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Mekong Delta

Had a short night, arrived at (new) home very late, had an unpleasant sleep and was still up at 6am. Went for breakfast, had eggs with sandwich (staying now in a hostel in Saigon, they only give you two local options to choose from, other was fried rice). Was ok with a coffee.
Problem that day was that I head a terrible headache due to spending the whole day before at the airport in ac and drinking to few water. Started already in the morning with refilling my body, after breakfast I already had my first liter of water consumed.
Had already a tour booked for Mekong Delta, was picked up by a girl shortly after 8am.
She asked me where I am from, told here Austria, oh, Australia. No, Austria, oh Australia. My host explained in Vietnamese, still she was fascinated that I am from Australia and there is even another guy from Australia on the bus. Had booked the more expensive version of this day trip (still only around 30 euro), meaning max. 9 people on the bus, giving you at least some space and smaller buses. Was the last to be picked up, already 7 people in the bus, so ok.
Went after a two drive first to vinh trang pagoda. Was ok, a pagoda.

Spoke to the other Austrian man, around 30-35 of age, 120kg, typical tourist. Learned that he is travelling for 3 months through South east Asia, was wondering how he survived the first month already. He was smoking electronic cigarette in the bus, on the way back he opened his window so the others complained as the AC was not working with that, … noticed then that he obviously was fired in his last job as developer and now waits for the start of summer term at University to do some courses. He was talking to a young American, had not travelled much in his life as he always had stupid questions about us and other countries (eg was quite surprised that the us boy moved to another us city for working, is this common in your country?) Nonetheless I was happy that he annoyed him instead of me (also the us guy was not happy with him at all, tried then to pretend he is sleeping, didn’t care about that and still questioned him with stupid things …)
Then we headed for the Mekong Delta.
Arrived there and boarded a boat, more or less for crossing the river.and went on coconut island.

There we were first introduced to the local fruits.

From there we had a horse carriage for about 5 minutes to a small inland canal where they rowed us in local boats for the next 10 minutes.

Next stop was coconut chocolate production. Learned how you come from a fresh coconut to chocolate (more or less coconut sirup, have seen a better demonstration about that in domenican republic). A short stop for local tea sweetened with local honey.
From there a short boat ride to lunch. Was at a crodile farm.
Lunch was ok, afterwards you could stroll around and to crocodile fishing (they bind a fish on a stick and you could then put this in front of the crocodiles in the small water hole) Spared that and lay in a hammock instead (did this last time in Honduras, also nice memories)

And that was basically it, where brought back by boat to the bus.

There the guide informed us that we will have 2 additional passengers (two old us ladies, each min. 120 kg). I immediately complained asking if I get a refund because I booked a tour with Max. 9 people (with them we would have been 10 and the bus would be more than full). First she told me she knows nothing about this max. 9 people, as I told here to give me a writing stating we have now 10 people she called her manager for assistance. Obviously the manager knew the max group size as the ladies had to step out of the bus (and probably she lost her extra money, I don’t care, I am here on holidays and pay for me luxury)
Arrived back at the hostel around 5 pm.
Went for a quick shower, found a banh mi stall close to the hostel for a quick evening snack and went to a local restaurant 2 minutes from my hostel for a beer (ok, were 2 in the end).
Back home, had another beer on my balcony, wrote blog and went for an early sleep before 9pm as I was still exhausted from the previous day and the short night.

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My unlucky day (but still an interesting one)

Was up early as always, looked out of the window, it was raining…

So no problem with leaving hoi an, also I must admit I really felt in love with this little town yesterday. And I had done something for my future luck, what could go wrong….
Day started with the usual breakfast, best thing I had till now were the pancakes with chocolate, so I went with them. Was ok.
After breakfast I did my packing, did checkout and at 10:30am was picked up by a car for transfer to danang airport. Took us around 45 minutes, enough time till the flight (scheduled for 12:45). Did checkin and security check and wandered inside the hall. What catched my attention was a burger kind shop. Till now I only had Vietnamese food, it was around 12, so 20 minutes till boarding, after circling the store several times I gave in and ordered. Was delicious (also it went fine with the food till now).

