Hustlers in Hanoi

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Queen of Hearts Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 10, 2011

AGAIN, we were kept awake all night by insane beeping on the road – thought we wouldn't hear it on the 8th floor, but it actually sounded like they were in our room! After tailing off around midnight, the noise started up again at 5.30am, meaning at least that we were up and on the bikes by 9. Despite lack of sleep, we were feeling great. Looking around from the balcony, there were no hills in sight – we have finally reached the flat road to Hanoi!

The previous night we had not found any restaurants, the whole town being full of mobile phone and wedding dress shops and so had made so with pot noodles, popcorn and crisps. Breakfast was similarly unforthcoming and we had to wait until we found a tiny shack 2 miles down the road. A happy lady there had cans of cold coffee, juice and hard boiled eggs to be eaten with chilli salt – excellent breakfast, we wolfed down two each. We then effortlessly cycled 20 miles in an hour and a half. Apart from the flat, the road also became a two lane with hard shoulder, meaning we didn’t have to keep stopping when people pulled out into our path.

At 25 miles we came to a street filled with shops selling bread and so of course had to stop. An enormous loaf disappeared in about 5 seconds. Reading the Lonely Planet we had been prepared for over charging, and have suspected that our meals and hotels have been over priced so far, but with 30,000 dong to the pound, the calculations are difficult. Just as we were leaving however, I saw a Vietnamese lady pull up and buy 5 loaves of the bread we had paid 60,000 dong for and she handed over 50,000 and got loads of change! Asking a man down the road how much his bread was, we realised we had been charged 12x the going rate! It’s one thing haggling for prices buying souvenirs and stuff, it seems we’re going to need to haggle/check prices in food shops as well – annoying! We’ve got used to China, where most food/drinks cost 20p.

Back on the road, it really started to get hot, but the flat meant we kept up the fast pace and reached the outskirts of the city by 1pm. We’d heard the entire city is full of motorbikes, and they had already started to build-up by this point. We saw an array of animals in transit – 25 chickens, two pigs and then worryingly about 15 puppies on top of each other in a cage. I was hoping they were going to nice new homes when I remembered about 'Dog Alley’! This is a 1km stretch of restaurants in the outskirts of Hanoi all serving dog meat! Surely they don’t eat puppies? What kind of a sick person could eat puppies? Seriously! I know we eat cute little lambs, but puppies with their soft little noses and faces? I can’t even think about it – I’m very worried for those puppies. Mikey’s worried too – where else would they be going?

Navigating into the city was great. Its massive, so after a few miles we pulled over into a coffee shop with wifi and used the itouch to pinpoint our exact location and the route to the hotel  (Thanks Bosham lot for realising how amazing that would be!) Lattes and chocolate cake also received us for the last few miles. Hanoi is brilliant – huge wide streets, gorgeous French buildings and more motorbikes that you have ever seen. It’s a bit like Bombay without the slums. We checked out a couple of hotels, all lively, but we chose the one with the lift and mad street view. We’re back to spotless bathrooms and sparkling white sheets here.

Out and about in town, the restaurants and pubs are amazing. After a couple of drinks at different places, including a passionfruit daiquiri (yum) we settled for ‘The Tandoor’ and had an amazing curry. Funny to think just 6 weeks ago I thought I would never eat one again. They’d run out of white wine, but before Neville could have a massive strop they said he could go to the supermarket next door and chose some more – Phew! Sitting on the balcony in the warm evening air we enjoyed the hectic street scenes below and delicious food until 4 days cycling and interrupted nights caught up with me and I started falling asleep at the table. Turned out it was only 7.30pm, but nevermind –day off and lie-in tomorrow!

Miles Cycled: 51 fast and furious flat miles
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triciagick on

Perhaps cycling in Hanoi isn't as suicidal as I had read about (fingers' crossed) but what about leaving your bikes around - it said you had to go to special bike places - not so?
Overcast, wet days here except for lovely Tuesday. As I'd promised Jo, I had a food intolerance test yesterday. Before she started, 'Gabriella' reckoned I woundn't be intolerant to much - turns out a white bread sandwich, with sweet corn filling and spread with tartrazine, would give me a fair amount of trouble - not a lot to worry about apart from that (and wheat pasta) - so shouldn't impinge on my lifestyle too much. Dads and I had Malcolm from Solar Plus round yesterday and he has talked us into installing 9 pva electricity producing panels on the roof, once we have planning permission - how green will be our valley! Have a brilliant day off and perhaps we'll be able to skype soon.

triciagick on

Actually only 8 panels!! By the way, I really envied those pomellos....... x

Jojo on

Sounds a really cool place to be - especially with sparkling bathroom and clean white sheets! When do you think you will hit those long sandy beaches? is all seems so remote and so wonderful after a very gloomy wet day here. But cheered it slightly with half dozen oysters for CJB and a bucket full of mussles between us washed down with a very acceptable Chardonnay. Glad you were able to locate the wine to go with your supper - what a lovely laid back attitude to have. Expecting that Amanda Mae towmorrow and then the P&E next week so jolly times all around.
Hope you are have a really relaxed day off exploring Ha Noi.
Lots ove from us both

charlie bolton st albans school on

hello i havnt seen you since the last cross country race i have raly been missing you i hope that you will come and see our yr6 leavers assemely i have been reading your blogs

Ray on

Hi Mike and Polly
Been looking at the photos, you both look really well! Pleased you've had some flat routes to enjoy. All good here, sun is shining today. Went on a gentle run this morning (Dad on the bike), once home I tucked into a bacon butty finished off with a cuppa tea! It's going to be a lazy day for me today, Dave and cousin Sam at pub watching the rugby so just me and Willow at home. Hope you're having a lazy day too!
Lots and lots of love,
Ray xxxx

Jojo on

There are some hustlers in Bosham too - Amanda has been giving Dan a hard time over puntures which she seems to think he must be responsible for! Elizabeth and Charlotte came over and offered me money for what was in my cooking pot to feed their men as opposed to a take-away - blooming cheek! I have been trying to help that Amanda Mae with her essme why aren't you here to help!! Amanda says I shouln't say tht as it will make you feel bad. You may possibly detect that we are not absolutely sober as it is Saturday and CJB and I + george, have had a little session at the BSC at lunchtime and what with the Rugby a very mellow CJB who has been back down to the BSC to have drinks with Alan Tricia Betty Lesley etc. Amanda says she's getting bored but wishes she was with you..

Lindy on

Love reading this - feel very envious apart from the actual cycling!!! Keep all the info coming re Vietnam - still working on John re a holiday there - not sure if I am having any success!!
It is amazing to think of how far you have both travelled since Sept and all the different situations you have been in - must say did not fancy the night in the tent in the snow!
Take care all love Lindy

Charlotte on

Happy valentines day guys! Hope you are in a suitably romantic spot today :-)

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