Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 4 of 5 › view all entries
Day 3 â Tuesday 17th of February - Singapore, Singapore to Hanoi, Vietnam
I had booked a Tiger Airways flight at 6am, which meant that I had to be at the Airport at least 2 hours before. This was pretty crappy, because it meant I had to be up at three in the AM, to leave the Hostel at half past. I got some sleep, but not enough. Reception ordered me a taxi, and I was lucky enough to get a Limo Taxi, a Mercedes Benz with a very friendly English speaking driver. He was a very nice man, who chatted with me about where I was from, and his family, and Singapore.
I arrived at the budget terminal (one of four terminals at Singapore) with time to spare. The check in didnât open until about half past, which I was pretty annoyed about, but there were no hassles, so I headed through security, and immigration and into the very new looking lounge. There was only one food outlet open, so I ordered a pork bun, which turned out to be chicken and settled in.
Whilst I was ordering, another girl was also ordering food. I invited her to sit with me, and we chatted about traveling, and she shared her spring rolls. Her name was Sarah, a Canadian, working in London. She was traveling for a few months before she began her new job. We agreed to meet up at Hanoi Airport.
The flight was pretty uncomfortable, I got a window seat as usual, which was good, but the chairs were not very big, and the headrest didnât even make it to the top of my neck. I spent most of my flight in a half conscious state, waking up when my head would move. It wasnât a long flight, about 4 hours, and eventually it was over. I met Sarah, we cleared immigration, and the usual lax customs and headed for baggage claim. After collecting our baggage, we set out to find the minivans, a service that costs US$2 to get to the city centre. I changed some money over on the way, and the conversion rate was quite bad, compared to when I was here last. One Australian dollar gets you 11,000 dong, in 2007 it was about 16,000-17,000 dong.
After being hassled by a number of taxi drivers, we found the minivan area, and negotiated the fee with little resistance. After a short wait, we were off into Hanoi. The drive was the usual organised chaos, and we only had two near misses with a few stray motorbike riders. Sarah took it pretty well, as she had just come from Egypt, where the roads are apparently worse. We arrived at the drop off point, the Vietnam Airlines head office in the old quarter. After being hassled by about six motorbike riders, one of which even tried to take money out of my hand, we set out to find Sarahâs Hostel. Hanoi Backpackers Hostel as it turns out is a very nice establishment, and cheap. I probably would have stayed there, if I hadnât paid the deposit on my Hotel.
On the maps we had, we couldnât find my hotel, so we asked the Hostel staff, and they drew the street in on their map. Sarah offered to come and help me carry one of my bags, the little one obviously. We found the Hotel Phoenix pretty easily, and successfully navigated the crazy traffic surprisingly well. The hotel was quite nice, with an open eating area, free wifi, and clean rooms. I checked in with no hassles, apart from the girl loosing my passport momentarily. I dumped my stuff, put some sunscreen on, used the toilet, then Sarah and I headed out to grab some food. We asked for a recommendation from the reception girl, who gave us the option of about 5 places. We chose the âspring rollâ option and headed out to navigate the crazy streets again.
The ârestaurantâ was packed, and everyone shared large tables, and sat on plastic stools. There was no ordering process, and no prices listed. We were given a plate of noodles, a bowl of what we believe was a pickled vegetable of some form, then a bowl of broth and meatballs, and a plate of freshly cooked spring rolls. Sarah asked for eating directions from our table neighbors. They didnât speak English, so the man mocked it out for us, with his friends laughing at him and us. The meal was good and quite filling. We paid too much in retrospect, 70,000 dong, or about A$6.80, which was the tourist price.
We set out to see the town, heading first to the Ho Hoan Kiem lake. My iPhone came in handy, giving us the history of the lake and the old quarter. We walked around the lake towards the Ngoc Son Temple. Admission was 10,000 dong (A$1). It was very pretty and the gifts to the gods inside the temple were amazing. There is a legend attached to the lake, involving King Le Loi, who was given a magical sword and with it, drove out the invading Chinese. When he was at the lake, it was said that a giant turtle came and took the sword back to the depths, returning it to the gods. The temple features a mummified turtle, which is really strange. I ran into an older couple on the other side of the Temple from Perth, and had a chat. They were a little bogan, the guy kept calling âSa-paâ, âSap-ahâ, in a really aussie accent.
We headed across the road to where flip-flop alley was, a street with hundreds of shoe sellers. I ran into a few people from Sydney, that I had met in the line to check in, in Singapore. We walked back around the lake, passing some cool statues, and buildings. We decided to have a bit of a ânana napâ and reconvene at the Hostel for happy hour, from 5 until 6. I managed to get back to my hotel, and Skype called home. They answered after a bit, and it was fun to have a chat, for free and to be able to see them, and show them my photos. Ah technology, I love thee.
