel. Not magnificent it might be, but much much better than a lake of motorcycles and electricity lines like in Old Quarter District.

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