From Thailand to Vietnam

Trip Start Feb 13, 2013
Trip End Mar 16, 2013

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Flag of Vietnam  , Hanoi,
Saturday, March 2, 2013

At 3am the alarm went off and we got up (well I got up) I made Christopher his morning coffee before stirring him. Chris will not even entertain the thought of getting up in the morning if he doesn't know there is a hot coffee waiting for him, in Phuket the kettle was broken so each morning I had to ring room service and have coffee delivered to the room before he would get up. At 4am we had checked out of the hotel and our taxi had arrived, they asked me new airport or old airport, we were going to new and they relaid this in Thai to the driver. The taxi driver sat at around 120km an hour on the freeways out to the airport, we were in the car about 30 mins and I started to see signs for the old airport!! He didnt speak allot of English so he pulled over and we showed him our itinerary which had the airport. He said the hotel told him old airport, so we had to turn around and go back the way we came and our the opposite end of town to get to the new one. The airport was quiet but with plenty of staff working so we managed to get through security, customs and check in fairly quickly. Once again we had items to declare but they just ushered us through without checking or x-raying! Down at the gate the air conditioner was clearly not on, it was extremely hot and although we were meant to board in 20mins of course we boarded late so Chris stood at the front of the line impatiently so he could get on the air conditioned plane ASAP.. Lol

The flight was less then 3hrs, I don't remember much I think I slept most of the way. When we arrived in Hanoi we had to go and get our Visa, in order to be approved for a Visa you need to have a letter of approval from the Vietnamese government and a passport size photo of yourself, the cost is $25 US per person. We provided them with our paperwork and then once they processed it the man behind the counter asked for $80 US. We tried to explain that we thought it was only $50 but he said we had applied for a multiple entry visa, it was also confirmed on the letter. I must have ticked the wrong box when completing the application form, lucky we had enough Dong to cover the charge and were able to pay with that so no problem.

We found our driver almost immediately and after a short drive we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and were shown to our room. We got up level 4 and when the lift doors open we were hit with a foul odur, it was a really strong damp/mouldy smell. We were shown to our room and when the door opened I nearly choked, it smelt worse the the hallway! There was mould growing in the bathroom, the curtains, walls and bedding looked dirty and the worst bit was the bed was wet. Not just damp but physically wet... We went downstairs and explained we couldn't stay in that room, Chris is just starting to get better from his cold/cough and I have started to pick it up now. There is no way we could stay in a room like that. They showed us another room which was an upgrade but again it was damp and not very clean. We started searching on Trip Advisor for another hotel (we had to do this holding cloths over our noses the smell was so bad). The number one hotel in Hanoi was not far from us so we took a cab over to it and just walked in off the street asking if they had any vacancies. We met Tsu the receptionist there, we explained our situation and she advised they didn't have any spare vacancies but that they have sister hotels also and she could ring around for us.

The Elegance Sapphire had a room available so Tsu walked us to it, they only had a suite available so she offered to upgrade us to it for free. She showed us the room and it was beautiful, it has its own private balcony and is decorated in an old French style. We agreed to take the room but the only problem was that the room was unavailable the second night we needed it. Tu then called around again and got us a free upgrade to a 5 star luxury cruise of Halong Bay for the night that the room wasn't free. She was amazing!!!

Our only problem now was that we had to go back to the other hotel and let them know we wouldn't be staying there and to pick up our bags. Tsu had the security guard (Tuan) from our hotel come with us in a taxi to assist us and to collect our bags. What service! The manager at the old hotel said we can check out but we need to pay $18US for the driver who picked us up from the airport but we would also need to pay over $300US for the two tours we had booked with them. Because we were getting the free upgrade with the other hotel we didn't want to do the cruise through the old hotel anymore (we also got told that the cruise we had booked with them has had complaints) we also had another day trip planned that was meant to be the following day (which was now the day we needed to go on the cruise because we didn't have a hotel room). Chris tried to reason with her, saying that we have not paid for the tours so we shouldn't have to pay for them, she kept saying it was policy. I was so tired and was starting to stress we were going to pay so of course the water works started. Chris saw this and knew we couldnt sort it out right then and there, we were to tired, we did not have the policy she was referring and we were really unsure of what to do. He just said "were not sure of the dates we need to change the tours to so can we think about it and come back and let you know?" She agreed to that so we got out of there and checked into the new suite.

