Hostelling in Hanoi

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Ma May Backpackers Hostel

Flag of Vietnam  , Ha Ná»™i,
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

After our exciting journey to Hanoi (read Dong Ha entry for the rant) we arrived fresh and bright-eyed in Hanoi. We arrived at our pre-booked hostel in no time, excited at our first dorm experience since Singapore.  We opted for their double dorm beds, more out of interest than anything else, as we've never seen double bed bunk beds before! It may seem a little strange sleeping in a double bed with other people in the room but when that's $9 per night and single dorm beds are $6 per night each, it’s really an obvious choice! Despite being in Hanoi the hostel is more of an Aussie backpacker experience than an Asian one, probably as it's owned by 2 youngish Australians.  It comes equipped with booze cruise trips in Halong Bay on offer, beer and pizza deals and nightly drink-fueled games.  Comfiest bed since we left London though so no complaints!

Hanoi is a really great city.  It’s a bit manic like any city in this region, however it manages to do it without stressing you out. The old quarter especially is really nice to wander aimlessly around.  We didn’t really do much this time in Hanoi as we will be going back on Saturday, but we did end up walking around a large portion of the central part of town just getting a feel for the place.  We did visit the old prison which the French built during the colonial period and the Vietnamese used for POWs during the war, the 'Hanoi Hilton’ as it was known then.  Although it was interesting to walk around, the experience was tainted by the extremely biased/propaganda-esque captions that describes the French as brutal oppressors of Vietnamese prisoners, and the Vietnamese as fantastic hosts of the American prisoners.  I’m sure the French did torture some prisoners and some American soldiers were treated well but a more balanced view of the prison would have made the tour more interesting to us, albeit the way it is kept us entertained.

We also went to see some traditional Vietnamese water puppet theatre which was fun. It’s basically a fancy version of Punch and Judy but the stage is a vat of water and the puppeteers stand behind  a screen and work the puppets on long poles. All in Vietnamese of course so no real clue what was going on but it was good fun and some of the traditional music wasn’t too bad.

Oh, and thanks to a street full of trainers (fake branded sports shoes) and some hard bargaining we have replaced Kevin’s minging smelly old ‘runners’ for some new shiny ones!!
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