Finished my burgers and heard a message about my flight. They said it was cancelled. Couldn’t believe it as it was 25 minutes before takeoff, went to the message board and saw that I understood correctly and that I have to go to the vjet counter for more info.
Went there, people all around, mostly Chinese and a few Europeans. Chinese were rude as always and were served before all the Europeans. Was standing next to an older men, recognized he is french and has problems to follow the bad English of the service personal. So I started talking to him and did the necessary stuff with him together.

First we were informed that we were now booked for the flight at 7:45pm, received a voucher for a restaurant and were told to do check in again. Waited in the line with all the others for checking without luggage (as it was already checked in), oh to learn then that we have to go to another counter. We had anyhow time and were speaking all the time, also he only knew few English and I no french. Learned that I met a quite interesting person, noel from the bretagne. He started as a technician, sailing with Jacques Cousteau in the 60s. Afterwards he joined the french army as a diver, seeking wracks from wwII and destroying the leftover mines and wrecks that hindered ship travel.
We went for our free lunch (basically instant noodle soup), had a beer and he surprised me again. He used a quite old fashioned mobile, an outdoor Nokia that was minimum 15 years old. Suddenly he asked me if I want to see pictures from his life. I thought by myself how that should work with his mobile (a mobile, no smartphone), he opened his rucksack and an ibook came out. Really impressive for me, he is 77 years of age but uses a laptop. Saw pictures from the boat he worked with Jacques Cousteau, pictures from antartica (there he worked afterwards as a technician for a french expedition) and pictures of lots of relicts he found while diving (mines, airplane miniatures, a pipe from somebody from a German submarine, ..). After lunch we went up again to the counter (as we were told), received 300.000 dong as compensation (around 11 euros) and talked for the whole afternoon.
Did security again around 6pm and waited in the hall.
Flight was now delayed, new time 8:25 pm. Noel already told me we would have to sleep at the airport but I was still looking forward to come to ho chi min city. Around 8:30pm boarding really started and we departed around 9pm.
Landed in Saigon shortly after 10, as I had a driver waiting I offered to take him with me (he said his hotel is 2 streets from mine). Driver accepted and off we were. Reached his location shortly after 11 and I was finally in mine around 11:15. Took a short shower and called it a day.

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My lucky day

Woke up even earlier than the days before (around 6am), looked out and to my surprise the rain had stopped (even though the weather app was still telling me it’s raining, in such a case I trust my eyes more then my mobile 😀).

Did some refreshment, went for the terrible breakfast (tried this time eggs done on both sides, as the bacon was terrible last time I tried them with ham, came with half a slice of cold ham), had half a cup of coffee and the rain started again…
According to the weather forecast it should rain here at least till next week Wednesday. At least the intensity was not so strong as the days before. Had to visit the ATM first, luckely there is a bank with one directly opposite to the hotel. Went over the street, put my card in, entered my pin and saw a blue screen. Waited for about 30 seconds, then the ATM started to beep and a new screen showed up, asking me if I need more screen time. Was a little confused (screen time was sufficient, problem was there was nothing beside the blue screen) but answered yes. Bluescreen showed up again and after 30 seconds it beeped, asking me if I need more screen time. Replied this time no, took my card out and went into the branche. Told them I only get a blue screen, lady was asking to see my card and told me it’s only working with credit cards. Have never seen that behaviour at an ATM before.
Went back to grab an umbrella and walked out to the old town again, expecting the next rainy day. But as I walked out the rain stopped and I came completely dry to the city. Had to have a coffee in the nice roastery from the first day again, decided to use my remaining 4 tickets afterwards.
What a nice little town hoi an is without rain and early without lots of tourists 😀
Followed the recommendations from lonely planet again and started with the fukien assembly hall.

Really lovely.
Went next (randomly, they only had 3 must to see and I had 4 tickets left) to the old house of Quan thanc. 300 years old but not that impressing.
Next on the list was the old house of tan ky (recommended). He was a wealthy merchant who supported the poor, even today had every visitor received a cup of tea (was welcome 😀).

For the finish I did the top spot, the covered bridge or Japanese bridge. More fascinating for me from the outside (have seen it every day from different angles), the inside was not so special.

