Published: August 7th 2012August 7th 2012
Locals enjoying their morning by Huc Bridge
Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake ("Lake of the Returned Sword" or "Lake of the Restored Sword"). The lake is also believed to be home to an endangered breed of turtles, however the number is unclear.
Another country ticked....I've arrived in Vietnam
I'd forgotten how much I love about Asia and how this continent can wow your senses like none other. Flying into Hanoi I couldn't see the city due to the low lying cloud, however upon arrival my glasses steamed up the minute I disembarked, the watch tower looked as though it had been built over 100 years ago, there were no advertising signs or slogans in the terminal, and the necessary amount of foreign tourists in different degrees of panic upon realisation they did not have a visa to enter Vietnam. Luckily I was not one of those. Not wanting to have a potential mafia experience upon arrival i had arranged for a car pick up to take me the 45 minute drive to hotel (for £10 why wouldn't you?). As the rain teamed down I was reunited with the sight that to me indicates Asia like none other - a thousand different motorbikes, carrying an array of persons young and old, on both sides of the world, and although traffic lights do exist, no one follows the red, the green, or the road rules. However unlike Thailand or Bali my car driver drove
at a slower speed that someone on their L's in Australia, and I arrived into Hanoi in one piece and to the right destination. My hotel is gorgeous - I have a bed that warrants it's own postcode it's that big, a writing desk (postcards may occur if I thought I stood any chance of finding a post office), a balcony overlooking the unpicturesque side of Hanoi and a bathroom bigger than probably any of the hotel staff's homes. A free minifridge (unbelievable but true) and some delicious tropical fruit was waiting for me (all of which will be refilled free of charge each day during my visit) makes the room complete (and the free wifi which adds to the disgrace that you can't even get free wifi in Heathrow). Luggage deposited and I was straight out amongst the chaos and noise. Noise is synonomous with this place - it would even render 69 Winifred Avenue as a place of solitude in comparison. No idea where I was walking I just turned left at the first street and promptly found a massage palour offering full body massages for £10/hour. Straight in and 60 minutes later I think I had dazed
in and out of consciousness, and any stiffness I may have had from the journey over was gone. My lovely hotel receptionists directed me to where the locals go to eat their dinner and what an awesome recommendation this was. Consider a massive outdoor restaurant with about 8 different open air bbqs and cooking stations. You get seated, get the menu, order and let the staff do the rest. The food was heavenly (stir fried ginger squid and two fresh rice paper prawn and vegetable rolls), the beers cold and freshing, and my two dishes and 4 beers an unbelievable sum of £11 with tip. I was sat on a table next to a dutch guy called Wim who is also here for a few days on his own. So I enjoyed my beers sharing tales with Wim of different places we've been, and is the case with me, onto our favourite food. Somehow we got onto sour cream and so when asked of how Australians might use sour cream, I promptly described in great details the cob dip in all it's glory, to the effect that Wim the dutch dude took out a paper and pen and promptly wrote down how to make it and swears he will once he is home. The best recipe I got from him was to have a beer in the shower when getting ready for a night out. As one who laughed at someone who told me to brush my teeth in the shower (and then tried it and am now a convert) I have solemly promised to give this a go at some stage in the future (however I was also informed that I must also have my favourite music blaring in the bathroom at the same time for the full effect). It's the rainy season so I got soaked walking home, but when it's over 30 degrees you don't mind at all, and it's made even better that there was a hot shower, fresh bathrobe, slippers, a coffee and the Olympics waiting for me when I got home. So day 1 in Vietnam, another country now to scratch off my map when I get home (thanks again Nat, Claud & Vez great present) and it's a huge tick so far. No idea what I'll do tomorrow, the new camera purchased at Singapore airport was left at the hotel to charge up, so no photos of today's expedition, but stay tuned as I'll get some tomorrow I'm sure (of the food at least if nothing else!)...