42-45 Hanoi, Vietnam

See trip index here Vietnam index here and additional Vietnam photos here

After an early start we got our bus to KL, quite a posh coach.  Yet despite all the naff busses we’ve used, it was this posh one that kept breaking down…  We did make the airport on time though and arrived OK in Hanoi, and got to our hotel without problem.  OK – we arranged a prebooked taxi to avoid all the airport scams.  Annoyingly, after 31’C and sunny for many weeks, Hanoi is cloudy and about 15’C which feels freezing!  Bring back the beach!

Completely knackered we went for a quick scout around Hanoi old town.  Blimey.  Makes Bangkok look like a quiet village, bikes everywhere, traffic lights, roundabouts and one-way streets ignored, and action and entertainment everywhere.  Quite a laugh to watch!  After getting some cash and finding our feet, we bought some food without issue, but then almost fell to a short-changing scam with a street seller.  I was just highlighting the incorrect money when a tourist policeman ran over and smacked her over the head and gave her a bollocking.  Oops.  Got my change but probably paid over the odds anyway.  Then the next supermarket where we got water tried to short change us and we think we were fake banknote somewhere along the line (worth 3p!)

Despite this early warning, Vietnam has the buzz and excitement lacking in Malaysia, but with much more care needed…

After a good nights sleep we were a bit more alert as we continued to see Hanoi.  The traffic and bikes remain chaotic but organised, and you can easily cross the road by walking across and just have belief everyone will avoid you.  They do, and its quite normal – though if we end up run over then you know we got it wrong….  Apart from the usual 4 people or 3 crates on a moped, we’ve seen a dead pig, a living pig, an orange tree, and 20 goldfish in their own bags.  Never a dull moment!

The Army museum is interesting showing downed and captured American planes, and the tone of some of the exhibits saying how they defeated the French is quite amusing!  Worth the 30,000 entry fee (£1) just for that.  The two lakes are worth wandering around, but sadly it is quite chilly in Hanoi in December so the lakes and parks weren’t at their best.

 With Tet coming up the Hanoi market was an absolute zoo – no idea how it works but money was changing hands everywhere and boxes/bags moving anywhere and everywhere.  Complete chaos to a westerner!  We popped into the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison (Hoa Lo) which the French built to house Vietnamese prisoners, but later used to hold American pilots caught in the Vietnam war.  The propaganda was immense saying how well the US prisoners were looked after – not quite how the US saw it…

One must see in Hanoi is the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.  We had no idea what to expect, and were expecting it to be dire, but it was actually a superb bit of entertainment.  Very clever indeed and well worth the visit.

With poor weather, the idea of going trekking to Sapa was forgotten – at 1500m it can cold and foggy, and not lush and green as it would be in the summer.  Instead we are going to head to Halong bay for an overnight trip on a Junk – and just got our fingers crossed on the weather!  We’ll return to Hanoi after as there is still much more to see.

See next installment here

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