Published: January 19th 2012January 16th 2012
Woke up pretty early to share a cab with 2 other teachers to the airport, one which was coincidentally on the same 1st flight as me to Guangzhou as well as 5 other teachers.
The flight to Hanoi was uneventful. I arrived at about 5:45pm local time in Hanoi. It was drizzling.
Picked up my Visa which was a painless and quick procedure and got through immigration and customs easily.
During this process I met a Irish guy. We grabbed some money and found the shuttle into town. The Irish guy was a little wet behind the ears although he is also teaching in China.
We got dropped off at some random corner. He took a taxi to his hostel and I grabbed my map, my compass and navigated my way through the streets to my hotel. Past the 'fake' hotel with the same name (about 20m away). Got my room which was a nice basic room, and headed off to wander.
I zigzagged through streets dodging the ubiquitous motorcycles. Hanoi central is highly commercialized and excessively touristic, although it seems more backpacker than package tourist. I wandered up an outdoor market street
and then headed off to find a travel agent I was looking for. I eventually found them and set up a 4 day tour to Northwest Vietnam.
I found a little stall selling what looked to be a vietnamese version of a pita. I ate that while wandering the streets. It is fairly difficult to navigate as streets change names frequently and many names just aren't on the maps. I ended up overshooting by a fair margin in the wrong direction but managed to figure it out and head back to my hotel to crash for the night.
I woke up and having brought my computer (the reason photos will be uploaded during the trip and not just after), I watched a Canuck game to start the day. I had forgotten to pack an extra shirt so I needed to get one. I walked to where the nightly street market was and found a stall selling synthetic quick-dry athletic shirts - a Nike ripoff, and bought it.
I then met up with the Irish guy I had met the day before on the lake in the Old Quarter. We walked to the temple on
the lake, but it wasn't much of anything. We walked along the lakeside to the south end, stopping at a statue devoted to some Communist hero. We headed back up north to see the Catholic Cathedral, but couldn't figure out how to get in, so we headed to Lenin Park, where there is a park and a statue devoted to the memory of Lenin. The War Museum was closed as were virtually all museums (they all are closed Mondays apparently).
We walked to Ho Chi Minh's Mauseleum but the access was blocked off due to a diplomatic meeting with Qatar. They had Qatar flags flying in tandem with Vietnam flags all over. We then walked to the One Pillar Pagoda, but it wasn't much of anything. After a quick break we grabbed a motorcycle taxi back into the Old Quarter and grabbed lunch at a nice Vietnamese restaurant. One of the only museums not closed on Mondays was the old prison, so we opted to check that out. It was mainly focused on its use during the French colonial days and the brutal treatment of political prisoners. The amount of focus it did have on the American pilots that
were held there during the Vietnam war, would lead one to believe that they were very well treated during their stay in the so-called 'Hanoi Hilton'.
We headed back to the lake and parted ways. I went back to my hotel for a bit. I tried to book the hotel for my return but they were full. I went out and booked my two day trips for after the Northern Vietnam tour. One to the Perfume Pagodas and one to Tam Coc. Each was a whole day excursion for roughly $15.
After I grabbed a motorcycle taxi to ET Pumpkin where I had my Northwestern tour. The driver was crazy aggressive and fast. More than a few times we got almost hit. I got off as soon as I was close, paid him and headed down the street. After picking up supplies and figuring out that the Halong Bay trip with the company wasn't going to work, me and a group of others going to Sapa, were driven to the train station, to where this company owns an entire train car. We got in and grabbed out soft-sleepers and went to bed as the train slowly rumbled through
the countryside up to an elevation of about 1700m to the city of Lao Cai.
There are more photos below