It was now after 4pm in the afternoon and we started researching the tours, the company website and referring to our correspondence with the hotel. The tour company's website did say you will lose your money if you cancel, but that was only referring to paid tours there was nothing about tours where you have not paid yet. The correspondence between us and the hotel and also the hotels website again mentioned nothing about booking tours and then cancelling them. We bought some Skype credit and Chris tried to call her and explain but the phone kept cutting out, he ended up sending her a text message saying that nowhere in the email or on the website does it have a policy or any terms and conditions about booking for tours so therefore he doesn't believe he should have to pay.

Once the text message was sent he said "right lets go get a drink and something to eat, no problem".. His so amazing in difficult situations, doesn't panic or get flustered (well if he does he doesn't show it) I panic for the both of us and he just comes on in and sorts it out. We went walking through the city and first stopped at a pharmacy for some cold and flu tablets, then we found a coffee shop.. Amazing coffee! We went upstairs but the room was so short we couldn't even stand up in it.. Lol Chris made his second Vietnamese friend, his first is the security guard named Tuan from our hotel, he was the one who came with us to the old hotel and helped us. He is kind, polite and speaks English very well. But it's funny because he is so tiny yet his the security.. Haha Chris' second friend was a guy selling lighters on the street, he tried to get us to buy something and we got chatting to him. Chris ended up buying a lighter from him that's metal and has the petrol inside but it has like a metal matchstick on it with a wick on the end, you take that out and run it down the side of the lighter to light it. It was pretty cool so Chris just had to have it. We got his number in case we need a hand with anything whilst in Hanoi.

We then ended up at the city view cafe which is cafe on the 4th floor of a very old building overlooking the city. We enjoyed watching the mad traffic and people and had a drink and shared a pizza. Afterwards we headed back to our hotel and where we checked our phone and saw we had not had a response from the lady from the old hotel. We needed to let our current hotel know ASAP if we were accepting there cruise offer which would be leaving at 8am the following morning, we went downstairs and one of the reception staff asked us where we were off too. We explained what had happened, that the hotel already has $100US from us but wanted the $18 for the driver and $300 for the tours, his advice was just call her from the hotel and advise your not paying for anything more then you already have. He said that the she was just trying to get money, if we have not paid for any tours and we haven't provided our credit card details they could not charge us. Chris rang and said exactly that to the lady, in the end she agreed she would cancel the tours and we wouldn't have to pay anything however she still wanted us to pay for the driver, we agreed and the receptionist organised with her for her to come and pick it up from him so that we didn't have to go and see her again.

So we left our $18 with reception (he said we were to nice and that we shouldn't even have to pay that, we figured whats $18 if it means its resolved) we confirmed our booking for the cruise the next day and went out to explore the city with huge grins on our faces that everything had worked out!

In Hanoi the streets are themed so you will walk down a street (block) that sells all shoes, another will sell all sunglasses, another pottery, another jewellery, we even found a whole street that sold mannequins... We found a few nice restaurants and got there cards so we would remember where they were, and one guy gave us the address to find a bottle shop. We had to ask for directions a few times but the people here are so kind and always helpful, if they don't know how to speak English or don't know where to go they will ask someone else. Sometimes you might end up with three or four people huddled around working out where you need to go.

We eventually found the bottle shop and it was on a street that was all liquor stores, a bottle of bourbon and gin cost us $22!!! Bargain! We had to ask directions a few more times but eventually made it back to the hotel where enjoyed a few drinks in the private garden of our suite..
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