Goooooooood morning Vietnam!!
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 11 of 35 › view all entries
Now James has quite finished with that little outburst in the last post, lets begin....
We arrived in Hanoi on Sunday around lunch time (after an awesome 2 flights with Singapore airlines who feed the hell out of you!), and had a miniature scare when Jims bag didn't show up at the luggage collection!!! We thought maybe it got left behind in Singapore when catching our connecting flight! So after 1/2 an hour of slight worry and everyone around us dispersing, his bag finally emerged LAST! because it was so heavy (yes, i wonder who's straighteners and shoes and bags were in my backpack?!!)!
Anyway, we had already booked 2 nights at Hanoi backpackers (party hostel!) and a pick up from the airport, so were greeted by a man in a suit with a sign who showed us to the minibus (where 2 other shifty looking guys in tracksuits were waiting to drive us)! On the way we got a good look at the outskirts of Hanoi and how differently the people live and drive (while on the road we realised we didn't have our seatbelts on and would literally die without them! these guys are maniacs! so we quickly searched and put them on!), the worst were the ones on the mopeds (soooo many mopeds!)!!
Once we got to the hostel, down a tiny side street, it was quite a relief to talk to people with a slight grasp of the english language! We dropped our bags into the room and went for a wander around Hanoi's old quarter (which was hard work because aswell as being maniacs, there hundreds of them!) where we had to put into practice some earlier advice - take a leap, quite literally into the road! they won't stop for you (even at one of the few working traffic lights), they just go around you (except the buses, as i watched one of them run into a local who then hobbled back onto the street). The trick is to walk at a slow pace straight ahead and don't hesitate!
On our first evening we went to the hostels rooftop bar for a BBQ (an extremely cultural burger!) and happy hour :D (2 for 1 get in!). We met some nice australians who went out to further the party when the bar closed at 9.30 but we were way too knackered after our flight so just went to bed. Most places here close their shutters at 11pm as enforced by the police (but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to be on the outside of the shutters! ;) )
The following day we got up and went with the aussies to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where you can go and see his embalmed body!! But it was closed. Most museums close on mondays, however the Ho Chi Minh Museum was open so we went there instead (it was just a bunch of pictures on the wall and modern art installations supposedly expressing peace, progress and freedom, but this was quite hard to understand as the explanations went something like this: 'Ho Chi Minh's headquarters and of the brain, 1958'.... fun though!)!! We went to a water puppet show on the evening which is a traditional vietnamese performance with ceramic and fabric handmade puppets, controlled by a team of puppeteers behind a screen waist deep in water and accompanied by live musicians and singers (punch and judy in a lake!)!! After the brilliant show we headed to the street for our first food stall experience (it didn't go too well!). Once we'd got past the language barrier and ordered, we sat down to our vietnamese style salad and realised it consisted of unpeeled vegetables, watery broth and some suspicious black meat (absolutely everything we'd been told to avoid)!! We cut and run after about 3 mouthfulls and thankfully didn't suffer any ill effects! Then went and joined our new friends for a drink in the street (don't worry thats normal here)!
The next day we had booked a trip to Ha Long Bay so crawled out of bed and suffered a 3 hour bumpy minibus ride. When we got there it was totally worth it, we hopped onto the boat (an actual pirate ship. no seriously, it was called the jolly roger!) and set sail into the misty pillars of rock rising from the water (it was like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean!). Once anchored, it was time for those who wished, to jump off the top deck. Jim took the plunge (I manned up... well until I hit the freezing water anyway), but I politely declined. It was bloody freezing! Despite the lack of sun we weren't dis-heartened as the mist gave a really eerie edge and enigmatic effect to the bay. Next we went off in our kayaks exploring the karsts and caves, then once back on ship we had drinks and tons of lovely local food (there be much merriment!), and slept in our own little cabin (aaarrrgh it be a good cabin!) then headed back to Hanoi in the morning.
Loads of stuff is ludicrously cheap here including beer, the most expensive of which is served at the hostel for 20,000 dong (less than 70p) and on the night following our Ha Long Bay trip we were lead to bia junction where you sit on a little plastic stool on the roadside and get served even cheaper local home brew - bia hoi - which cost an unbelievable 3000 dong (that is quite literally 9p. legendary!)!!
Today we visited Hoa Lo Prison (which was all kinds of awesome) built by the french in the 1890's to house political prisoners during the revolution against the french colonists and later the American pilots during the vietnamese war, including John McCain. We wandered around, seeing the cells, one of the guillotines used to execute revolutionary prisoners (plus an awesome picture of severed heads) and John McCains original flight suit. As this is north Vietnam there is a different spin on propoganda than what we are used to on the american side of affairs, for example, there's pictures of lots of prisoners hanging Christmas decorations!! We are off now to Sapa in the north, by sleeper train, where we will do some trekking and spend a night with a hill tribe family! But will tell you all about that next time :D