Knowing the time that dawn would happen, Sam set an alarm to wake us at 5:20am. I can’t say I was too happy about this, but the sunrise was simply spectacular. Sam got dressed and took the camera out to get some shots. I merely rolled over and watched from my bed, capturing stills with my phone. The orange, red and purple was deeper than before, and the more I watched the better it became.
I’m not a morning person, especially this early, and I was soon fast asleep again. But at 7am Sam was up and out, taking a morning swim around the boat. Breakfast this morning was lighter, and without my staple pho. We talked about dawn with the other couples, none of them had seen it, some had woken at 6am and deemed, “no sunrise this morning”, but were astounded when they saw our pictures.
Our itinerary was short; we were headed back to the harbour for midday. We tidied our rooms, checked out and settled our drinks bills, with one last meal ordered a la carte. We had a few last moments to relax and take in the scenery of Bai Tu Long bay, although today the rain was lashing down and it really was dreary.
Once more, we had an opportunity to thank our crew (and tip them), and then it was time to go. We donned complimentary ponchos and clambered aboard the small blue boat in the rain, with its wet plastic seats, and chugged slowly over to the jetty where our trip really did end. We said our goodbyes and boarded the mini bus for the 4 hour long, arduous journey back to Hanoi.
The trip back felt bumpier and longer than before, and the tourist shop was less exciting. Richard and Rochelle were continuing on to Laos, and on the bus we talked with Manuel and Isabelle about their remaining time in Vietnam, passing on valuable Hoi An tips.
We were back in Hanoi and our “Charming Hotel” by 4pm. We were very lucky to have sunshine on our trip amidst Hanoi’s overcast rainy season, in which many a trip can be cancelled. Even beneath the clouds it’s still a sweltering 30C.
With the better part of the day now gone, we sorted ourselves out and headed for dinner. We booked a table at Ly Club, a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant in the French quarter, and nervously took a taxi there; aware of the potential for overcharging.
Ly Club is housed in a decadent colonial style building. The walls were a warm orange with photos of historic Hanoi. Our reservation was entirely unnecessary, as per usual, the restaurant was empty, but for a couple of westerners at the far table. On a Saturday we expected things to be a little more hectic. In these beautiful surroundings, and with pricey menus, our food expectations were very high.
The opening cocktails were scrumptious. A far east caipirinha made with sake, lemongrass, chilli, rum, lime, mojito syrup and wine. A subtle spiciness, and a thoroughly lovely drink; although Sam ordered another later and it didn’t quite have that necessary balance. The Innovative Mojito was also good.
Sam’s desire to eat soft shelled crab was thwarted again, as the starter was unavailable. An apple, scallop and vermicelli fried cake was a tasty alternative, and I tucked into a clam and lemongrass concoction. For mains I devoured a huge fried Red Snapper fish (deboned for me on Sam’s request), but it was garnished with a very bitter fresh herb and lacked any sauces. Samantha had a crab and vermicelli noodle main, which she enjoyed.
All in all the food was good, but it didn’t quite meet the standards we expected, or the price tag. We asked the restaurant to call us a taxi home, and we were whisked through Saturday night Hanoi, past the lake and many dressed up and scantily clad Hanoians out for the night. But we called it a night, and quickly fell asleep at our hotel. I left the iPad open on the desk, connected to the wifi it was ever so slowly backing up our recent swathe of Vietnam pictures.