• Tara B. Vasi

Day 19: Hanoi, Vietnam. 11/1/2019. The Signature Inn, Prison tour, Maddy! Egg Coffee

I wake up to the sound of rain, the beep of the door opening, and someone entering our dorm room at 8am. I recognize from the accent that its Olivia. She is wearing the same clothes as the previous night and looks a bit disheveled and upset. She tells us she had a few too many drinks at the bar, lost the group, met some guy from New York and ended up spending the night at his hotel. At some point in the night she loses her cell phone. She is upset mainly because her grandfather had just recently passed away and today was his funeral. Without her phone she had no way to get ahold of her mom. We hugged her, calmed her down, and let her use our phone to FB her mother and let her know what had happened and that she was ok. She relaxed in bed for a while, had a little breakfast, and a lot a lot of water and was starting to feel a little better about the situation. We devised a plan.

The girls are all waiting for the shower and Olivia is resting, so I decide to head down to breakfast in my pajamas and post up at a small table to take some time to write down my thoughts and reflections from the previous day. Its about 8:30am. The restaurant area is a small icky disaster.

Breakfast goes until 9:30am. I want to start with coffee (of course). There is a big thermos labeled “Coffee” but when I go to pour from it, it spewed out a half a cup of cold mud. I ask the guy if he can make more coffee and he goes over to check if the coffee is in fact empty. Then he says, No, that he cannot make more coffee. I’m very confused. Doesn’t the complimentary breakfast that included coffee go until 9:30am. Ugh. I’ll drink tea.

I write about my adventures on my blog and research Sri Lanka. I respond to emails, check my bank account, etc etc. 9:15am rolls around and even though I am not very hungry, I order some eggs. They come out at 925am or so. I start eating and I hear an argument happening between a guest and the restaurant staff. The guest says he came down at 9:29am for breakfast. Staff says breakfast is over and they won’t cook him any eggs. The guy yells, I was here at 9:29am, I want two sunny side up eggs. Why were they arguing with him? He never got his eggs. Jeez these people were tough!

Its time for me to get moving so I head back up to the room. The shower is clogged and overflowing into the bathroom. The sink is clogged. The bathroom is completely disgusting. We tell the front dest and they do not care. I shower in the shared shower area in the hallway and eventually someone comes to our room with a mop.

It is absolutely down pouring outside. Sweet fluffy marshmallow boy is chained up in the garage. He’s covered by the roof, but water is flowing down the ramp over his feet. My heart hurts. Why can’t I save him? I want to save him.

We consider getting a cab, but because we want to check the bar for Olivias phone, we just end up walking, ducking under as many awnings as possible. Bryony and Shelly get a cab and will meet us at the Prison. The five remaining people finally break down and buy ponchos. They are less then a dollar but we still haggle and ask ourselves why we didnt get one sooner. We all choose different colors and Janina says we look like TeleTubbies. I am reminded of the rainy bike ride in Hoi An.

We get to the Bar and no one is there, but it is open. We walk in and Olivia walks behind the bar and looks for her phone. She says that it feels really weird to be behind the bar and where was everyone. No phone.

We finally get to the most depressing place on earth, The Vietnamese Prison. Perfect dark rainy day extracurricular. Maddy is there to meet us. We walk around the prison and learn that this is where the French held Vietnamese prisoners in the early 1900’s when the French were trying to colonize in Vietnam. The prisoners were anyone who resisted the colonization. The French packed rooms full of Vietnamese men and separated the women and children. During the winter the men would curl in the fetal position around each other to stay warm. The sick stayed near the door way in the summer because it was the coolest and offered the freshest air. The prisoners never gave up hope. They continued to fight. There were models of the prisoners is what I would call Solitary Confinement. No windows. No light. No air. I looked into the eyes of even just the models and could feel chills down my spine. At one point, the model felt real like it could move or reach out to me for help.

The French built what looked like ladders around peoples neck and shackles their ankles to stone beds so that they could only lay on their backs and not turn around. They went to the bathroom on the spot and weren’t given proper toilets or even bucket. Their food was often expired or moldy.

At one point over 100 prisoners escaped the prison from the sewer system. There were models of prisoners climbing through the small tunnels. It must have taken then days even weeks to crawl through the sewage system our of the prison.

Honestly, I don’t know what happened after that. They never really explained if the prisoners were set free or killed. The French Colonized and took over Vietnam at one point I believe, but I am not sure what happened with the prisoner. This was all before the Vietnam War.

I am wet and depressed. Dark Tourism, though important to history, is well, dark. The prison starts to make me feel queasy. I see a little girl run out covering her eyes and her Daddy’s follows right behind her.

