Hanoi and first days in Vietnam

Saturday afternoon in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi. We got here on Thursday afternoon from Laos after flying rather than taking the much cheaper (but much more arduous) 27 hour bus journey that some others did. We heard nothing but nightmare stories so decided to fork out the $140 dollars to get in in an hour and arrive with ease. Relative ease. My bag got lost on-route but thankfully it was put on the next flight and arrived in Hanoi airport about a half hour after I did. From there we went into the city where we nearly fell victim to a scam.

We met two Aussie girls on the plane and decided to travel in with them as we were all staying in the same hostel (a great hostel, by the way). So we head in on the bus and after a few steps this well-dressed, friendly local gets talking to us. Says he works in a hostel and produces a card. Lo and behold it’s the very hostel we’re headed too, so he says he’ll go with us in a taxi there. Fine, we’d been planing to grab a taxi anyhow. Of course, the scam was that he took us to his friend’s hostel and not the one we’d been heading for. He then tried to get us to stay there. We told him to politely fuck off and after some map searching found our place – the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, which is teeming with fellow travelers and is a great spot to meet people.

Upon arrival, we went straight out on the piss and met a few folk who we’d first met in Laos – Amy from Newcastle, Kev from Hartlepool and Kirsty from Manchester. Been hanging with them since and we’re all off together to Halong Bay for three days tomorrow, which should be great. Halong Bay looks absolutely stunning so really looking forward to getting there.

Hanoi is the best city I’ve been to on the trip. It’s just so full of atmosphere and constantly buzzing with activity. The traffic is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Scooters and motorbikes everywhere; constant beeping of horns; and traffic that seems to never let up. Crossing the road is such an experience. No one stops to let you past and you kind of have got to move slowly across, hoping that the  bikers will weave out of your way. It really is something else.

Yesterday, Friday, we went to the old prison in Hanoi, where US soldiers including John McCain were held after being captured during the war. It was really interesting actually and I enjoyed it. We then walked through the city abit and made our way to the Temple of Literature, which is a real nice bit of calm space in a constantly hectic city. After that it was on the beer again.

Like Laos, the bars,etc are meant to shut at around 11pm and the police go around to the bars which break this curfew to check if there’s people there and kick them out. They’re quite scary actually and on night on had cattle prods or electric zappers, which would give the inebriated one hell of a shock. Anyhow last night we were during until 4am and it was funny. The shutters were down on the pub and it was really like a lock in at home. When the cops came knocking, the owner would tell us to all hide, so everyone runs for the toilet and you have about 12-15 people crammed into a cubicle space at 2am. Got some funny pictures!

So that’s so far. As I mentioned, there’s a group of us off to Halong Bay tomorrow, which is gorgeous coastlines, hidden caves, beaches, etc. We’ll be sleeping on a boat. It should be top.

I don’t feel I wrote well on the Laos experience – didn’t do it justice. Laos was really amazing and the two weeks there were good good times. We met so many great people and that really made the place. Tubing is so much fun, and although there’s not a hell of a lot to see on the route we traveled in Laos, there is something special about it. I’d recommend anyone doing SE Asia to go there for a week or two.

On the last day in Vientienne we did nothing much. I went for a big 5km walk with Tom and Alex (Top Essex boys we met from the off in Laos) and then they headed down more south of the country while James and I got set for Hanoi. They’re off to Cambodia next and we shall be meeting them in Sydney for Xmas. So far we pulling together a group of about 8 people we’ve met along the way, who’ll all be hooking up for a Xmas reunion in Sydney. It’ll make it a special Xmas. Looking forward to it.

Anything else….The Vietnamese, so far aren’t as friendly a people as those in Laos or Thailand. Sometimes you feel as if they’re giving you looks of disgust. It’s strange, but they def don’t smile as much as the Thai people certainly. Much harsher, sterner people on the surface so far…. I don’t think I’ve much more to add.

Hoping all is good at home. Gutted I’m going to miss Oasis at Slane. I’ve never missed an Oasis gig in Ireland and now I’m gonna miss out on the big one! Gutted. I’m going to throw some album reviews up online in coming days. Keep the pencil sharp as they say. Over and out.

Tune That Best Sums Up The Mood

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