Once you become a mother, everything changes. Schedules, priorities, choices, decisions; they all take on a different angle. Something else, well, someone else, becomes the focal point of a woman’s life when she becomes a mother. One of the things that gets most affected is the concept of ‘me-time’. Some mothers claim that the very concept is absurd and should not be expected or hoped for, while others argue it is vital to spend time on the self in order to be able to care for the very important loved ones. Setting that debate aside, when FUCHSIA heard about 4 awesome moms who decided to take a Moms-Only trip, we were thrilled, and simply had to cover it for the Mothers’ Day issue of FUCHSIA.
If you and your girlfriends have been trying to do this for a while but, like me, kept postponing it, perhaps Nadia, Rabab, Farzana and Gullalay might be able to nudge you out the door!
We chose Hanoi, Vietnam, because we knew it to be beautiful and relaxing; a sleepy town with a relatively slow pace of life is what we wanted out of our girl-y trip. Plus, Hanoi is safe and has a lot of visitors. It is not a place for kids, especially the younger ones, since dragging kids to temples and up and down street markets would not be the most pleasant experience. To top it all off, Hanoi offers excellent shopping opportunities, with beautiful handicrafts like hand-embroidered products, lacquer ware, pottery and other unique handicrafts.
We started out by venturing into the neighbourhood on the first day. As we stepped out of the hotel, La Siesta, we realized we were in the heart of the city. Hanoi offers both high-range, world famous hotel chains and more personalised, smaller boutique hotels.
Shopping was instant! The plan had been to stop briefly at a scarf-shop before lunch – little did we know we would get so engrossed that we would lose track of time.
Having gotten directions from the hotel concierge to a Halal restaurant, we didn’t expect to go round and round in circles! Soon, a young boy spotted us, asked if we were Muslim and very graciously offered to help us. We started following him but realised after he turned into a sunsaan street that he had no idea where he was going. We turned, and ran for our lives!
We abandoned our search for the mysterious Halal restaurant soon enough and settled for pizza instead. The journey back to the La Siesta was less adventurous, with our GPS-fitted memories getting us back in record time!
We were now faced with the next very important business of the trip – who sleeps where? Whether we looked like school girls or not, we definitely felt like them! We did Pogan Ki Pogai, a ‘school-girl’ decision-making process where 4 people flip their hands, and the hands facing in the same direction (up or down) become partners. Tired and sleepy, we ended up in dreamland as soon as our heads hit the pillows, just like in the movies.
After a heavy breakfast the next morning, we went out in search of things of interest. Soon enough, our hands were filled with heavy shopping bags, as even those of us with no original intent to shop became professionals in haggling! We would have been able to put all the bags in our kids’ push-chairs!
With hand-embroidered quilts, paintings, coasters, bedsheets, tablecloths, bags etc, the old quarter was a joy to shop in. We took a stroll along Hoan Kiem Lake and stopped at a restaurant for a cup of coffee and to watch the world passing us by, leaving us to enjoy at our own pace.
Deciding to play it safe this time, we requested the hotel concierge to escort us to the apparently invisible Halal restaurant that we had not been able to find. Clad in Russian Red lips, the four of us were elated at the sight of Tandoor Restaurant, which we realised we had walked right past the previous day. Finding Halal restaurants is close to impossible, proving to be a pain point for us on this trip. Vegetarians have more options in this city than Muslims who want Halal food.
Moms-Only trip or not, the children were often the subject of our conversations. Of course, the phone calls to check up on them were frequent. Especially when we were shopping, we thought of them so much.
No girl-y trip is complete without late-night sessions, filled with girl-y reflections on different things in life. And of course, a lot of gossiping! We did both!
Warning to one and all: Vietnam has no concept of pedestrian crossings. The traffic will flow from all directions, and if you are anything like we were, you will be ooh-ing and aah-ing and oh-no-ing in surprise, excitement, adrenaline and fear at every road that you attempt to cross. People stared at us as we skilfully dodged the tsunami of motorcycles and vehicles.
Feeling like seasoned travellers by day 3, we decided to be a little more adventurous and head towards the village of Batrang, famous for its unique yet affordable pottery. When we got to the centre of the old quarter, we realised we had not taken any time these few days to soak in the beautiful French architecture of the city, reminiscent of its colonial past. We enjoyed the rest of our time doing just that. Light-hearted and satisfied from all the shopping and the sightseeing, it was time to head back to the hotel for indulgence at the spa.
For we knew, what was to follow: getting the shopping into our bags.
We braced ourselves. It was a scene out of an epic war movie for sure – oil paintings, lacquare ware , hand embroidered quilts, table cloths, pottery – spread out over every inch of our hotel room floors, beds and counter tops! Grateful for the handy packing skills of our roommates, we went to sleep satisfied with the state of our bags. The next morning, we were up early and all set for the airport after a hearty breakfast. We had our share of fun, and were now ready and impatient to hug and kiss our kids.
The 4 awesome Moms found that the best part of the entire trip was knowing that there were no time limits, no rushing back home for the kids and husbands and no worrying about ensuring dinner was ready for the family! In Vietnam, the land of hard working people, the land that saw itself through French and British rule, an American invasion and Communism, they found they were returning home inspired.
And, of course, with a treasure chest of beautiful memories with each other.