what seemed by comparison a short 1.5 hour flight. OMFG were we in for
By comparison the airport was ancient, looking like it was built about
30 years ago (a quick google shows it was built in 1975. Bangkok
airport was amazing, like something out of a sci-fi movie.) After
getting through customs and baggage claim pretty quickly, we found our
escort to our hotel and got some money changed. (Hot Tip: Get your
money changed in Hanoi at Vietcombank on Cau Go at the north end of
Hoan Kiem Lake for a WAY better exhange rate)
Ok the trip in from the airport was much like what I had seen before
in my stay in Beijing, but a a fair bit more dirty and third-world
than I was expecting.
Both being very nervous about whether we are being taken for a ride to
donate our organs to black marketers or actually being taken to our
hotel, we were more than on edge by the time we hit the outskirts of
Hanoi. The car pulled up outside a tiny little alley packed full of
bikes and people, with no hotel to be seen. A lady came out of it to
meet us a took us down said dingey, now sinister looking alley. I
though for sure we had been taken for a ride as I couldn't see our
hotel. Fortunately for us it was just around the first dogleg in the
alley and we were shown to our room. We were pleasantly surprised
about how well appointed our room was for $15US a night. AC, H&C water
with private bathroom and satellite tv. Oh and the topper is FREE
WiFi! So far so good.
We had just driven through the traffic to get here but nothing
prepared us for the culture shock of our first walk around Hanoi.
There is SO much unrelenting traffic and noise we both were having a
very hard time getting comfortable. You couldn't walk on the footpath
because there were either people or bikes that weren't going to move
and everywhere you looked there were people wanting to take you
somewhere, sell you some nasty trinkets at poisonous prices or run
over you with their bike! We both were thinking this is the biggest
mistake ever and were dreaming of home and our bed. (our nice soft
bed. The one in our room was just a slab of hard foam. Nothing you
could sink into and escape reality with.)
I was getting a serious case of the emo's and I didn't see the light
at the end tunnel. I wasn't even sure if any of the food was safe for
us to eat without getting a case of the squrts for a few days. ARGH!
Get me out of here.
We somehow ended up out front of a cafe that looked a clean a western
as we had seen anywhere and decided to take a seat and collect
ourselves with a drink and a bite to eat. I saw another whitey (that's
what I'm calling us folk) eating some apple thingy and thought it must
be safe for my delicate whitey digestive system.
As we were eating our cake and sipping our cokes, Katie mentioned how
comforting it was to hear our accent from the ladies who I used as my
justification for the cake we consuming some what gingerly. I think
they overheard Katie mention it to me and they turned around made
conversation. I think it was written all over our faces that we were
both shit scared when they asked us how long we have been here. "Just
got here". Both ladies looked sympathetic, reminiscent and excited at
the same time when they asked if we were "shell-shocked". Boy! What a
relief that was to know we weren't the only ones. They started raving
about the wonderful time they have had and reassuring us that we will
have same. It was very comforting for both of us.
It's been all up from there! We are both now pros at parting the
torrents of bikes and cars when we step put on the road and happily
and politely wave off the the street hawkers and the
"students" (read:con artists) we have just recently encountered too.
Our Lonely Planet has been our safety blanket and has held us in good
steed. We have done plenty of walking and I can now safely say we are
both having a ball!
That night night we ate at a soup retaurant called Pho which was
really tasty. I've quickly aquired a taste for the spicy food that is
so popular. After we went and saw the water puppets which blew us both
away at the colour and sounds and the technology if I can say that
about a 1000 year old artform. Video and pics to come.
If by now it isn't abundantly clear, I take back all the negative and
skeptical things I have said about Hanoi. Everyone is just beautiful,
so friendly and helpful now that I have learnt to view this place from
a better perspective. There is just so much spectacle and life to be
enjoyed here. It's like nothing you will ever see in the western world.
Before we left, katies mum showed us both some scrapbooking she had
done that had a quote that she pointed out and stuck in both our
minds. It was something like "a journey isn't about the destination,
it's about a new way of seeing things" I couldn't agree more.