Maddie and I peace out and head to Gianga Cafe for some eggs coffee. Hanoi is knows for Egg Coffee. The place is hidden and we never would have found it had we not looked it up. The place is also packed! We find a table upstairs and sit down. Its dirty, and I hate sitting at a dirty table, but that’s what you had to do in this place in order to get a seat. Everyone is drinking elaborate coffees and eating sunflower seeds. The tables and floors are covered in shells and I seriously don’t see how coffee and sunflower seeds would pair well together.

We order two eggs coffees, and I get a coffee on the side because I am insane. The egg coffees arrive in cups of hot water. The foam on top is thick like a frosty and I’m thinking the yolk is like a natural xanthum gum. The foam is sweet and delicious and I cannot get enough. I make the amateur mistake of believing the whole cup tastes like this when essentially the delicious foam was on top of, duh, coffee. I get to the coffee part and its bitter. Dammit, amateur mistake.

We exit and walk around in the rain, not really knowing what to do. The streets are chaotic.

We decide to sit at a cafe and get a Bahn Me and more coffee. The sandwich is delicious as usual. We chat and catch up and enjoy people watching.

Maddy and I decide that this day calls for a Nap, and we split and go back to our places for some rest, but make plans to meet up at The Shitty Inn around 7am. Sochea OK’d her coming to our group dinner.

I find myself to be a little stressed this day. The city is overwhelming, plus I am trying to communicate with my new colleague and collaborate about the last minute retreat. The crazy amount of coffee and lack of exercise doesn’t exactly help. I post to social media and continue to update my contract. My father calls at 6:45pm or so and we chat for a few minutes. He’s excited for me stay abroad!

I lose track of time and I am a little late for dinner and Sochea is not a fan of that, but I beg him to be my friend again. We walk to dinner, our last dinner together as a group before 9 people leave and 9 new people join. Tomorrow we head to Laos and the others head back to their lives.

There was free beer at the hostel from 6pm-7pm, so half the group is feeling pretty loose. Florian and Kenny have tally marks on their arms to keep track of how many beers they have had. Owen more talkative then I have ever seen him, and I realize that he is 20 years old, too. He is the youngest visual effects artist in London. Florian orders him a shot of tequila and I cant watch him take it.

Bryony, Maddie, and I all order pumpkin soup. One million hours later our soup arrives and we dig in. No one else has got their food yet, and one million hours later, single plates start appearing. Half way through my soup, I feel an unfamiliar object in my mouth and pull out a giant piece of a metal scrubbie sponge. I wouldn’t say that I am pissed, but I definitely notify the manager and tell her she may want to check the soup and that had I swallowed that it most likely would have destroyed my intestines.

It takes an extremely long amount of time to get all the food out. The manager apologizes and offers us all egg coffee at the end of the meal and will even ask a staff member to demonstrate how to make the egg coffee. At the end a sweet young Vietnamese man gets up in front of us and is so nervous he can barely speak. He goes to separate the yoke and drops the whole thing in the coffee and gasps. We all laugh. And tell him its Ok. His manager comes and helps guide him through the rest of the demonstration. They make the egg coffee with rum. I have a spoonful but I can taste the rum, so I don’t opt to have any more.

We are right next to Maddy’s hostel so she decides to call it a night. We hug! I am so glad that we could see each other again whilst in South East Asia. Its amazing you can connect so strongly with people in such a short period of time!

She has a two night boat ride through Halong Bay scheduled for the next day and then is heading back to California at the end of the week. I am so excited for her to cruise around the world for 4 months and see 18 different countries!

I know we will see each other again, so its more like a “See you late.” We are lucky to have social media in this respect, because it makes it so easy to stay in touch.

Bryony and I briefly walk through the Night market, but its all the same stuff, nike shorts, north face tops, wallets, plastic beaded bracelets, stuffed animals, hair extensions, knock off sunglasses, belts, and shoes. And it’s still raining.

We decide to stop for gelato in hopes of turning this day around even just a little. She gets salted caramel and I get yogurts with strawberry jam. It’s divine.

We arrive back to the hostel and say hi to fluffy marshmallow boi and head up to our room.

There are German people partying in the hostel and I can hear them yelling from my lower bunk. I don’t think they mean to be yelling, they are just German. They are playing pool and keep scratching the ball so it bounces on the floor. They are smoking weed and I can smell it and even though it smells pretty dam good, I am sooooo excited to leave Ha Noi tomorrow. What am I even supposed to do for a half day before our flight to Laos?

I am not excited about leaving my new friends. We have been through so much together! 20 days! But its not Goodbye. Its See You later.


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