Motorcycle Madness

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, March 5, 2006

At Hong Kong airport Mandy and I went our separate ways for the first time on our trip as she headed home to catch up with family and friends, especially her sister and new nephew Joe. I took a flight with Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi in an old rattly aircraft with well worn seats and not a tv in sight. The inflight food was amazing though, spicy pork and vegetables with noodles and lots of fresh fruit - I was impressed and wolfed the lot in quick time! In Hanoi I jumped on the local bus to the town centre which is a bargain for 5,000 dong (about 20pence!). Hanoi centre is jammed with thousands and thousands of motorcycles going in every direction, even across the pavements. It takes a while (and some courage) before you get used to crossing the road, the best technique is just to stroll across slowly which gives the bikes time to swerve around you. Shutting your eyes is optional for the more nervous!!! I managed to navigate through Hanois twisty streets to find the Hanoi Hostel - an Aussie run backpackers which has fancy clean dorms, free internet and a big kitchen. It also has a rooftop terrace but its cold so you need your coat up there.. and at the mo I don't possess one. Lots of friendly people there and so a few nights out drinking have resulted - especially at 'Bia Hoi corner'. Bia Hoi is an institution in Vietnam - glasses of cold fresh beer (about the size of half a pint) served to you as you balance on a tiny stool on the pavement (or in the gutter when its busy). This must be the cheapest beer ever at 2,000dong a glass (10pence a beer anyone??) and as you sit there trying to keep count of the number you have had there are lots of tasty snacks such as dried fried fish and donuts to snack on. In the centre of Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake and after a stroll around it I visited Ngoc Son Temple which is reached by a pretty red bridge. Legend has it that a sword-stealing tortoise inhabits the lake but of that there was no sign! St Josephs Church was a fairly impressive church,perhaps more so at night when it was brightly illuminated. After a couple of days at the hostel I moved to a nearby small hotel where a room with bathroom and cable tv was cheaper than the dorm. The hostel became my second home as the place to check in with friends and read the guidebooks! On Saturday I went to watch an 'international' Aussie Rules game in which a couple of lads from the hostel were playing against a team from Malaysia. On the sidelines I managed to get a kickabout with a properly shaped football and discovered that all my old skills were still as limited as ever. Having enjoyed a few days of savouring the sights, smells & tastes of Hanoi's old quarter I will leave tomorrow to head to Halong Bay. My passport stays with the Chinese Embassy where hopefully I can collect it in a few days with a new visa in place!!
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