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Good Morning Vietnam!!

Hanoi Travel Blog

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Views from the coach

The bus from Nanning to Hanoi took about 10 hours, and was remarkably simple, considering we had to cross the border in the middle! We got off the bus, and a little golf buggy took us to a run down building, where some guards asked for money to stamp our visa to say we were healthy enough to enter!?! It was only pence, so we really weren't too worried. Back on the bus, and the scenery seemed to have changed considerably.

Look at the blur of motorbike going through the people?!?!


Where before we were driving through lots of 'nothing', now there was green EVERYWHERE. Mountains popped up out of nowhere, and there were huge stretches of rice paddies complete with workers wearing conical hats. It was so pretty, it's a shame that we couldn't get out and look, but we'll have to make do with hastily taken photos through the bus windows.


When we arrived at the bus station we realised that we were still quite far out of town, so would need to get a cab down to the Old Quarter where our hostel and most of the action was. Literally as soon as my foot touched the floor to get off the coach, I was accosted by a persistant little man who drove me mad instantly. We hadn't even got our bags off, and had no idea where we were, but he wouldn't stop saying 'taxi, taxi, taxi'.

Do you want to buy postcards?
We had no Vietnamese money, so made our way up the road to a bank Lisa had seen on our way past. This was confusing in itself, as 1 pound is 33,000 Dong. So we each got 2 million (!!!!) out of the bank and turned round to be greeted once again by our little grinning taxi friend. In the end we went with him anyway, as we did need a taxi and we bartered him down on his price a bit. It wasn't until later that we realised he wasn't even a proper taxi, as he had no markings on the car, plus the back door handle was falling off......oh well!


A quick comment about Hanoi traffic is probably needed here. We feared for our lives several times in China, they appeared to have no rules of the road, and sometimes drove down the wrong side if the mood took them. That was nothing, not a patch on Hanoi. We couldn't decided if they were the worst or best drivers in the world, there are hundreds and hundreds of motorbikes, and the only rule is, there are no rules!! Crossing the road started off as impossible, turned into terrifying, and then we started to understand.

The lake looking surprisingly beautiful!
You literally just GO. There were times when there were so many bikes, that it was the equivalent of crossing a motorway with your eyes closed. But they swerve around you, you just walk down the road, and they all swerve. We found it actually far more dangerous to look, as if you hesitate or faulter, then they don't know which way to go round you. All I kept thinking was 'if my mum could see how I'm crossing the road, she'd have a heart attack' (yes I took a video to show later!!!). Walking on the pavement was no safer, as the bikes pull up often, they even pull their bikes INTO shops and restaurants!! Their safety mechanism is the horn, which they make full use of. I have never seen such madness and heard such a racket in all my life!!


Our hostel was down a 'quiet' haha side street near St Joseph Cathedral, a completely bizzare thing to see in the middle of Asia.

St Joseph Cathedral
We went inside one day and it was exactly the same atmosphere as in a cathedral in England, very strange and a bit unsettling as we knew what chaos was going on outside. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is centered around Hoan Kiem Lake, so we wandered down, and were immediately accosted by a woman selling postcards. Sarah entertained her for quite some time, and we did get a good deal in the end, but I don't think our vendor was particularly pleased with our insistance! It became a real pain being round the lake, as people were constantly coming up to sell you things, and wouldn't always accept 'no thankyou' as an answer.


Just as annoying were the vendors carrying fruit in baskets. They looked typically Vietnamese, with the conical hat and baskets of fruit so at first it was quite nice to see them.

Street vendor
People in Vietnam really DO wear those hats, it is not simply a stereotype used for the tourists' benefits. However, we soon learnt to avoid 'pineapple' ladies who tried to put their basket on your shoulder so that you could take a photo and then pay them for the privalege. I really dislike that about vendors here and in China, they have no qualms about touching you, grabbing your arms, stroking your shoulder, *shudder* although the whizzened old lady who hit me with her hat as I walked past and didn't put money in it did make me laugh, sort of.


Hanoi has such a lot of 'recent history', so we were really interested to go to the prison, or the 'Hanoi Hilton' as it was jokingly refered to by American POWs.

Want a hat?? Yes we bought one, not from him though!
The prison was originally built by the French to house Vietnamese revolutionaries who had plans to overthrow them. This was what much of the exhibits were about, and it was in parts quite graphic. The way they were treated was appauling, and models of Vietnamese prisoners had been set up in eerie looking poses so that you could visualise the setting. The latter half of the exhibition was related to the Vietnam War (or American War as it was known), where the prison was used to hold American pilots who had been gunned down. The Vietnam War is really not my field of expertise, but when they showed photos of happy US soldiers playing table tennis and having a dance to some music, accompanied by information boards about how well they were treated and how everyone was one big happy family, I did think they might have bent the truth JUST a little. A big fuss was made about how US senator John McCain was held there, and they even had apparent photos of him being 'rescued' by the Vietnamese in the sea, and his army suit on display.
Hanoi Hilton
It was all a bit weird and resulted in Sarah and Lisa having a VERY long winded debate about human nature and all things philosophical, during which I soothed myself with happy hour beers.

ngoclinh says:
Yeh, you are right. Abit annoyed with vendors in Viet Nam. But i hope you can find out that we are friendly and welome you
Posted on: Aug 28, 2008
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Views from the coach
Views from the coach
Look at the blur of motorbike goin…
Look at the blur of motorbike goi…
Do you want to buy postcards?
Do you want to buy postcards?
The lake looking surprisingly beau…
The lake looking surprisingly bea…
St Joseph Cathedral
St Joseph Cathedral
Street vendor
Street vendor
Want a hat?? Yes we bought one, no…
Want a hat?? Yes we bought one, n…
Hanoi Hilton
Hanoi Hilton
Hanoi
photo by: mario26