On our second (and thanks to China Southern our LAST) full day in Hanoi, we woke up far too early so that we could do a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. The hotel said the bus would arrive at 8am so we needed to be ready by then. We got up and dressed and went downstairs to have some breakfast. The guy showed up at 7:45 while we were still eating. Oops. He came back later to get us and we headed off.
The tour guide was kind of...I guess awkward is the best word. He kept saying that the guys on the trip weren't very good looking, and then he said he thought I was going to win the Miss Universe contest. Then he asked if we wanted to hear a story "full of the humor". And then the story was basically him saying "I have no money so no girl will love me...isn't that sad?". Once he stopped talking, though, the bus ride was pleasant. It was cool looking out the windows, especially at all the rice patties we were passing. I loved the different scarecrows in the fields, all wearing one of those pointed hats. The ride was VERY bumpy though, which I think was a combo of bad shocks and some VERY uneven roads. One stretch of road, all I could think was "I would LOVE to take an ATV on this". We stopped oh-so-conveniently at a souvenir shop so we could use the bathroom on the way.
Once we arrived we got into boats for the approximately one hour trip down the river. There were about 12 people in our group and we all piled into a long boat and headed down the river. It was super sunny and warm. I got a bit of a sunburn on my shoulders, but it was nice after how cold it was in Shanghai before we left (although now that we are back, it's pretty hot here too). During the trip, the man paddling behind me accidentally dropped his hat into the river. Instinctively my hand shot over the edge of the boat to grab it...and my camera went with my hand. Thank goodness I had my wrist strap on. I would have been very mad if I lost my brand new birthday camera.
After the boat ride the tour guide tried to get us to take the cable car. And none too subtlety. Elizabeth said the walk up the mountain and the view was nice (having been there before) and I figured some exercise would be good after that awful stagnant day spent in the airport. Sadly, things aren't like they used to be. Where there was once a peaceful walk and a nice view, there is now vendors all the way up, blaring music and shouting at you to come sit and have a drink. I also had some flashbacks to the painful (rewarding....but painful) climb of yellow mountain. If you tell me I need to walk at a steady pace on a flat surface for an entire day I'll be fine. I like walking. But up is just cruel. It kills my poor leggies. Oh well. We got to the top and made it to the temple.
Perfume Pagoda is kind of a misleading name. I was imagining...well...a pagoda. One of those many layered buildings. Instead what we went to was a cave. The inside was filled with alters full of offerings, incense, candles and people praying. I had never seen a temple in a cave before, so that was pretty cool. It just wasn't what I expected. According to Elizabeth, if you go at the right time of year, flowers bloom on the mountain filling the area with a lovely scent. That's where the "perfume" part comes from.
We ended up taking the cable car down since it wasn't really worth the trip down just to be yelled at by vendors again. At the bottom we got lunch with the group. Some fish, some meat, a yummy garlicy river plant, and some tofu that had a sauce Liz loved. After that was the boat ride and bus ride back. Uneventful, but enjoyable. I've got tons of pictures taken during the boat ride.
When we got back we had some quick showers and changed. Then we went back to a show we had been to before to get some more Thai fisherman pants for me. So comfy! We bought some souvenirs (I got something for my parents...don't tell them...shhh). We also stopped for some street food. I picked out some spicy shrimp dish, some very yummy fish and some meat with veggies. What will I do when I move back to America where there aren't people cooking lamb on sticks everywhere? Ah well. We of course also had to get some more ice cream. It's Elizabeth's favorite ice cream in the world. I can see why. Yum.
We stopped for coffee once more and while there I got some to bring home, as well as the super cool drip filters. I think I will write a whole post about it later. I am smitten with Vietnamese coffee now. The last thing we did was stop for some frothy and cooling lemon juices. Then it was back to the hotel to pack and get to bed.
The next morning we got dressed and out the door and in the taxi to the airport. Being out that early gave me a very different view of Hanoi from the previous two days. Every time we had gone out before it was a chaos of motorbikes and people. That last morning was surprisingly quiet and calm. The flight from Hanoi to Guangzhou and then to Beijing was fine. Once we reached our old stomping ground of Beijing international airport, we hit a snag. Although the flight was delayed we miraculously got our luggage first and made it to the check in counter with a few minutes to spare. Then the guy behind the counter says something I didn't want to here:
"There are no seats left on this flight."
ARRRG. I thought we were in for another horrible bout of bad luck, but after an uncomfortably long time of standing around while he called people and shouted at the other workers, he turns and asks us if we will be willing to take the same flight an hour later...in first class. Oh yes please! That was about the best thing that could happen. We didn't have to rush to make the next flight (instead we went and had some Starbucks) annnnd we got first class.
I don't think I have ever sat in first class before. It was fan-freakin-tastic. They served us drinks while the plane was boarding. I had my own pair of slippers and my own personal screen with movies and games (with a remote so I could fast forward and rewind and such!). I could fully recline as well as put my feet up. When they came by with drinks they were served in glass cups and they gave us the entire can of soda (remember way back before flights got so stingy and they would give you the whole can of soda? Better days, man). The meal served had TWO COURSES. And it was served on a TABLECLOTH. It was so fancy pants. Altogether it was a nice way to end the trip after the awful way it started.
Well, I've gone and rambled on too much again. I will post another entry with some pictures and maybe some general impressions of Hanoi. Hope I didn't bore you!