Published: January 6th 2012January 6th 2012
We arrived in Hanoi via train from Nanning two days ago. It's been an exceptional couple of days!
The train ride in was interesting. We lucked out off the bat by sharing our six berth hard sleeper compartment with Ondrej and Ning, a Czech chap and his Thai wife. It was nice to have some mates to share the trip with.
We boarded in Nanning at 6:30pm. At around 10:30pm we stopped in Pingxiang where everybody including the crew had to disembark and go inside Chinese immigration. After scanning our luggage and holding onto our passports for about 25 minutes we were allowed back on the train.
At about 1am we arrived in Dong Dang at the Vietnamese border. We repeated the same immigration charades and were back rolling within about thirty minutes. Apparently the train rails are narrower in Vietnam and because of this our train went MUCH slower. I think we were going at about 30 to 45 kmh only.
We arrived in Hanoi at the wet and dimly lit hour of 5am. We're pretty much against getting hawked at doing anything so it took us about 15 minutes and a few blocks of walking
Outside the Hanoi train station.
With Ondrej and Nink before they departed to Dong Ha.
in the rain to lose the cabbies vying for our fare at the station. These cabbies are also known for intentionally taking people to the wrong hotels. We didn't have any Vietnamese dong anyway and the thought of haggling a fare and then trying to pay with Chinese yuan or Hong Kong dollars seemed dreadful. After finding an ATM, a taxi who used a meter and stopped multiple times for directions, we finally found our hostel at about 7:30am and got some rest.
Hanoi is a much appreciated departure from China. China was a great experience but it kicked our ass and was hard work! The roads are much smaller here but, the traffic is much crazier. Thankfully we got our crazy street crossing lessons in China and put them to use in Hanoi. You'd think we were locals walking in front of masses of motorbikes and busses all heading right for us!
My first ATM withdrawal was for a million dong or about $47usd. It's weird to get bills that are in the hundreds of thousands of dong but we're getting used to it. For perspective, we got a grade A fancy dinner for about $10usd and
on the street we can each get a bowl of noodles and a couple rounds of beer for less than $2.
The language is much more difficult here. It seems like the words are all vowels. We're trying but, it's frustrating to be starting from scratch when we were just getting a handle on Chinese.
We've had good luck making friends here. Besides Ondrej and Nink who we plan on meeting again in Bangkok, we've had nice chats with a local expat from Seattle and last night we chatted it up for a couple of hours with a talkative lady from Berlin. Either we're not as socially awkward as we imagined or Vietnam draws like minded weirdos to it. It really is nice to be social and communicate in depth with others!
We've spent the last two days wandering aimlessly and taking in Hanoi. Today we plan on visiting the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and maybe the 'Hilton Hanoi' where American POWs were kept captive and tortured during the Vietnam war.
Our train leaves here at 7pm today for Danang and arrives tomorrow at around 9am. We'll spend the day there and either leave that night
or the following morning for Nha Trang, depending on train schedules.
We've decided to skip the 'must-do' of Halong Bay because of the weather. It's grey and rainy and in the 50's here and will be the same in Halong Bay. As much as we want to see the splendor, it will be soured for us. We've had a long trip and we're ready to put our toes in the sand and enjoy some sun!!!
Kicking life in it's nuts.
Your friends, Simon and Nora.
As always, more photos are at http://www.flickr.com/norajhess
Find a Hanoi 360 panarama and more at http://360.io/8K29xQ
There are more photos below