Morning cruising, evening in Hanoi

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I had planned to get up at 5.30 am for the sunrise, only to oversleep.  I heard that only one person out of 22 guests actually got up, but the fog and mist prevented you from seeing anything. 

After breakfast, we boarded the little boat to take us to Surprise Cave, named as such by French explores in the1800s due to the surprises they found in its size and tunnels.  After about one hour of touring the cave, we head back to the big boat for a cooking demonstration on Vietnamese spring rolls -- I prefer to watch the scenery, we check out, have lunch, then redock at the pier around noon.  Then it's back to Hanoi, trip over. 

When I was dropped off at the hotel, I was asked by the reception to have a seat and wait for my paperwork to be completed.  While I waited, a young American couple from Kansas City sat down, as did a third guy a little later, and we started to chat; the couple had arrived in Hanoi the previous day.  I thought I was over-organized, but this guy had everything put together -- Google maps with pins for desired destinations, walking instructions from the hotel to these places, etc.  They told me that the young ladies who work the front desk are super efficient, and they weren't kidding, as I was soon to find out.  

When the other guy joined us, he took over the conversation.  He told us how he wanted to try dog meat, but didn't want to know it was dog meat --WTF?  Then he told us that he was so afraid of coming to Vietnam because of the war and how he would be treated as an American.  We were surprised when he shared this part with us.  Indian in appearance, and with a British-Indian accent, unless he shows his passport to everyone, I doubt that anyone would take him for an American -- his secret is very safe.  When I told him I was from San Francisco, he told me how it was one of his favorite cities, goes there all the time, but then couldn't tell me one thing that he has seen or done while "visiting." I run into him several times over the next few days -- the hotel is too small to avoid him -- and he is pure  obnoxiousness, and seems to be forever in an alcohol-induced state.  Oh yes, he has to tell me that he never flies anything less than business class.  I am glad to hear he is leaving before me.  While I do find him annoying, I am thankful that I am not on a group tour, or you are faced with the same obnoxious behavior for the entire duration of the trip.  At least I have be around these jerks for only a few hours, not days!

Back to the other couple, they are leaving for Sapa the next day, then on to Halong Bay after that.   I share with them my information, having just come from both, and they make a few recommendations to me for Hanoi.  One is for Hanoi Kids, which they say is excellent.  You book a tour guide in advance through this organization, letting them know your interests or pre-planned tour.  Hanoi Kids then sends out a college student to meet you somewhere, who will then serve as your tour guide.  They don't accept any payments, though you can buy them lunch, and they are there only for the opportunity to practice their English.  I had planned to do this, but time just slipped by.  The couple said the girl they had showed them even more hidden parts of the area they were touring,  Trip Advisor users have given them like a zillion five star reviews, I just wish I had planned better. The guy did say that during his research, he read about all the common ruses some locals use to get money out of you, or to trip you up.  And every single one of them had been used on them on their first day, so to be on the lookout for such scams.  He said he was willing to pay someone who could come up with one that was new.   

When I am being taken to my room -- thank goodness the hotel has an elevator, as almost all that I have been to do not, and it isn't fun carrying your luggage to the fifth or seventh floor -- another table forms of a group planning their trip to Sapa the next day as well.  They're a bit concerned about getting to/from the train station in Lao Cai to Sapa and back, and I assure them they'll have no troubles.  Once in my room, I'm in for the day.  It's about 9 pm.   
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