Went afterwards for an iced coffee with vanilla ice and an apple pie. Delicious! As I was sitting there it started to rain heavily, this time o was on the save side as I was already sitting under a roof 😁

During the waiting time I googled my lunch for today. Selected the sea shell, a sea food restaurant. As it was still early I strolled around, without the rain it was hot again. While I was strolling around I saw the “streets” restaurant. Remembered that I saw it on lonely planet, they employee disabled children, train and support them. So thought I should do something for my karma and decided to eat there. Was still 10 to 12, they had a sign on the wall telling they serve from 12 so I took a chair outside to wait. Immediatly a guy opened the doors and asked me in. Received the menu but asked the boy for his recommendation for typical local food and ordered accordingly.
As a compliment from the kitchen they served rice bread with peanut butter.
As a starter I had banh bong Hong Tran, (streets special) White Rose dumpings.

Delicious also I do not know till now what the filling was (I assume shrimp as this would be the typical filling)
Main course was cao Lau, hoi an special noodles with pork, fresh herbs and crispy croutons in natural juices. Was served in a pot, they told me to mix everything and eat it.

Also delicious, I still like the food here a lot (and till now I survived with local cuisine only😀)
As the first two courses we’re so good I asked for the menu again for a dessert. Recommendation here was the coconut ice with a parfait from fresh pineapple, also wisely choosen (especially as it was hot today).

So all in all, food was excellent in hoi an, liked it every day 😀
Went home afterwards for a shower and a short nap. Thought I could eventually go to the beach in the afternoon (would have been on the schedule for a day here).
Awoke after an hour, looked out. It was not raining but the street was deeply wet, must have been raining hard for some time. Skipped therefore the beach and went back to town. On the other route as always in the afternoon, only this time in dry conditions 😁
Headed for old town, lots of people (tourists) on the street. This was the downside of the nice weather. Saw a wine bar at a crossing in the old town, decided on a small beer there. Must have been the most expensive beer till now, nearly 2 euros for a small bottle. And directly opposite to me I saw this, I had to take a picture (seems they are really international 😆)

Went down to river for the next beer. Found a nice place, sat down and started with the blog. A boy came selling some souvenirs. Today he got me in exactly the right mood. Bought 2 magnets (for my fridge at home) and two folding cards. Payed and noticed women selling small laterns lit by candles. Asked what it is for, learned you put them in the water and let them sail with the current, for luck. Bought also one of them and set it into the water (with a long stick), luck is always needed 😉

Went finally to the other side of the bridge for the last beer. Was directly at the entrance of the bridge, looked at the massive crowd of people and enjoyed my time. It again started to rain, again I was under the roof 😀

Walked home afterwards, thought about a sandwich (as always), started to rain lightly. I had an umbrella with me (till now only used as a walking stick today), opened it after some minutes as the rain slightly increased. At the end of the town at the crossing I saw an old lady selling banh mi (sandwich). It looked like she would close (was around 7:15pm), as she saw me she smiled. As she fore sure didn’t know a word in English (and I no in Vietnamese) I pointed to the bread. She was unsure, went to the front of her stall pointing at the flags. This is one thing I didn’t mention till now. Vietnam is obviously playing some games for the south-east Asia cup (soccer). The first game I noticed was last Sunday in Hanoi, they played the Philippines (and won, the whole town and most probably the whole country went crazy, was the half final as I learned today on the internet), on Thursday the played the second leg against them (and won again, that time I was in hue). Today they play first leg finals against Malaysia. I denied the flag and pointed to the bread instead 😀. She made me the sandwich and packed it in some plastic for me (I wanted to eat at home). By that time the rain had almost stopped, so no need for the umbrella anymore.
Arrived shortly after at my hotel, went up, unpacked my sandwich and opened the door to the balcony for having lunch outside.

And now it rained as heavy as on the second day, so today I was really lucky avoiding all the heavy rain fall and only enjoying the good times in this lovely town hoi an😀

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And the rain goes on

Woke up at sunrise, looked out, rain (sometimes i don’t like it when the weather forecast is right)
But it must admit it was not so heavy as yesterday anymore.
Had breakfast (don’t like it here, even the coffee is not good, had only a pancake with honey and chocolate and half a cup of coffee) and went out, despite the rain (options are limited 😀). Gave the reception my clothes for doing laundry and off I went.
Went to the old town to see the crossing from yesterday. Was already better, was possible for cars and bikes to enter (and go through), still water was over their tires.
Had a coffee and an orange juice, this time on the other side of the bridge, directly facing it.

