On plane to Hanoi. Successfully nagivated baggage claim and customs in Malaysia, found the shuttle to our hotel and caught it. It was only about 5 minutes or so away – Concorde Hotel – and we checked in (first in line! same with the passports!) and were taken to our room by a porter. It was hot and muggy – hit us like a wave when we got off the plane. Swimming in soup. Room luckily had air-con but it took a while to come on.
We watched the end of a Malaysian cop TV show, and the start of a soap opera (concerned with whether or not some daughter would be returning to Australia or not) but fell asleep. Oh, and a shower. That was wonderful. Bed was king size, tons of room to spread out and relax cramped, tired limbs.
I can’t believe we’re really here! Will probably be my mantra for the next few days I suspect.
Our plan, from here, is to get some dong out at the airport and then, rather than catching a taxi ($10 USD), hopping on the number seven bus which goes all the way to the northern shore of Lake Hoan Kiem. Apparently it takes about an hour. From there we’ll scope out a place to stay and have a wee wander. So not much of a plan, really, just a little idea of what we’ll do when we land.
It’s really nice to be travelling with Steve. He’s so relaxed and easy-going and relaxing too. He’s happy to cruise and look around, isn’t materialistic or funny but I can tell he’s anxious to make sure I’m having a good time, etc.
I can’t believe I’m going to Vietnam!
Nasi Lemak for brunch on plane. Yum!
(later – about 8pm) So much has happened in the last eight hours! What a wonderful rush it all is!
Got off the plane, expecting to be accosted at every turn, instead saw a smiling woman in the money changer and some cute wee kids who stared and giggled sitting next to me as I waited for Steve (who was in the toilet). Initial first impressions are always tricky to capture, because things get built upon and re-shaped as you experience more. We were going to get the bus but couldn’t find it – were approached by a couple of dudes in fake uniforms on a motorbike asking us where we were going…wound up being ushered on to a mini van with some Aussies who had already negotiated a price for the five of them – we wound up paying less than half of what one person paid – hee hee! But seriously, they were nice guys – took us to the end of the line, in the old quarter, near the lake.
Driving in was incredible. Such a kalidescope of images – hundreds of shops, each selling something different, crammed side by side, people sitting on their heels, selling fruits or lighters or shoes, families sitting around low plastic tables on little chairs, eating together, practically at the same height as the cars and motorcycles driving by… hundreds and hundreds, waves of neverending, unceasing, unfailing waves of people on scooters, honking, merging, splitting apart, texting while talking to a passenger on the back, flowing like air, like water, around Hoan Kiem Lake, never stopping.
After we got out of the mini van we thought we’d head to the lake and get our bearings. A fattish guy in a black and purple t-shirt fell into step with us and gave Steve his card. We said goodbye and then ducked into a bar – walking around with a backpack was like a red flag to a bull – the people approaching you were friendly, not hard. Maybe less “seasoned” than the Balinese. We had two large beers – “Hanoi” for $1.60 each. We drank and watched the scooters go around and around and looked at the card we’d been given, with the map on the back. We had a few other places in mind, but this one was just down the road – we could see the way we had to go from our perch by the window.
The cool thing about the streets here is that there really aren’t any traffic lights, no stop signs, no give way signs. Well – I saw one set of traffic lights and they were hilarious. People respected them, yes, but when they were nearing a green light, all the stopped scooters would start honking, and then suddenly, with a rip and a roar, all take off like they were part of Superbikes or something. So those are the roads, and the way you cross the street is just that – just take a breath and step out into the traffic. It’s so anarchistic, it’s brilliant! Rules aren’t needed cause people get on just fine without them.
Anyway, we found the street, a small quiet side road (alley?) that seems mostly residential. The hotel’s called “The Old Darling Hotel” and the peopole who run it are absolute sweethearts. Turns out the guy who gave us the card is called Michael and the sweet girl who checked us in is Tui. Thui, something like that.
We got a cool room with a balcony overlooking the road and rooftops – it’s an awesome view. I can’t wait till morning!
We booked a tour to Sapa – an overnight trip on a beautiful old train – “soft sleeper”, trip to the cool market up there, a homestay, some hiking and a trip in a jeep to see some waterfall – we leave tomorrow night! Went to a neat restaurant called The Old Hanoi (filled with tourists but still good) and ate self-roll spring rolls (beef) and I had “Five tastes chicken” which was beautiful, while Steve had citroen and chili chicken. Stunning.
Tried my hand at bartering at a shop across the road but my technique isn’t the best. Must practice I guess.
Got a silk lamp that is filled with spiders and his prey and will have to be cleaned out before it makes the trip to NZ. Gorgeous tho. Also a couple of silk scarves, one for mum, one for Colette. All up, 200,000 d. Time will tell if that’s a lot or what. (I suspect it’s a lot but at this point, oh well. It’s pretty good for NZ $20.)
We wandered back to the lake, saw some gorgeous art from the local art school – housed in a beautiful old building by the lake, and had coffee at the Thuy Ta Cafe, outdoors and lovely, right by the lake. The coffee was warm and beautiful.
We also sat down by the lake for a while, as it got darker and watched the lights of the scooters go round and round.
Finally back ‘home’, to shower, wash some skanks and socks and sweaty t-shirt, drink some water, and update the ol’ diary! It’s still early, 9:20pm or so, but we’ve had a big day and it’s 1ish in NZ (1:20am) so I guess it’s fair if we’re sleepy I guess.
Earplugs tonight. While we’re not on the main street the scooter horns still go – apparently they never stop!
Steve’s flaked – time I did too.