We had shipped our alarm clock but we knew we would not sleep late on our last day at Sofitel Plaza. There would be plenty of time for us to reminisce. We had to finish packing, settle our bill and say our farewells to the staff that had become like family to us.
Ira also had the little matter of collecting his shoes. Not to worry! The phone rang and the front desk told Ira that the man was in the lobby with the shoes. But when Ira reached the lobby, Mr. Tien was nowhere to be seen. After some frantic text messaging and a half-understood conversation in Vietnamese, Ira took a taxi over to Pho Truc Bach, past the Sapphire Hotel and the karaoke bar to number 135 where stood Mr. Tien and the resoled shoes! Why Mr. Tien had not waited at Sofitel Plaza remains a mystery to this day, but all’s well that ends well.
Once the shoes were retrieved, we were able to finish packing and get ready to go. We checked down the hall for our housekeepers, Loan and Hanh. When they realized that the time had come for us to say goodbye, they were both in tears, which didn’t help us keep our composure.
Back in the apartment, we had a phone call and it turned out to be Bach, one of our favorite bellman. He was unable to see us off so he had called to say "hen gap lai" and to assure us he would keep in touch. We were again overwhelmed by the outpouring of feeling from the staff.
It was only fitting that Cong, the first bellman who had greeted us on our arrival, was the one to take our bags down to the airport taxi. F & B Director Ron and Rooms Manager Mr. Tan were there to shake our hands and remind us to come back soon. Other staff members ran out to add their good wishes and we were more than a bit shaky as we got into the taxi for Noi Bai airport.
In the cab, Ira sent out a blanket text message to many of the people he had known over the two years and our ride was interrupted over and over by the bell signifying receipt of yet another acknowledgement.
Hanoi was once just a name of a far-off place in a land about which we knew little and cared less. Now it represents a piece of our life that is like none other. What can we say to sum it up? All we can think of is "hen gap lai."
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