Was already easier to move, still in same parts you had to wade through ankle high water.
Did a little research on lonely planet and Google to find my place for lunch.
Went to the other side again and decided to start a little sightseeing nonetheless, bought my old town ticket (allows entry to 5 out of 22 buildings, it’s also an unesco world heritage site)
Went for a temple, did some pictures there and crossed the bridge again for my selected lunch place.

As I don’t have to much distraction here I went for some more exotic food (at least to my mind). Place was called vy’s market, close to the bridge, recommended by lonely planet and we’ll rated on Google. They had an enormous selection there, was more an open kitchen with different stations.

Had quite exotic things on the menu, some even to exotic for me (my two highlights: half-breaded duck egg with the embryo inside, half cooked pig brain). Ordered as a starter spicy baby snails (was ok but a hustle to eat, had till now two times ordinary snails, once in Paris was ok, once in Vienna at an Italian restaurant, was fantastic). First the waitress told me to get the snail out with a toothpick, next waiter told me to suck them out. Tryed both versions, was easier with the toothpick for me.

As main dish I ordered stuffed squid with pork, thought the squid would be stuffed and some pork with it, turned out to be the squid stuffed with pork (as side dish they had rice, was also ok, at least better then the snails)

Went home afterwards (my hotel is around 10-15 minutes from the old town, at least I am walking a little bit 😀) and had a quick nap.
Went back to town around 3pm (weather is unchanged, rain is sometimes lighter, sometimes stronger, at least it’s easier to walk today, I am still in my rain gear but using the umbrella only as a walking stick)
This time I took the other (slightly longer) route (as also yesterday afternoon), had a coffee and a blueberry yogurt (was more or less a blueberry milkshake) and went to see a temple in the center (didn’t ask for a ticket, don’t no if it was because of the rain and the already late time, was around 5pm, or if it’s free, at least I still have 4 tickets for tomorrow).

Afterwards I headed for the river, had one beer on one side, another on the other side.

Was only a little hungry, as it was already 6:30pm I decided to skip dinner (to have a goodnight sleep again) and went for a beer on the way home instead 😆
Let’s see what tomorrow brings (also the weather forecast is not the best)

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Rain

Woke up after a good night’s sleep (I think it helped not dining that late, additionally I took an aspirin c before going to sleep as I felt ill) at sunrise (ok, that is not changing).
Looked out of the window and saw heavy rain. Asked my mobile for the weather forecast only to learn that the current rain was called light, it would get worse during the day..

Had breakfast (was not so good as in the previous hotels) and went out to the old city nonetheless. I already regretted that I have not been to the old town the evening before to watch the laterns on the river.
Got an umbrella from the hotel and started walking. Already the streets were under water, it was getting worse the closer I came to the old town. Stopped for a coffee to watch the situation. Had an orange juice and a chocolate croissant with my coffee, was sitting there and watched the people, cars and bikes on the street.

Spended over an hour there, as the rain didn’t stop or at least getting a little lighter I decided to continue my walk. Headed for the Japanese bridge, on the way there was one crossing were I (and others) stopped and watched. The street to the right was more then knee deep under water. Bikes failed after about 100m (I think they were sucking water into their engine), one car made it, water was till the hight of his trunk.

At that corner a lady sold rain jackets, me and two others bought happily from her. In that situation the Vietnamese understood capitalism quite well, I payed 150.000 dong for my jacket (about 5 euros, but here astronomical expensive). But it’s always a question of demand and supply. Went to the Japanese bridge (sorry, no pictures due to the weather. Some of you know I love my pixel, but the shortcoming in the first pixel was that it is not water proof, so I keept it in my pocket in a plastic bag).
Went the same street back and into the next coffee shop, this time a more mundane one. Got for the first time a Vietnamese coffee as I have seen on pictures before (and paid afterwards double the price as normally) and started to read lonely planet.

