Though we were starting to feel fatigued from a long day of flying, our fighter spirit convinced us that we couldn’t simply arrive in Hanoi and head straight to the air-conditioned comfort of our hotel rooms.
Upon reaching the Chalcedony, we checked in, received more details about our itinerary, and agreed to meet back in the foyer in approximately “ten to fifteen minutes” after freshening up. It ended up being closer to twenty-five minutes when we reconvened downstairs.
The weather was warm and humid, but not stifling. Despite it being ten o’clock on a Monday night, the streets were bustling with numerous young people in their late teens or twenties, sitting in street cafes, enjoying coffee, eating meals, and, in one instance we noticed, playing checkers.
We couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact area where we were staying at the time, but it seemed like an older part of town. We later discovered we’re staying in the older part of Hanoi city. The streets were narrow, some of them curved, and many of the buildings appeared older or vacant as we strolled through the late-night streets.
Andrea popped into a café that also sold notepads, cards, and magnets. While she paid, I glanced at the menu boards, trying to gauge the prices of coffee and beer. A can of Bia Saigon across the road from our accommodation was equivalent to $1 in Australian dollars.
We continued our walk and took some photographs until our bodies started to give in. The allure of a hotel room with air conditioning and fresh sheets became irresistible. We decided to call it a night and planned to wake up early for a morning stroll.
Back in our room, I published my blog, set up a shared Google Photos album for us, slipped under the sheets, and casually surfed through channels for a while. Originally, the plan was to watch the final episode of Succession, a series I’ve been following for the past couple of years. However, with a frazzled mind, I ended up watching the ABC Australia news (channel 99) until I drifted off to sleep.
Just before falling asleep, I noticed that sunrise was occurring earlier than I had expected. It was currently 5:15 in Hanoi.
I woke up earlier than anticipated at 4 am, and the familiar sight of ABC News Breakfast greeted me on the television. However, I waited until 5 am before texting my friends to see if they were up for our planned early morning walk. After a minute or so, I received a reply saying, “See you in the foyer.”
As anticipated, the sights and sounds of the neighborhood in the early morning were significantly different from the previous night. People in a nearby park were engaged in their exercise routines, and businesspeople were busy preparing for the day ahead, transporting goods on impressively balanced bicycles and even performing some street butchery.
Afterward, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and began preparing for the next 36 hours, which would be dedicated to traveling to and from Halong Bay.