Our one hour flight to Hanoi was short and sweet…not unlike our stay in Vietnam. Depending on what country you come from you can obtain a visa with no entry fee for up to 15 days, in our case it was 12 days more than required. Hanoi was torrential rain from the moment we landed, pretty used to the rain back home so not a major issue, however there was a constant fog that made any kind of sightseeing a waste of time. We took the one hour bus ride to the old quarter for around 80,000 Dong from the Airport, I had the misfortune to be sitting directly in front of either 2 bulldogs eating a hot bowl of soup or a ridiculously loud eater, this ADULT chewing was outrageous and I had to actually tell him, using gesticulation, to close his mouth when eating as it could even be heard with headphones in (I actually felt sorry for his poor girlfriend who had to sit next to it and I have no idea how she has refrained from choking him with his own food). Hanoi was a cool little place with an almost European feel to the busy Northern city’s Old Quarter. I’ve driven in quite a few different countries in my short time on this planet, but never seen roads as chaotic as Vietnam, for those that have driven and experienced it I’m sue you will know what I mean but for those that have not, imagine driving or even crossing a road where the vehicles have no lights, indicators, mirrors, constantly tooting the horn, no rules, no traffic lights, no right of way…basically could not give a monkeys and you start to get the idea.
We gave Hanoi a shot for two days, after researching a bit more on what there is to see and do when visibility is poor in North Vietnam, it was pretty much a case of get hammered drunk and imagine whatever you want or…head south. We feel that Hanoi is worth checking out despite the traffic, has a beautiful little lake in the centre that is partially lit at night, and….lets face it, you could wrap a dead body in fairy lights and someone would want to put it in a vase in the hall for decoration.
We originally wanted to take the scenic sleeper train south to Ho Chin Minh (Saigon) along the east coast which takes approx 36 hours and is apparently well worth it, however we checked the flights times and prices, one hour flight for £17 as opposed to the £75 for the train, can’t really argue with that. Another one hour bus journey to Saigon city centre then we hopped off, times the Hanoi traffic by about 10 (well worth having your last will and testament in your pocket if you nipping across the street) seen a good few wipe outs including a taxi driver who stopped in the middle of a dual carriageway to let his passenger out, who opened the door without looking and close-lined some poor impatient girl right off her puddle jumper. Who was at fault here I don’t know and the taxi driver certainly wasn’t taking the blame and literally dusted off the girl who was crumpled on the road and doing well to still have a sternum at this point, the taxi driver nonchalantly sped away and his passenger ran for cover into the crowds (anyone of you fed up with your partner or spouse, get yourself to Saigon with a shovel and a bag of lime). After not researching the city and how far away all the things to see and do were away from the centre, we spent the grand total of one night there before high tailing it away. It’s a very loud, very hot, overcrowded party city (please don’t let our experience put you off, despite there not being much in the city centre the things we wanted to see look beautiful and were gutted we didn’t get to see them) We checked out early from our room,which sounded like it was above The Prodigy’s recording studio as the place we were staying neglected to mention is was above a nightclub, and caught the bus to Phnom Penh in neighbouring Cambodia. Its a 7 hour journey on a very small coach but was not the worst bus journey and only cost 456,400 Dong with a local tourist office and they even took the time to fill our visa entries for easy crossing which cost 30USD .
Unfortunately not a lot of photographs on this stop over and we cant say we are in a rush to head back to Vietnam but we need to remember how much atrocity has happened to this poor country, these people have had their lives and country torn apart many times and a lot of which was by the hands of the western world so we can’t blame the people for having a little animosity towards tourists. On the whole the most of the people are very friendly and welcoming, perhaps it’s only when coming in from the neighbouring countries you, or certainly we noticed, that the smiles and greetings were less so but in all honesty we can say the same for any large major city, its usually always a different story when hitting the more rural areas. We don’t want this visit to be our memory of Vietnam so will most definitely head back to give it another shot….I’m sure the boss has more markets to drag me through as I got off a little lightly I thought.
Back East we go……..