Hanoi airport is fairly far out of the city - around 27km, which is around an hour in Hanoi traffic, so thankfully we had a driver who knew what he was doing and where he was going
. And I mean he really knew what he was doing. He would have most likely cut a good 10 minutes off our trip and has maybe been one of the most crazy drivers we have yet to experience in a car. If you encountered this person in NZ you would most certainly have some choice words for him with a hefty fist shake of disgust going his way and maybe a finger or two. I think he thought he was maybe still on his scooter and thought he could fit through the same sized gaps all the while was quite happily yelling his way through the several phone calls he received. Anyway, after a while I started reading my book because for one, I just couldn't watch anymore and two, because it ended up being a good 40 minute trip and my book was just so darn good. (Girls - Jodi Picoult Handle with care... it's brill.)
Hanoi is just as busy, if not busier than Saigon. The only real difference are the streets are skinnier and smaller so when everyone is out for their daily breakfast, lunch, dinner or general squat in the middle of the footpath in amongst the hundreds of parked scooters, you have to walk on the road with all the lunatic traffic. Fun times.
We decided we would lay pretty low before heading to Ha Long Bay so we just walked around town and had a look. We noticed a lot more tourists roaming the streets here and it was very easy to get lost
. The maps like to leave a good half of their little streets out so it makes it interesting, especially when it feels like a hundred degrees. Hanoi has a big lovely lake in the middle of the city and we've discovered it specialises in specialty streets. A whole street filled of just one thing. We first found the sunglasses street. 20 - 30 little shops on each side of the road and they all sell the same thing - sunglasses! We have also found a button street, a stainless steel street, a jewellery and 'bling' street and most recently the shoe street as Jason's jandals broke the day before we went on our cruise. It's also home to some super amazing galleries with some crazy cool oil paintings that I just want to buy! We keep seeing paintings that we think would suit a lot of people's houses and is very much their style and what is even cooler is there are often the artists inside painting so you can sit and watch them if you're that way inclined.
That night we headed to our hostels happy hour where they were serving free beer. The beer is Bia Hoi, which is picked up fresh every day from the brewer and has to be consumed that day. I had maybe half a glass - and for those of you who know me well and are thinking... what the eff? YES this was a big deal for me and YES I do still absolutely hate beer. It made me feel sick so that won't be ever happening again. But it was a fun time and we meet a lot of people from all over the world and spent the hour asking everyone the same usual questions: Where ya from? How long have you been in Hanoi? Where are you off to next? Rardy rardy raa
. It's quite a shock to a lot of people when we tell them we are traveling for six months before heading to the UK to live because in most places that aren't NZ, you just don't do that. We've met a lot of Americans who have packed the whole of Vietnam or even Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand into two weeks. Which is just cray because most of that time is spent in buses.
Our second day was in Hanoi was pretty shit. We walked around for most of the day trying to find Laos airlines so we could book a flight because for some stupid reason the website would not accept our credit cards. We have been talked into flying from everyone we've met who's been to Laos because the roads (especially the one we were planning to be on whilst crossing the border) are meant to be horrific and worse than Vietnam. If that is even possible. Anyway, after walking half way across the city, it was not where it said it was. We got directions to where it had apparently moved to and walked further and it was wrong and then finally asked Vietnam airlines who gave us an address which was about another 5km from where we were. By that stage I was over it and the sweltering heat so we got a taxi back to the hostel. It just so happens they were able to book our flights for us at the hostel desk. Joy. It was a good day though and we saw a whole different side of town which wasn't at all touristy. We also stumbled across this little traditional street food eatery which has recently been picking up some amazing reviews on the old trip adviser
. So we gave it ago - which Son and Ha would just be so proud of us for. They serve one thing but one thing done very well. We got bought the food as soon as we sat down. On the menu: Bun Cha - AKA pork patties which you mix into this noodle soup and Nem Cau which are just basically a spring roll. You also get a big plate of leafy salad greens and the idea is to just throw everything into the soup bowl with a bit of chili and garlic and go for it. Delishimo.
[Jason - achievement unlocked: get haircut from someone who speaks zero English. Decided I would try out a Vietnamese haircut to keep it out of my face. As much as Jamie would have liked me to get one from a man set up on the side of the street with his mirror hanging from a tree (for a photo), I asked the reception guy where I should go instead, and he had to think for quite a while until he remembered that a new place had opened up around the corner that might do "western" style. He seemed to think I wouldn't like a normal haircut in the Vietnamese style, so now I'm kind of intrigued as to what it would have looked like. Anyway, walked down to the hair cutting place and walked in. Everyone stopped and looked at me and noone spoke English. Luckily my Vietnamese lessons had taught me to ask "how much?" which made it clear I was there on purpose. They sat me down and about three guys came over to try and work out what I wanted
. After much gesturing and pointing, we seemed to be somewhere on the same page about what I was after and the dude wasted no time getting to work. He was a beast with the clippers. Clippers on 0 the whole time no worries. Just aimed by sight or used a comb. Was pretty cool. He spent about 7 minutes caressing the top part into a just right mohawk to finish. Walked back to the hostel and got asked "can I take your photo so I can tell my friends Robin Van Persie stayed here?!"]
Anyway more Hanoi stories in a few days time. Ha Long Bay here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Our flight to Hanoi was a really good decision and we arrived promptly and refreshed compared to the long 16 hour bus ride it would have taken had we decided to stick it out with the poor people. Jason's name was again written on a card with a man all ready to take us to our destination which made us feel special. Famous as. There are massive scams that go on at most airports here but Ha Noi is notoriously bad and there are warning signs about scammers everywhere. Basically these 'drivers' scam you out of a lot of money and take you to a hotel which they are working with. Even if you give them an address to your legit hotel they will drive to a complete different location and charge you for the extra time, or offer a set price and then demand more money etc, tell you that your hotel is overbooked but they can take you to one that has room. Basically they just end up totally fucking you around and taking you for a complete ride. (Pun Intended!)