Hot Hot Hanoi - 22nd August 2008 @ 4:42 pm «   »

Location: Vietnam : Hot Hot Hanoi

We spent our last day in China in Kunming  and caught the 20:00 overnight bus to Hekou on the Vietnamese border on Tuesday evening.

The sleeper bus was from the stone ages with no aircon, super small and narrow bunk beds and full of smokers.  We tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, but little did we know that the journey of hell was awaiting of us..

We got to Hekou  at around 08:00 and went through both the Chinese and Vietnamese passport controls very quickly. From the border we went straight to the train station where we managed to get tickets for the 09:15 day train to Hanoi and at that stage we were under the impression that we will arrive in Hanoi at 21:30. This is where the best part of the journey starts..

The train office only sells tickets for hard seats, so one of the officials at the station offered to organise soft sleepers for us at a “small” supplement. He then called one of his “colleagues” to take us to the train and show us our new places. This was of course exactly what the guide books warn about – many government officials being corrupt. Needless to say we stuck with our hard seats, which turned out to be a wooden bench bearly wide enough for 2 people.

The mere 300km, that was supposed to take 12 hours, ended up taking 14 hours and we only arrived in Hanoi at 23:30. This translates to an average speed of 20 km per hour, but it was actually much slower as we stopped very often for long periods of time. We also later found out that they had a typhoon about 2 weeks ago and that a large part of the area on route was flooded and the train tracks damaged.

At that stage we were starving (we didn’t have any time to buy food at the border as we had to board the train straight away) and coudn’t feel our bums anymore. We took a taxi to the Vietanh Hotel, mentioned in the Lonely Planet, and ended up in the best room in the hotel – an enormous family room with a lounge  area. They were fully booked and we could only get a standard double room the next day, however due to Marizanne’s finely honed haggling skills, we managed to get it at the same rate as the double room. After the horrendous day we had, this was like heaven!

The hotel is right in the center of the Old Quarter, so we spent the last 2 days exploring the maze of crooked streets, bustling with locals selling all kinds of specialities on street corners, deciding in which cafe to have a “Bia Hoi” (local draught beer) while dodging literally hundreds of scooters (most of them carrying a whole familiy of 4!) motoring around. Hanoi is a busy city with a very intimate core and being so close to the action really makes one experience the local lifestyle first hand. The entire Old Quarter is centered around tourists with hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and souvenir shops taking up about 90% of the area. Cyclo (bicycle taxi big enough for 2 people) drivers are constantly hassling foreigners and everyone is trying to make a living by offering some kind of merchandise or service to passers by. Bargaining is mandatory as the general feeling is that you are getting a raw deal unless you do. One can really tell that we are getting closer to the tropics with temperatures and humidity being right up there.

The staff at the hotel was excellent and helped us to book a 3 day trip to Halong Bay and Catba Island, leaving tomorrow. We are very much looking forward to just relaxing on a “junk” (a kind of sail boat they use for these trips), taking in the beautiful scenery as well as doing some trekking on the island.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

One Response to “Hot Hot Hanoi”  
Mamma van PE Says:

Hullo julle liewe twee,
Die skype maak dit amper nie nodig om kommentaar te lewer nie. Dit bly egter ‘n groot verrassing dat China so fantasties is en was vir julle nie, julle laat ‘n mens skoon watermond om dit ook te kom sien. Deur julle ,die vertelling en fotos, is dit asof ek regtig daar was
Wat nog ‘n groter surprise was om van Charl en Lauren se verwagte babatjie te hoor!! baie geluk julle 2 daar in Perth.Dis wonderlike nuus!! Gladnie gedink julle beplan soiets nie
Net ingeval iemand dink dat ek nie opgewonde is oor J en M se kuier in SA omdat ek dit nie hier op die blog noem nie: DIT IS ABSOLUUT FANTASTIC.en een vd beste idees wat julle al gehad het
Liefde Mamma.