I was looking for a recommendation for lunch, found and interesting one and discovered on Google maps that it was only 6 minutes away. It was called “the little menue”
Went there, arrived 10 to 12 and saw a sign that they offer lunch from 12 on. As it was anyhow empty (due to the weather I assume) I asked if I can wait. He offered to serve me right away, so had a cigarette outside and sat down. Then I noticed that also another foreign couple was there, working in the kitchen with him, they had a cooking class. They were finished with their class exactly at noon and were then sitting on the table next to me, eating there self done food.
I asked the chef for a recommendation for lunch, he advised me the preset menu. Ordered that and waited for the first course (this time only 3 courses).
We started off with crispy duck spring rolls, delicious!

Main dish was meat (beef) from the wok with rice, was excellent!

But normally you say leave the best for last, how true this was this time. Was already satisfied with the first 2 courses, but now came white mousse au chocolate (with some mango juice on top).

Easily the best mousse I had in my life, thought about eating the glass just to get also the last dip out.
Went happily to the hotel afterwards to get some rest (after that hard morning 😀)
Was up around 3:30 again, rain seemed a little bit lighter, so went out again. This time on another street to the old town. Recognized it only seemed.to be lighter rain, after some minutes it increased and was heavier than before.
Went nonetheless with a happy song on my lips to the river (currently I work on myself to see the things more positive, it is always just a matter of perspective, here it is raining at 26 degrees, in Vienna it has 9 degrees according to the internet). Today I was quite happy to have my havaianas with me (thanks for them, were a gift from a friend). Normally I walk around with my timberlands, but today they would have been the wrong choice as I only went through water the whole day. Sat down at a bar at the riverfront, did the same as in the morning (watching people and how they handle the rain, I german I would say I did “gucken, schauen, gucken 😀”). River is already at the same level as the pathway beside it.

Had a beer and continued my way afterwards. Did a 5 minute stop at the same crossing as in the morning. There the situation was already worse than in the morning. Saw 3 bikes trying to enter. First drove about 30 meters, gave up and turned around. Second went in for about 50 meters, then his motor stopped. Third turned after 30 meters. Saw also a couple coming out by foot, waterlevel was well over their hips.
Headed in the direction of my hotel, stopped at a local sandwich store for a banh mi (this time with chicken and egg) and a beer. Water was flowing through the whole room.

Was nice as always and went home afterwards.

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From Hue to Hoi An

Awoke after an awful night (couldn’t find sleep first, woke up 3 times due to nightmares, feeling quite ill already due to the ac everywhere). It was raining outside, seems the rain period started. Booked at least a hotel for the 3 last days in the morning and headed for breakfast
As I was told I should give the poh in the morning another try I went with the hue version in the morning. Was ok, still not convinced…

A pancake with honey and chocolate afterwards full filled his purpose more 😀
Did checkout and was picked up by my driver for today around 9am. Didn’t follow the advise of my Austrian friend to travel by motorbike, was really happy when I saw all the bikers in their wetsuits 😁

First stop was at a lovely beach (lang co beach), the locals harvest oysters there. With sunshine surely even more impressive.

Continued up the mountains and stopped at the peak (hai van pass) for some pictures. Was very windy and foggy, therefore not so much to see…

Went down the mountain and entered danang. That place I skipped for a stay due to the report on lonely planet (modern city with beaches). Was true, there was construction ongoing in every corner of the city, they already had countess hotels when we passed through, it seems as they await millions of customers each day (was really impressive, every hotel chain you could imagine had already big ressorts there and still they were building on every still empty square meter of land).
Had the last stop of the trip at the exit of danang, the marble mountain. Went up by elevator (I am already old and it was damn hot as it was around noon, after coming down from the mountain on the other side it was completely dry), saw a temple and then a cave.

Then there was a sign for heaven’s gate. No tourists were coming down, thought I have to go up. Reminded me a little bit on the inca trail, steep stone steps leading up. Arrived at the top short breathing. Saw another way leading down (this time without steps, more or less pure stones), started to climb down only to find out that the end of the trail was after about 200m the upper entrance to the cave I visited before (a small hole, about 50 cm in diameter). Skipped that and down the original way again. Now I was covered in sweat. Went completely down the mountain (this time by foot) and found my driver.
Jumped into the car and 30 minutes later we arrived in hoi an (around 2pm).
Did checkin and took a shower immediately…
As i think I sleep so bad is because of my late lunch everyday I decided to go to the old city already in the afternoon. Did that, had a coffee in the city and asked Google for a recommendation on Vietnamese sandwiches. Went for a 4,6 rated stall, was unbelievable good. Had this time 2 sandwiches (as I only had breakfast that day), first pork and cheese, second phi special (pork, cheese, egg and avocado) and a beer.

