Published: March 5th 2012March 4th 2012
So we arrived in Vietnam safe and sound. What a difference from the Phillipines!! The weather in Hanoi was terrible, very cold and grey. We were really not prepared for that type of weather after having spent the last 7 weeks in vests and shorts! Locals were dressed for winter so we layered up what clothes we had and went exploring. First impressions were good although the traffic was mental. Trying to cross the road was difficult to say the least, there are not many cars to look out for but instead millions of motorbikes. Our taxi driver said on the way to dropping us in Hanoi, that the city has a population of 5 million and the same numner of motorbikes!
We found a B&B in the Old Quater of Hanoi, the room had a private bathroom with hot water, our first hot water shower in 7 weeks! Our first morning we went hunting for breakfast. The majority of pavements were impossible to walk on, either because they were lined with motorbikes or pepole eating from street food sellers who provide little plastic tables and chairs which spill out onto the pavement. We found somewhere and
I sat down on a smallish stool, the lady cooking started waving her hand at me, saying something in Vietnamise shooing me away. It was only then I realised that I was sitting quite happily on the table and the chair was in fact a stool no higher 6 inches off of the ground. Not a great start althgough Sarah and I had a good laugh about it! Food was lovely and unbelievably cheap, we were fed well and had a glass of green tea for 35p!
The next day we went to a water puppet show...
Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the area of northern Vietnam. Today's Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then laquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.
Ahh good old Wiki once again...
Backtracking slightly, we met a couple at the airport in Hanoi whilst filling out our visas, (hello Jamie and Nat!!) We went out for food and drinks where we tried these great big snails! I polished off the rest after everyone wimped out after only one ;0). We decided that we would travel to Halong bay together after meeting up with them in Hanoi. They found a travel agents and we went for it. It can be a bit dodgy when booking tours and stuff in
Hanoi as you are often warned about dubious agents promising the world and delivering not a great deal. The same goes for hotels, 'fake' hotels copy the same names as an established hotel, try and get you to stay with them on the pretence that they are the same chain. We only found this out as we saw a copycat of our hotel! Back to Halong bay, we spent two days and one night on a junk boat sailing to the bay. During the day, we visited a cave and later you had the option of kayaking, we opted out funny enough! We were fed plenty during the day which made up for it be really cold on and off the deck. It didn't stop me fishing though off the back of the boat for squid. The fishing rod was a cane of bambo with the smallest length of line, using a lattern for light. The only thing I caught subsequently was a chest infection. The rest of the time on the boat, the four of us entertained ourselves drinking beer and playing cards.
On our return to Hanoi we waved goodbye to Jamie and Nat and decided to
stay in Hanoi another couple of nights as it turned out I needed antibiotics to clear my chest which they dish out like sweets at the pharmacy. Once the tabs kicked in, we explored Hanoi more during the day, visiting a Fine Art Museam, Hoan Kiem lake and wandered around the streets taking it all in. Sarah even bumped into her good friend from home!! (see pic) We went for food one night and tried crispy crickets roasted in pig fat and beef sauce with crackers. Sarah had horrendous pains the next day, I thoroughly enjoyed them! This was washed down with Vietnamse tea with chopped ginger to help with my cold(bless)!
After a few days relaxing, I was then finally feeling up to the 12 hour night bus to Hue, 700km south of Hanoi, which left at 6pm. The beds must have been made to fit the verticaly challenged as I couldn't move other than lying on my back or put my legs straight. I spotted three chairs/beds together at the back of the bus so we moved pronto! We just got comfy when the bus stopped to let more people on again and they needed the third
bed next to me. I ended up sleeping inbetween Sarah and a german woman; very cosy... After 15 bumpy hours, we arrived at 10.15am the following morning. We decided that rather than waste the day we would have a mammoth day of sight seeing and then move further south the following morning. We teamed up with the german girl and her friend and hired a dragon boat for the afternoon, visiting Thien Mu Pagoda and several of the royal tombs along the perfume river. The boat journey between sights was quite amusing as the old lady running the boat pestered us to buy souvenirs and dodgy silk pyjamas etc. We setttled for the safe option, postcards and a couple of beers! In one of the main sanctuaries we came across the remains of an Austin motocar which a monk drove in 1963 to Saigon and then publically burnt himself to death whilst sitting in the lotus position to protest the policies of a South Vietnamise President. Serious stuff. It was also good to see some of the monks relaxing and playing football in th grounds of the monestary. After a long day of sightseeing we got an early night after
a bite to eat.
The next day we got up early to visit a market and go to the citadel. As we were walking around the grounds we spotted a couple of elephants on a field. We started to head over just as a couple men were getting their pics took right next to one of them that was chained up, there was no barrier around it and the man was really close. Just as he was smiling for the photo the elephant came over and whacked him full force in the face with it's trunk!! We couldnt believe it, I did laugh however, as I recognised him from the restaurant the night before, where he was being a bit of a wally to say the least. I'm just gutted that I didn't get it on video! Moving on from the bizzare elephant incident Sarah and I went back in time and dressed as an emperor and his wife ;0) We then got our bus and headed on to Hanoi 5 hours and left the clouds behind.
Hope you enjoy the read and are well.
There are more photos below