More Adventures in Hanoi

Seeing a Doctor

Our car left Halong Bay for Hanoi at 11:00AM. Jamil was feeling pretty terrible. He’d been dealing with a stomach bug since Cambodia, and it hadn’t run its course in the way we anticipated. He clearly needed to see a doctor. I emailed the Hotel Capella on our way back to Hanoi to ask for a house call; they tried to convince me to take Jamil to a hospital, but I’ve been through enough stomach maladies – from a parasite in Nicaragua to food poisoning in Argentina (twice) to Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico – to know that a hospital visit was overkill.

The doctor met us at the hotel shortly after we arrived in Hanoi, and he was amazing. He immediately began running tests, and before we knew it, we had a diagnosis of E. Coli and a pile of antibiotics. He said to expect for Jamil to feel well by the next morning, which he did!

In the meantime, I have to give Jamil so much credit for being a champ. Even though his stomach was driving him nuts, he explored the nooks and crannies of Hanoi with us.

Quick aside: Jamil and I are pretty terrible about buying travel insurance. It can be so expensive that it makes more sense to risk losing your deposits and prepayments. And doctors abroad are usually quite inexpensive to see. For example, the house call in Hanoi cost $200 – with a doctor who spoke excellent English and ran thorough tests to diagnose Jamil correctly before treating him. A similar doctor’s visit in the USA would cost over $2,000. I speak from experience. However, you really don’t want to have surgery in a developing nation, and if you get extremely ill, you don’t want to be hospitalized there. Consequently, I recommend buying travel medical insurance with a good medical evacuation policy. We don’t do it when we go to Europe, but we do when we go to El Salvador or Egypt or Cambodia. We have purchased ours through TravelGuard and through American Express. I’m sure there are others. They wind up being a few hundred dollars, a bargain for peace of mind.

Some Custom Clothing!

In 2014, Jamil and I visited Japan and South Korea. On that trip, we discovered the fun of visiting tailors in Asia, where everything is custom and beautiful and insanely inexpensive (in Korea, not Japan, obviously!). We wanted to do something similar on this trip, so we did our research and found a tailor with amazing reviews in Hanoi, called Tailor Bros, tucked away in the old town.

To get to Tailor Bros, you have to navigate a tiny corridor, pass through an adorable coffee shop, and climb a set of vine-covered stairs. Once inside, you meet an efficient, organized, professional tailoring staff that has a wide array of fabrics and the most interesting options for liners I’ve ever seen. We had a blast picking out sport coats and shirts for Jamil, and we also picked up a sport coat and shirt for Michael, my business partner. Our total for three sport coats and four shirts was $1200! And within three weeks, the custom shirts were at our doorstep in Houston. I totally recommend this experience if you’re ever in Vietnam, Taiwan, or South Korea. It’s possible that Thailand would also be a great place to have clothes made. In Bangkok, there’s an entire mall full of independent designers’ shops, more than I’ve seen anywhere else. So, it’s quite likely that the custom clothing game is strong there. I just don’t know for sure! Same goes for China – but I’m not sure how I’d research the potential providers, given the blocks on the Internet in those parts!

How do you research tailors? People who go to custom tailors leave reviews. They use TripAdvisor and Google Maps, for the most part. You can also go ask your hotel, but they usually don’t have personal experience with the tailors. They’ve just been told to recommend those people. You need to hear from someone who’s walked into the shop, looked at the options, gotten the goods, and loved them. You also need to look at the pictures people are posting of their tailoring experiences. If the customers are super cheesed out, they’re probably not the tailors for you.

Marveling at the Outdoor Action in Hanoi!

As soon as you walk out the door in Hanoi, you’re surrounded by activity. People are scooting by on motorcycles – entire families on one motorcycle. People are walking on the streets. People are playing sports in the park. They love badminton! They even play a foot version of badminton, where they wear these weird sock shoes as part of their getup. There are adults playing full games, while their kids practice nearby to become good enough to join the fray. It looks really fun. Of course, we weren’t in any position to do anything but watch…It’s not like we’d ever even seen the game before.

Just past the foot badminton business, there might be an outdoor speaker set up. People of all ages might be dancing to Donna Summer. In America, it’s rather uncommon to see people letting loose in such a public setting without any real reason to do so; they save those “be real” moments for the home. But it seems like people in Hanoi see the city as an extension of their homes. They’re dancing and playing and doing – all in public.

And it’s not only adults! On Saturdays, they block off the streets in the old city and create a safe, outdoor play area for everyone. There are streets lined with tables covered in plain white ceramic pieces and paints. Children pick out what they want to paint and sit at little chairs and tables on the side of the road, painting to their hearts’ content. I didn’t ask if the pieces would get fired, but I presumed they would.

In front of those little painting stands, other kids whiz past on rented remote control cars and hoverboards. Josephine wanted to try them, but I felt a little weird about it. Funny enough, she got in a pretty gangster remote control car in Rabat, Morocco, and I didn’t make a stink about it. I guess covid left me a bit touchier about germs.

Anyway, kids are everywhere these days, playing games on the streets, blowing bubbles, taking pictures. It’s all fun and games, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

You’ll also find the lake in the center of Hanoi lined with pedestrians, vendors, pets – you name it. It’s so vibrant and exciting. I can’t believe we only got one full day there. We will definitely go again.

Author: Jessica Givens