Published: February 15th 2008December 4th 2007
good morning vietnam!!!
Crossing the border china (Pingxian)-Vietnam (Lang son)
So we had done some homework the preceeding days, and had noticed the common complaints of scams at the border crossings. Initially the taxis try to charge you 80Y to take you to the border. This should only be 20Y per taxi (or 15Y pp on the minibus). We saw them coming a mile away. Once again, with only 4 hours sleep, it would be easy to loose your cool, given the swarm of people that engulf you as you try to make a plan. But, we knew what to expect, and as soon as they tried, we had them in our pockets, and soon enough were on our way to the border for 20Y. Once at the border, you have to show your passport about 10 times to different people, pass through Chinese customs, then into Vietnam customs, where there are three windows. They are not necessarily in order, so some wit is required!! Once all the forms are filled in, the mandatory SARS check (2Ypp) which includes......well.....not quite sure, just paying the money i think!!! And we are on the other side!!! The sun is out, the shades are on, and we head towards the barrier in search of
outside the opera house, Hanoi
a taxi to Lang Son. W are met by a driver who offers to take us to Lang son where we catch a bus to Hanoi. We had heard that Taxis take you to the wrong station, then take you to their mates bus where they charge you stupid money to take you to Hanoi. We were a bit jovial a this point, and lost all use of our brain. The tax cost us 20USD, which is actually a lot of money and should not be anymore than 3USD per taxi. We were then taken to a backyard, where we were told that this is the bus to Hanoi. We knew full well it was not, and refused to pay until he took us to the correct place. Then the shouting and intimidation started. As i was the spokes person for the group, they aimed straight at me. I was in no mood for this, and so ensued a lot of finger pointing, pushing and shoving, name calling, and a threat of physical violence. Carmen interjected by pulling me away and warning me that we were in their back yard, not sure where we are, and anything could happen. I
the madness of Hanoi
rush hr traffic time!!!
was ready to walk away, not pay a thing to anyone, and hedge my bets, which is what we should have done. But in that position, and with others to consider, i gave in, paid the taxi, and got on the bus. But the fun did not stop there. We paid 5USD each, and were stuck at the back of this minibus, packed to the brim with suitcases and boxes, shoved around like cattle, and were happy in the end to arrive in one piece in Hanoi!!!
Hanoi turned out to be lovely. The people are great fun. There are street sellers, but their not as aggressive as the chinese. There are loads of motorbikes here, and crossing the roads is a case of cross and hope that no one hits you.
We stayed at the Bodega hotel, which is actually really nice. We are given the twin room which is huge, and really nice. The staff are great fun, and can arrange everything for you.
We arrange to see the world famous water puppet show. This is a 1 hour puppet how...well on water. Very well done, quite amusing, and well worth the 40000d (about 2.50USD).
anyone seen my bike?
there are millions of motorbikes in Hanoi, and its easily the busiest motorbike place in the world!!!
I left my jacket behind, never to be seen again!! Gutted, but every excuse for a shopping spree.
We treated ourselves to a spa, and whilst Carmen got waxed, i had a swedish massage. It was 90 mins of blis, and for 19USD, cant go wrong. I thought, however, that i may have asked for the wrong thing, when the girl straddled my back as i lay face down on the table, with nothing but a towel to cover me, and a strange urge to neigh!!! However, it all turned out very professional, and i felt great after ofcourse!!!
The Halong bay trip turned out to be better than expected. We wanted it to be good, and it didn't really let us down. We boarded this Junk boat, which is very pirates of the carribean. Its nicely done, with nice clean bedrooms, and nice dining area, and its great up on deck. We met some great Aussies (well, actually Carmen never realised that they were australian, and then proceeded to explain where Byron Bay is!!! what a nonce!!). First days was spent on board the boat. Stopped at an island to take photos from the top. Lots of
amazing scenery (given that this is a Unesco World Heritage site, its worth the money!). Great food, and a night on the boat looking up at the stars, listening to the disel chugs of the boats that were moored near ours. If you think your the only one, think again. There's about 50 boats out at sea, and it kinda looses its sense of romanticism and adventure. However, if we looked the other way, there was nothing but sea, so we gazed into the wild yonder and imagined being in the middle of the south china sea..................aahhhhh............................
The next day we went kayaking which was just fantastic. We paddled into a little lagoon, and we were all along in this quiet, a little spooky area of water, listening to the sounds of our echos vibrating in the air. It could and should have gone on a little bit longer, but we were led by a communist vietnamese (he was a former teacher), and we had to do everything by time order!!! However, it was great. We headed to Cat ba island next, but on the way stopped for a mountain bike ride through a village. This was hillarious, as
all aboard the Junk
Our Junk boat (one of them) for the next 2 days
the mountain bikes were the crappiest bits of machinary you have ever encountered. Seats were wobbling, chains kept falling off, counld not take going up hills, it was another lesson in patience. The teacher was going mad for keeping the group waiting, but what could we do? We then headed to cat ba that evening, to stay at a swanky looking hotel. Very nice. Had a group dinner, then headed out to explore. except, we never made it to the end of the street. We stopped at a bar after being jumped on by the waitress, and we never really moved from there. Some people did a runner, which we could not understand given the cheap price of beer (1.25 USD/bottle).
The next day we left, and it was sad, because we wanted to explore Cat ba island. We were supposed to, but the teacher had spoken, and was having none of it. Given it was the end of the trip, and we had booked a train that night, we had no other choice. But i have to say, what we saw was beautiful. A very relaxing, peaceful island that we could have warmed to very easily!!!
cock fighting island
looks like 2 cock squaring up to each other.......supposedly!!!
we returned to hanoi, our hotel allowed us to have a shower free of charge (they're lovely the Bodega guys), and they even took us to the train station. They were waiting for a tip i think, but given they had charged us $3 extra for booking the train, i thought that was enough. And to be honest, i never clicked until he had gone!!!
So we head to Hue. Our vietnam adventure has got off to a good start (except the initial blunder), and its all looking good so far!!!
There are more photos below