I headed to happy hour a little bit late, but still managed to grab one lot of two for one drinks. At 20,000 dong, or 2 Australian dollars, it was quite a steal. I sat down with Sarah, a few Swedish guys we had met earlier, an English couple, and four girls from Melbourne. Youâve got to love that you can travel to a completely different country, and still meet people from your hometown. There were two girls who were traveling on their own, and the other two were traveling together, and leaving shortly on a bus. One of the girls from Melbourne, Reshika, was really cool. We sat there and played Kings, which was a drinking game, that pretty much involved a series of stupid rules attached to certain cards. Sip to the right, forbidden words, and the fountain. The fountain states that the person who drew the card starts to drink, and everyone else clockwise follows. Only when the last person starts drinking, can they stop.
We got pretty tipsy, pretty quickly, and then decided it was food time. Reshika knew a place around the corner that had good Pho, (southern style Vietnamese soup). I have had it in Footscray and Collingwood many times. It was alright, but not as good as Footscrayzy, but at 12,000 dong, or A$1.20, you cant really complain. We headed back to the Hostel to regroup, then decided to go and try Bia Hoi, the 30 cent beer available at street-side stalls. It was pretty bad, but grew on me as I drank it. A few of the group decided it was time for a kebab, but I passed. We then headed for Le Pub, that was host to a lot of westerners and Coopers Pale Ale!!!!
When we got there, Coopers was 140,000 dong, and there was no way I
was paying almost double what I pay in Melbourne. Donât get me wrong,
itâs an awesome beer, just not at that price, so I settled with a Tiger
Beer. It was pretty noisy and not very pleasant, so we called it a
night and decided to meet at the Hostel at nine to go and see Uncle Ho
(Ho Chi Minh). As everyone else was staying at the Hostel, I was forced
to walk the darkened, half deserted streets on my own, which was quite
an experience. After being offered to âSmoke Marijuanaâ by motorbike
riders about 6 times, I was back safe and sound.
Wow, this is an epic post, but it was an epic day. If you have read this far, Well Done! Uncle Ho tomorrow. Hope you are all well!
Day 5 - Wednesday 18th of February â Phoenix Hotel â Hanoi, Vietnam
I got to the Hostel a little after nine, and met Reshika at the seats out the front. We gradually gathered the group, including Sarah the Canadian, and the English couple. It was quite a good little group. It took us about 45 minutes to walk there, and we didnât get lost too many times. We checked in our cameras and bags etc, passed security, and started to line up. It was a pretty quick moving line, and after about 10 minutes we entered the building. There were lots of tourist around and the photo below shows a school group which we all found very cute!
So, I may need to explain this now. The city in the south may be named Ho Chi Minh, but Hanoi has the man himself, embalmed and in his own Mausoleum. It was against his wishes, but thatâs the way it goes. There are no cameras allowed inside, so fortunately I donât have any happy snaps. The whole experience was quite weird. The path is lined with bored looking guards, some of whom have rifles with those knifes attached to the top. You are hurried along if you dawdle, and only in the main room for about 30 seconds, which is enough for me. He is well lit though, actually the whole building is quite well lit, in a very retro style.
We collected our cameras and headed into the Palace grounds to see the house on stilts and the one pillar pagoda. Unlike the Mausoleum, there was an admission fee. It was a bit of let down, but had some nice buildings and gardens. Once we had navigated past the hordes of tourists, we started the long walk back to the Old Quarter. Along the way, we decided to get some food from a roadside stall just off the main road, down a laneway. The menu was of corse not in English, but the girl from Melbourne could translate some of it, so we were all fingers crossed for something edible. It turned out to be a quite good meal, topped with peanuts, which was a change.
We got back to the Hostel and sat around for a bit. Sarah wanted to go see the Water Puppets, but I wasnât keen. We sat around for a bit longer, then went to get more food. This time, we shared a pizza, not very Vietnamese I know, but hey, I needed some carbs. We went back to the Hostel and there was talk of heading to my Hotel room and watching Flight of the Conchords, but Sarah and the English couple wanted to see the Water Puppets, and the girl from Melbourne was off at 5 to a semi job interview. We ended up calling it a day, and I said my goodbyes to all, adding them on Facebook of course, then headed back to the Hotel, to catch up on some bloging and internet related fun!
I headed down the street and got some Pho at a local restaurant. Whilst there, I got chatting to a French lady, who had very broken English. She only ate rice, and wouldnât eat meat or anything with broth. It was such a shame, but whatever, each to their own. A local boy, who was probably 6 or 7 was hanging around the doorway, and said hello to us, showing us his new toy, a set of magnets. He was very cute, and had great fun entertaining us with all the different shapes he could make. I got out my iPhone and showed him the drum pad application, which he thought was super cool. I had to try to tell him not to hit it too hard, and soon enough he had found the games. This of coarse attracted the whole neighborhood of kids, and for a few moments, my phone disappeared into a sea of kids. I eventually got it back and told them I had to go. They were very disappointed, and followed me down the street for a block or two.
Off to Hoi An tomorrow, on a local Jetstar flight. I am meeting up with Alex and Caitlin finally, which should be ace. Iâm looking forward to having a bit more of a relax and enjoying some more beer. Hope you are all well, please let me know whats news.