Payed 75.000,- (around 3 euro) and went home again. Catched a rainshower on the way back, after waiting for around 10 minutes it stopped again and went home for an early end of this day. Did finally the bookings for ho chi min city, at least planning is finished after the first week here (only for the last day before going back I still need a hotel close to the airport, but that’s manageable)

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Imperial City of Hue

First day in Hue started early as always, was up at 6:20am. Checked again hotels (and forwarded them to a Vietnamese helper of mine 😆) and went for breakfast afterwards. Stayed traditional with ham and eggs and some bread with jam afterwards (yes, I will try poh in hue tomorrow for breakfast as a friend insisted I have to give the poh more tries 😁).
Only thing I wanted to see in hue was the citadel (other sightseeing spots are 3 tombs some kilometers out of the town and a Pagoda, I am not to much into Pagodas anymore as stated previously and also tombs are not high on my to-do list).
Went out around 9am, already hot outside (27 degree and humidity over 70 percent) to walk to the citadel. Was told by the hotel it would be 30 minutes, exactly the time I needed (including getting nearly lost one time, but recognised my mistake on the spot). Was already sweating when I reached the citadel… One thing I noticed here is that I got chat up every 100m by motorbike drivers: need a woman, need weed, one even showed me his (poor) weed.
Reached the citadel, payed the entrance fee and went in.

As I had no guide I followed the walking route proposed by lonely planet (anti clockwise from the entrance). Lots of nice buildings and temples, most of them still in ashes (as the whole complex was bombarded heavily by the us during the war). Was happy to be their alone, they had hundreds of bonsais in their gardens, if I would have been here with my last girlfriend I would have spent most probably the whole day (and maybe even more) looking at all the different bonsais.

After around 90 minutes (I was halfway through) it started to rain for the first time since I am here. Covered up at least my already completely sweated outfit 😀 Found shelter in one of the hallways and waited for about 30 minutes till it stopped.

Ended the round with the living quarters of the emperor’s mother and the 9 urns (each around 2m high and several 100kg heavy.

Went out around 1:30pm, had a coffee on the way back and then a really needed shower at the hotel. After a short nap went out again, had coffee again and thought about what to do for dinner. As my bff, who has already been to Vietnam twice, already complained that I am eating like the tourists (ok, first I am a tourist and second also locals eat where I eat) I googled one of her recommendations. Found out that the restaurant was around 200m from where I had coffee, so I decided to give it a try.
Recommendation was the la carambole, and what a good recommendation it was.
Sat down outside and ordered the imperial menue.
Started with toasted bread and butter, came already with the first course, mixed soup. Contained shrimp, squid and more and was already very good.

Next came fresh spring rolls. Also very tasty.

My highlight was the next, fried squid in batter. I think I had never in my life that good fried squid, that course I will always remember.

Was followed by grilled shrimps with chili and lemongrass, I didn’t taste the chili at all but was good nonetheless.

Main course was caramalized white tuna filet (they served steamed rice with it). As you see from the pictures it was so hot that it still bubbled in the bowl, burned my tounge on the first bite. Was quite sweet as the name suggests, Tuna was to well done for my taste (no wonder in this hot sauce), didn’t came close to the best tuna I had (was on my trip to South America on the Easter islands, can also be found here on the blog)

Meal ended with banana rume flambe, was ok, do not know why they called it flambe as it was not burning and they also didn’t ignite it at the table, must have done it in the kitchen already.

From a pricing perspective it was the most expensive meal till now, with 2 (local) beer 330.000 dong. Truely speaking around 12 euros, in Vienna you would easily spent for this min. 4 – 5 times that much.
Enjoyed it a lot, started to rain again during the last course, waited for the rain to stop with the second beer and made it nearly home without getting wet, only on the last 50m it started again. Did 5 quick steps and went happily inside my hotel.