First impressions of Hanoi and Vietnam
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 1 of 17 › view all entries
We landed almost on time and sailed through immigration despite not having an onward ticket booked out of the country which we had been warned might cause some problems. Adam had a bit of a scare at the luggage carousel as Stephanie's backpack was one of the first off, considering we checked in together you would think that Adam's would be off around the same time. Half an hour later with an ever dwindling number of people waiting and with Adam wearing a clearly worried look on his face out spewed the naughty bag. We had wanted to take the USD$2 minibus into town but the waiting gang of touts and taxi drivers were in cahoots with the bus driver (the first scam of Vietnam) and he refused to take us unless the van was totally full or we paid him $5 each. Right. We hooked up with another couple named Aldo and Birgit (sorry if thats not the right spelling we were only taxi buddies), and we all shared a taxi into town for 45,000 Dong each (just under $3).
We spent the first night at Hanoi Backpackers hostel which was very clean, super friendly and knowledgeable staff. To be honest it was a little too full of westerners for what we have got used to in Japan and China but it was an easy introduction to Hanoi.
Next day we took the advice of the extremely helpful James at the hostel and sorted out our accomodation for xmas and New Year. Lucky we did as we spent most of the morning on the internet and making phone calls to places that were fully booked. Finally we got ourselves some reservations at decent places. You really don't want to be slumming it over the holidays. We also booked ourselves a trip to Halong Bay and headed off to the train station to book our soft sleeper train tickets. Scam number four. We queued up armed with our dates, times and train number only to be told that there were no tickets available. We knew this wasn't true because we'd checked with loads of tour companies before hand. What happens is that the tour companies block book the tickets to create an artificial shortage then charge tourists a hugely inflated rate to book them!! Can't blame people for wanting to make money but that's so sly.
We ate lunch at tyhe Kangaroo Cafe, the real one, apparantly there are fakes who rob you so beware. Scam number five is the setting up of businesses with the same name as those recommended in guidebooks and passing yourself off as the real deal or 'sister' company. The foof at the real Kangaroo Cafe was great, cheap and very tasty. After dinner we bought ourselves some sunglasses in optimism that we'd need them on the boat in Halong Bay and did a lap of Hoan Kiem lake which was beautiful. The welcome warmth of the Hanoi evening having just been freezing in China made it extra special. On the way back we stopped in a really swish bar for a beer and felt very under dressed in our shorts and t-shirts among the sophisicated and beautiful locals. Still the staff made us very welcome and a happy hour cold beer is always welcome.