Good Morning Vietnam!!
Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
132Trip End Jan 04, 2012
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Getting used to this train lark. Waiting at the station in Nanning, I towered over the local population. It's easy to make out the westerners here, they generally have a foot over everyone else. It's a normal day when a local stands up next to you and smiles as they try and size up in some way, then say "very tall" and smile before walking off.
Onto the train and we are 'sorted' for the very first time. The assigned seats we had are no longer valid and we are given a different soft sleeper with other western groups - they want to keep the troublemakers together it seems. We're sharing with Mike and Chum (an american with a recent Vietnamese wife). Mike is charming, chatty and comfortable in his surroundings. He happily patronises the Chinese using his Iphone App translator to try and get them to turn the air-conditioning up slightly
We chat about our travels and time on the train quickly passes. Mike is doing the 43 hour train ride from Beijing after dropping his daughter off at university - the reason being he won't fly on anything that isn't a boeing (I don't wask why this reason is as I don't want to know - it would be yet another reason to fear flying). This journey isn't as smooth as other overnight sleepers as we have to stop twice and disembark in the middle of the night to check immigration forms and passports. The stations are quiet and a little spooky on the border towns, but after two short breaks we are on our way to Hanoi. Somehow against tradition we are quite a bit early. I had been worried about getting from the station to the hostel as there is a lot of warnings about taxi scams taking people to hotels they haven't booked and then getting aggressive when the tourist trys to explain they have a reservation. Bearing in mind we pull into the station at 4.30am, this shouldn't be a problem as no damn hotels are open anyhow.
We bargain a taxi down from $5 to $4 (yes- what a hard bargain I drive, a whole dollar and thats still a rip off), irritable and tired I just wanted to get to the vicinity of the hostel/hotel
Peaceful streets, we pull up outside the hotel and the taxi driver has a little snorted laugh at our expense. We also find it quite funny. Shutters down, the place is asleep. Our first impressions of Hanoi are as a sleepy little town - this is soon to be dispelled.We knock hopefully on the shutter and Hallelujia, the staff are there (as they are in all chinese/vietnamese hostels - the poor staff tend to sleep in the lobby while the guests relax in their comfy rooms). They let us check into our room (extremely early) for no extra charge and by 5.00am we are fast asleep in Hanoi.