Dangers and Hanoiances

Trip Start Jan 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
My Lan

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, March 16, 2009

         So we arrived in Hanoi about 9 pm and were greeted by tons of scam artists posed as taxi drivers at the airport. This is apparently the norm here and we were warned about it in the Dangers and Annoyances section of the Lonely Planet. We took the Viet Nam airlines shuttle to the old quarter district of the city. We had hotel reservations already so the driver said he would take us straight there. At some point a Vietnamese guy got on the mini-bus and, in perfect english, asked us where we were heading. We sort of assumed that he worked for the transport company or something so we obliged. He then made a phone call that seemed a little suspicious. When the van pulled up to our hotel the gate was closed for the night and there was a dude in a suit waiting outside for us. He said something "oh you very lucky today, guest house is closed for renovation. Come with me I have new guest house for your auspicious sleeping. You very lucky." We told him to leave nicely a couple of times and he actually tried to sand in front of us to keep us from ringing the doorbell to the hotel. He was pretty aggressive so we had to be fairly tough with the guy. Eventually the door opened and we were admitted inside. our room was pretty nice and sort of tucked away down this hallway/alleyway that was both inside and outside at the same time. It was as if there had been different buildings next to each other that somehow grew together. The result was this sort of Escher-esque effect that a made for a cool pic or two.

The conversion here is about 17,000 dongs (huh huh huh) to a dollar. This is the worst one yet. So far we've had to deal with multiples of  33, 85, and now 17. So basically I'm getting pretty smart. That's right SMRT.

        The weather was cool and rainy which came as a relief after a couple of months sweating further south. Hanoi is a super busy motor-bike city where everyone beeps their horns constantly. I know that I've mentioned this before about other places but they are seriously over the top here. They even "pimp their horns"{tm}. After about ten minutes walking around you find yourself going crazy and making beeping sounds at other pedestrians. No one notices as they're also making ridiculous beeping sounds at passing people, cats, and orange vendors. 

People are selling everything everywhere. In a recurring theme that seems to be a result of inexperience with capitalism they set up identical shops next to each other. There will be an entire street of ceiling fan repair shops or a block of aluminum cutters. They actually name streets after what is sold there. this would be convenient if the street names went on for longer than a block or two. So strange.

Somehow in the middle of all that "organization" I discovered a guy making guitars. They looked pretty rough but decent so I asked how much they were. He said and by said I mean typed into a calculator 200,000 Dong. After chuckling to myself about this old guy saying "dong" I struggled through the conversion and was amazed. 12 dollars! I grabbed one of the nicer ones and he said 300,000. I paid about 18 bucks for a handmade guitar from a guy named Trang. It's going to be a pain to travel with for the rest of the trip but I had to. We decided to book a train ticket to Sapa in the north at the first opportunity.

Oh yeah by the way as an afterthought we went to see the embalmed-for-40-years body/creepy monster thing of the old ruler Ho Chi Minh. I would likey be imprisoned or something for mentioning that it was the mos disgusting display of necromania I have ever seen (in Viet Nam anyway). There were soldiers everywhere and we were told not to laugh or put our hands in our pockets as we were marched through this huge temple, that only contained his body, in a line of about 20,000 other people. It was free so why not right. I would have pictures but they nearly strip-searched us before we went in. Not to mention the armed guards all over the place. Afterward we enjoyed an iced-cream cone by a nice pond. It turns out that he was a pretty awesome guy who after 1000 years of Chinese, French, and American rule created the first ever democratic Vietnamese nation to which , by 98% I should mention, was elected the first president. So much for all the BS war propaganda. This guy is like George Washington, Kunta-Kente, Che, Cher, and all the Kiebler Elves all rolled up into one giant liberation burrito!  
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