We had the hotel call a taxi for us this morning, and left our beloved hotel room for the discomfort of another tiny, foreign airport. We were too early to even check our bags, so we sat and had tea at a small tea shop in the airport. Luckily they had wifi, so I did yesterday’s blog post there while we waited for the check-in counter to open. We landed in Hanoi and headed straight for our hotel. This is the hotel that I was most excited about. We upgraded to the Royal Panorama Suite with 180 degree city views. The photos showed a modern, clean, white room with beautiful city views. When we arrived at the hotel the manager told us that they had overbooked the room, and we would not be able to have the room that we booked. I explained that the only reason we were staying at this hotel was for specifically the room that we booked. It felt a lot like this Seinfeld bit. He apologized, offered a small refund, and promised that the room we were being given had all of the same amenities as the room that we booked. With no other choice, we agreed and we were shown to the room. Immediately we realized that nothing about this room was the same. The views were of the street outside, but from a single window; nothing panoramic about that. The bathroom did not have a soaking tub. It had a regular tub with a shower head that sprays too far and soaks the floor. The tiles on the floor and walls are old and the grout is dirty. The bedroom area is also outdated with a small black desk (that should have been new and white based on the pictures) and a TV stand missing its front door. This is unacceptable. When our bags got to the room from the bellmen we had a decision to make. Demand a refund and find another hotel, complain and see what kind of concessions could be made, or just live with it. Cat decided it would be best to say something but not to change hotels.
So we headed downstairs to talk more to the manager about the situation. He continued to apologize. I explained that the hotel had more than a month to contact me about our reservation to let me know then that the room I had booked was unavailable. They had no problem reaching out to offer a hotel shuttle, but failed to notify me that the room I booked was already reserved. I explained that this room is nothing like the room that we booked. The views are terrible, the bathroom is outdated and dirty, and the living area is much older than any of the pictures of the room on my reservation. After much more back and forth, we agreed on an acceptable compensation for being inconvenienced and went back to our room. The truth is we’ll only be spending 2 of the 3 nights here, and we expect to be pretty tired on the days that we are staying.
Unfortunately, all of this has put us behind on our night, and we don’t have much time in Hanoi! We quickly got ready and headed out for dinner at Chả Cá Lã Vọng.
The name of the street is Chả Cá. The street got its name from this very famous dish. Where would we go but the originator of the dish; Chả Cá Lã Vọng.
When we walked in we asked the waiter for the menu. He rudely threw down a small, laminated piece of paper that said in English “170,000 per person”. That’s it. That’s basically all it said. If you’re coming to Hanoi click that link to make sure you’re at the right place. If you see neon signs then you’re at the wrong place. If they seat you downstairs you’re probably at the wrong place. If the address is anything other than 14 Pho Cha Ca then you’re at the wrong place. Here’s a photo of the correct sign.
Based on the menu I thought we must be getting screwed. I assumed we were getting the tourist price, and they thought they could take us for a ride. When we pushed them about giving us a price for the beer they took away the wet naps (the wet naps thing is just one of many minor scams; they place the wet naps on the table and at the end of the meal charge you between 1,000 and 5,000 vnd per package). They brought out the food and it was amazing. The grilled herbs with the fish in the oil was delicious. Poured over noodles, the fish and herbs come together with a drizzle of fish sauce to make something pretty special. During our meal a man who appeared to be a local received his bill. He paid exactly the same price that we were quoted. Suddenly I felt bad for being so mean about the price. It helped that the food was fantastic.
At the end of the meal, like most other meals while we’ve been in Vietnam, Cat and I finished with a shot of whiskey. It’s an old traveler remedy that I read about somewhere along the way. Plus I like whiskey. We offered the waiter a shot from the flask and for the first time on this trip he accepted. I happily poured him a drink and poured another small shot for myself.
We didn’t think we could fit in another meal, so we decided to hit Legend Beer for a cold one. The view of this insane roundabout was great. This is what traffic looks like here. Cars and scooters going every direction. Lanes, one way streets, and general traffic rules do not apply. Go slow, do anything you want, and give a couple of beeps on the horn seems to get you everywhere here.
We found out at Cha Ca earlier that Hanoi Beer is amazing. Probably my favorite Vietnamese beer so far.
For another original, we came to Giang Coffee to try the northern Vietnam specialty; egg coffee. It’s thick egg cream with a shot of espresso. What a brilliant combination! Frothy, thick, sweet, and bitter, it really combines all of the flavors.
We walked around Hoàn Kiếm Lake (The Lake of the Returned Sword) and found these ladies line dancing. We’ve seen it in a few places now, primarily along the water. Huge groups of women line dancing together. It’s really pretty adorable.
More from Hoàn Kiếm. The story of the naming of the lake it pretty cool. If you have time, click on that Wiki article above and read about the returned sword.
Around the lake are these hedges of peace lilies.
Overall, not a terribly eventful day. I suppose fighting with the hotel for an hour was eventful, but otherwise pretty calm. Dinner was delicious and we cracked the incredibly curt waiter (we got a smile out of him when we offered whiskey), we enjoyed a beer with a view, and had a coffee for dessert. Tomorrow morning at 8am we have to get on a boat and head out to Halong Bay. If the blog goes dark don’t be concerned. We will be spending tomorrow night in the middle of a bay, so wifi might be a little spotty.