Good Morning Vietnam

Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
Trip End May 19, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Next stop, Vietnam. And where better to start our latest whistle stop tour than the capital, Ha Noi? So, instead of getting our visa in advance we had (by recommendation of bloggers) obtained an invite letter online, and easily picked up our visas on our arrival, phew! We had booked a hostel on Hostelworld and, if staying 2 nights, we got a free pickup - bargain. It was so nice to arrive at the airport and see a sign with your name on it! Along with another English couple we watched in awe as we drove towards the city, avoiding huge trucks carrying coal, and millions of motorbikes, some even driving down the wrong side of the dual carriageway - surely suicidal but no, it seems normal here! You would be forgiven for not knowing what side of the street you drive on when in Vietnam!

We were warmly welcomed by Kim, who ordered us to sit down, brought us fruit and tea and enthusiastically told us about our rooms and demanded us to tell her if there was anything wrong or we were not happy with them. She recommended a place to eat, after telling us street food would not be safe to eat that night (as it was raining). It took us a while to get there on foot, dodging the locals dining on the pavement who were sitting on these tiny stools, dodging the motorbikes swerving in and out, all while trying to work out what street we were on – only possible by looking at the shop addresses, as no obvious street signs existed!

That night Arsenal were playing Barca, so at 2.30am the alarm went off and Ben watched some of the game in our room. Luckily, with eye patch and ear plugs, I was happily able to sleep through it all! And, it worked out very well for me, as my appreciative boyfriend got up at 7.30am to queue for tickets to the popular water puppet show, only to find the ticket booth didn't open until 8am! Ah well, at least he was first in line! We set off to explore Ha Noi later that morning, starting at the prison museum – the building that had been known in the War as the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton’. It was very interesting to read examples of the torturous handling of Vietnamese prisoners by the French, compared to the luxurious treatment of the Americans by the Vietnamese... We then visited a museum on the big lake in the City, telling us about local myths of a magic golden turtle living in the lake that gave a nobleman a sword to defeat the Chinese, and later asking the Emperor (who was boating in the lake at the time) for it back, as well as other Vietnamese rituals and myths. We saw each myth acted out at the Water Puppet Show, which featured small puppets controlled by rods behind the scenes, all in waist high water and set to live traditional music... quite clever and all good fun.

The weather was drizzly all day, and at one point I was even cold enough to need a jumper - not what I had expected for Vietnam. Wearing flipflops around muddy and wet streets meant we ended up our day with legs, shorts and bums covered in splatters of mud, much to the amusement of the locals, all in trainers! In the evening, having thoroughly cleaned our lower halves, we tried to eat at a restaurant we had stumbled on earlier to find it full until 9pm. It turns out it is in the LP so no surprise it was so popular! Still, not to be defeated, we went across the road for drinks and came back at 9pm, and it was well worth the wait. By 10pm, it was only us and another table left. It seems it is early to bed in this country, which suits us!!
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