Riding around Mai Chau Valley and a Hanoi revisit
Due to our change of plans to get back to the states for Tom's (T's brother's) wedding, we had some extra time in Asia. We decided to keep the weekends for Singapore to spend time with Ben and Britt, but we had a free week to go anywhere. We decided to go to Hanoi, Vietnam. We had spent 3 weeks in Vietnam in 2010 and had an amazing time. Sam's uncle Pip and his partner Neil live in Hanoi so we had a place to stay which sealed the deal.
Our first day, we headed to the old quarter and showed Chloe some things we had remembered from our last trip. We got right back into the swing of things, like crossing streets by just walking out slowly into hectic oncoming traffic.
We had so much fun last time we were there doing a 2 day cycling trip, that we decided to book one around Hanoi. We went to the Mai Chau Valley about 4 hrs drive west of Hanoi. It was harder than the Meekong Delta, as it was a much hillier, but it was still gorgeous and one of the best ways to see a place. The three of us cycled through rice paddies, rural villages, and small towns, stuck in between beautiful mountains. We even crashed a wedding. The guests invited us in and gave us rice wine and love heart cookies, and shook our hands endlessly. Sam said after the third or fourth handshake it probably meant we had just agreed to get married too.
We spent the night in a traditional Thai ethnic minority village in a traditional stilt house. A beautiful building with one big room for everyone. Since it wasn't peak season we were lucky and had the place to ourselves.
After cycling the second day it was time to head back to the hectic streets of Hanoi and recover from two hot long days.
The next day we spent taking in a few more sights around town. Our bike guide Dan had invited us to his home, so we went to his place with a little apprehension. It ended up being the best decision we made. We met his kids, and he took us to a local temple to see a personal ceremony. He explained that a personal ceremony is for one person to make offerings to the gods for a good year of health, happiness and prosperity, etc. It can take 2-4 hours, they dance and change costumes, and have all kinds of paper models of things to burn as offerings.
After that we went on a quick cycle around his neighborhood (unnecessarily worrying about sore bums). It was so cool to see a different much quieter side of Hanoi. Then we went up to his roof for a beer and a beautiful view of the Red River and Hanoi. Lesson learned, when opportunities present themselves, take them.
After that we met up with Pip & Neil and went out for a fun night on the town expat style. It was great fun, and we went to totally unexpected places> A wine bar then a morrocan restaurant, which may sound normal, but not when you've been walking around Hanoi for 5 days. After that we went to an expat bar for someone's birthday, and then to the only place opened past 11:30pm for a bit of a boogie.
Next morning, up early to catch a flight back to SIngapore.