Day 11 of our journey was comparatively uneventful. We left the Lake House at 8.30 am to catch our flight from Dong Hoi to Hanoi. If you catch an internal flight from a small airport like Dong Hoi you can check in around an hour before the flight. A lot of Vietnamese left it even later and really arrived last minute. The check-in desks are a great place for people watching. Most of the Vietnamese don’t travel light but instead of packing everything into one suitcase they sellotape several cardboard boxes and check them in. I have no idea what the actual baggage regulations are but that sure is a funny sight. Once again we were given emergency seats because of the SO’s long limbs. The flight takes just over an hour which is great considering the same journey by train would have taken the best part of 12 hours. Not ideal if you only have 2 weeks to explore the whole country.
From the airport we took the VietJet airline shuttle bus which costs 40,000 dong per person and is a much cheaper option than the taxi into town. Show the driver the address of your destination and he will tell you where to get off. There aren’t any real fixed stops but don’t expect the driver to drop you off at the exact address. All he will and can do is let you off as close as his route permits. You can then always just flag down a taxi and pay a much cheaper fare overall. We were lucky enough that our hotel was only a five minute walk away. We arrived at the Splendid Star Suite Hotel 12.30pm and received a very friendly welcome as well as a refreshing ice cold drink. Our booked room wasn’t available for the night which didn’t really bother us as we were given a room with two king size beds instead of the one massive round bed.
We relaxed for a wee while before heading out to explore the neighborhood. The lovely manager of the hotel had given us a map of the local area with all the important bits and bops marked. First stop supermarket: Intimex on 32 Le Thai To. This is an almost Western style supermarket that sells all your daily needs from groceries to toiletries. If you have a fridge in your room it’s worthwhile stocking it up with goodies from this supermarket. It’s not that the minibar is likely to be expensive but we all like to save a penny or two. We then continued along the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake before having some lunch at Banh Ghoi – a proper street-food experience which is absolutely delicious. The stall is named after its signature dish Banh Ghoi, a deep-fried pastry filled with vermicelli, minced pork and mushrooms served with a sweet and sour cucumber chilled broth. I load mine with chili for a bit of an extra kick. All food served here is deep-fried so if you’re watching those calories then this might not be the place for you. Altough you will miss out on a great culinary experience. Vegetarian options are also available.
We spent the rest of the later afternoon chilling in the hotel and only went out for a quick Banh Mi Pate from a street vendor next to Banh Ghoi which wasn’t as good as Madam Khanh’s but still tasty enough. Some other foreign guy before us tried to haggle on the clearly listed fixed price which we found pathetic and if you know me personally you won’t be surprised that I told him so. A Banh Mi from the vendor is 15,000 dong – I hope you see my point. There’s a time and place for haggling but when it comes to extremely cheap street food simply pay the price or don’t bother eating at all.