2nd August 2014
On my overnight train to Hanoi, Vietnam, I was in my cabin with two Vietnamese ladies, who were absolutely loopy and excited about the fact I was in their cabin with them! They were taking photos, sharing their fruit, the older lady even called a friend who could speak about three words of English, and asked me to say hello down the phone to them! It really was funny, as they sat there giggling like kids and staring in awe at the Westerner in their cabin!
Some of the fruit we shared
I arrived at the station in Hanoi at 6am. It was the right time that the train was scheduled, although there was no real instruction, except for the two ladies saying to me ‘yes, go, go!’ when I asked if this was Hanoi. There were no signs at the station to say I was in Hanoi, just a run down drab building , and a walk across the track to the main exit (a gate). Here I was mobbed by several taxi drivers and I said no to every one of them, I had a map and also GPS on my phone, so I walked down the street and took a quiet moment away from the hecticness to work out where I was and where I needed to go. My GPS said I was around 40 miles away from Hanoi, so I thought I’d got off at the wrong station! Nooo! I started heading back, thinking I’d have to get back on the train (if it was still there!). A taxi driver got out and stopped and I decided I did actually need some help. He showed me where we were on the map and to where I wanted to go, which was over a large bridge and not walkable. I agreed a price of around £6 (well, I didn’t even haggle, even though I knew full well I was meant to, but here I was, 6am in a new country, it was very hectic, I thought I may even be miles away, and I just wanted to get to my hostel). As it was it was only about a mile so I was well and truly ripped off with the price, but I didn’t care too much as I was where I needed to be. Hanoi, Vietnam, on first impressions was very different to anywhere I had been, and I think for the first time on this trip I was experiencing a bit of culture shock! You hear about it and I was never really sure what it was until this point, when I just felt a little overwhelmed at where I was.
Hanoi, although just as hectic as Beijing, was still very different, although I could not put my finger on why! After a full on couple of months of travelling, I really wanted to chill out for a good few days before doing anything, but Hanoi is not the sort of place you can chill out in! During the day in my hostel dorm room the air con was switched off, which makes the rooms unbearably hot. Then heading out into the streets is a mission in itself, hundreds of scooters and the incessant beeping of their horns, and either parked scooters or people on kiddie sized tables and chairs lining the pavements, leaving you no option but to walk in the road, which means dodging said scooters along with bicycle taxis and cars! This does not make for a relaxing afternoon!
Diners on their kiddie sized table sets!
A Vietnamese street kitchen
A delicious DIY BBQ!
But the card they gave us to ensure our return did not sound so tempting….
Dried fruit modelling!
After two nights in that hostel, I decided “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and booked myself into a party hostel to shake things up a bit. I met a group of people from the UK and the US, and ended up going to an underground nightclub, dancing the night away with some local Vietnamese people til 4am! (there is a strict 12am curfew in Hanoi, the police drive around in trucks, closing all the on street bars and restaurants down, you have to hide in the nearest bush with your beer like a fourteen year old!)
The most horrendous toilet system I have ever come across! It’s ‘heads down and get on with it!’ Queue or no queue!
Safe to say that not much happened the next day apart from some minor recovery time, and I’d also decided that I needed to get out of Hanoi, and booked myself on three trips, Halong Bay, Sapa, and Mai Chau.
After these trips I decided to extend my Vietnamese visa, otherwise I would not have time to see the central and southern parts of the country. This meant staying in Hanoi for another four days though, so I booked myself into this very nice hotel, and only left for essentials such as food and drink!
On feeling I ought to do something while in Hanoi (although not a great deal to do here unless you want to eat or drink) I thought I’d go to the Water Puppet Theatre that is quite famous here. I really shouldn’t have bothered, not really my cup of tea! Wish I’d have saved the money for a manicure!
Hats & shoes & fabric…
I love the French style tall buildings
The bikes go everywhere!
Morning exercise in the park
An old man sitting pensively
Finally my visa arrived and I could head down South!