On our last day on Quan Lan Island we got up at 5:30am to have an early breakfast before making it to the boat ride back at 7am. We took the 1.5 scenic boat ride back and I kept thinking I would get nauseous since the boat was small and crammed with a bunch of people but it wasn't bad at all! After we got back to the port of Hon Gai we jumped on the first bus we saw that was heading to Hai Duong. After a short two hours half asleep on the bus we arrived to this town that had a huge river running through it. This is where I looked up and saw all of the Vietnamese flags around and Jenn told me all of those flags came from her uncles store.
Soon enough we met Jenn's Dad's side of the family! Uncles, Aunts, Cousins galore and all of them welcomed me with opening arms. They took us out for coffee and also showed us where they live and their shop! Jenn's uncle bought this building 25 years ago and it is two stories! They have the store front where one always sits in case of any customers coming to buy any flags and then behind a barricade of flags there is their living room/dining room! We bring the plastic table and chairs to the center of the room for breakfast, lunches and dinners and then stack them away when not in use. Upstairs are the bedrooms and then behind the living room is a kitchen unlike one I have ever been to. I loved being able to be in a locals home and especially since it is Jenn's family - they all love her so much!
We stayed in a hotel a few blocks away and spent 1 night there. They fed us so much food and always Bia! (Beer) I tried intestines too, not too bad just really chewy. The family had a lot of love for jenn and Julie and I they told me to come back and visit again when I have a husband. In Vietnamese culture whichever a girl marries the oldest son she has to take care of his family and parents until they die. All the meal preparations, all the cleaning and maintaining the house falls on the her. It was insane to believe but she had a smile on her face the entire time. You got to give it to these women. Strong as hell.
After visiting we took a train back to the city and relaxed in Hanoi for a just two nights. Jenn and Julie stayed in a hotel room by themselves and I stayed in a hostel a few short blocks away. We hung out that night and then in the morning I woke up and went downstairs to get the free hostel breakfast and I met this guy named Huston at the table. He asked what I was doing that day and I told him I was going to visit The Friendship Village where I used to live and volunteer and he asked if he could join. Of course I said yes and we met up with Jenn and Julie again and took the bus back to the village. It was incredible to walk into the classrooms and hear the students say my name again and greet me with hugs. These people are something incredible and I get reminded overtime I see them. We hung out in the classrooms and then we saw they opened up a new hair salon class in the village! We let the residents wash Jenn, Huston and my hair and it was such a fun experience with tons of laughter. All of our hair was very soft and bouncy afterwards! We also went back to the my favorite lunch spot shack for the best stir fry noodles. Unfortunately they ran out of noodles so we ate rice but still DELICIOUS! And just $1 a plate and you will be filled up for hours.
That night we headed to Chicken Street in Hanoi which you guessed we ate Chicken at! It was a street full of plastic tables and chairs and we just stuffed ourselves full and went and had a few beers afterwards. Off to bed at the hostel for one more night and then the next day we are saying goodbye to Vietnam and leaving for a 23 hour bus ride to Vientiane, Laos! Longest bus ride of my life and I am terrified but ready for this.
Through my travels the only two pieces of technology I brought were my cell phone and my camera. I kept a small blue journal with me throughout the whole trip to document when times were quiet. I suggest everyone that travels to bring a Journal and Pencil.