Tuesday 7th July
Our day began with another visit to the gym and the pool. Breakfast was followed by a trip to the local department store (three blocks from our hotel) to buy some socks for the three of us. Note to self: If I ever visit an Asian city during the wet season again: be prepared for needing to wear shoes every day and, thus, have sufficient socks!
On the way back to our hotel we managed to convince Tom to have his hair cut by a guy on the street armed with a cut throat razor…Tom is still with us. We were being picked up at 11am by our guide for the afternoon, Chi, so we ambled home after the hair cut. Chi was an excellent guide with a good command of English and French as well as his native Vietnamese. He was originally from the mountains to the north of Hanoi and came from the ethnic minority population referred to as the ‘H’mong’. Chi had an excellent knowledge of Vietnamese history and didn’t stop talking passionately about his country all day. He was married with one daughter and wished they could have more children but explained that the cost of living in Hanoi meant that most families have only one child now. His siblings had only daughters as well and Chi’s father is still hoping that Chi would have a son to carry on their family name of Ngyuen. Consequently, Chi was quite taken with our Tom, as were many other people we encountered on our trip. He took us to the Museum of Literature, Ethnology Museum, One Temple Pagoda and to the Hoa Lo Prison, generally referred to as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, where John McCain served time during the American War…as they all tend to call it.
We felt exhausted after a long day of walking and concentrating in the hot and humid conditions but extremely fortunate to have been able to learn so much in one short day from such an informed native Vietnamese. We squeezed in a quick meal at the end of the day before Chi dropped us at the railway station to catch the overnight train to Sapa. Our carriage was much like what I imagine the Orient Express must be, there was no murder though and we all managed to get a reasonable sleep before arriving in to Lao Cai station at around 6.15am.