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Published: January 9th 2018
Early start on Sunday. At Changi Terminal 2 for 7:20 am for the 9:20 am flight from Singapore to Hanoi. Couple of minor hiccups trying to check in automatically as Caitlin and I were fine but Reuben's Vietnam visa for some reason wouldn't register. Took a few minute to sort then through. Departure formalities here very easy and straightforward.
Really good flight with Singapore airlines. And for the trainspotters it was a Boeing something 200. Seemed to have a little more room. Service was excellent.
Arrived Hanoi around midday. Disembarked and formed a queue for border control. This was old school. Long lines moving slowly, but moving. Got bored and worked out they processed 2 people in an average of 56 seconds. Doesn't sound long but put 60 plus people in the line and you do the slow shuffle. Not a major, part of the experience.
Collected luggage and were met in arrivals by the guide who led us out, called her driver and travelled with us to our accommodation. Took about 40 minutes to get from the airport and into the hotel in the Old Quarter. For me it was a return to some of the trips
Temple on the lake...
...looks official, he's taller than his dad now.
of younger days. The teenagers in the back seat got quieter and quieter as they saw where they were. There was a little bit of a culture shock. This wasn't Singapore, eat your food off the pavement clean, this was now they understood why they needed the vaccinations. It's dirty and raw and fascinating all at once.
We won't focus too much on the traffic because everyone else seems to. Simply to say for us from little old Aotearoa, how the hell does this work. But it does. Cars and motorbikes and scooters coming from every direction and pedestrians just literally wade through it. Everyone accepts it's a heaving mass and works accordingly. If it was Auckland there would be angry men at every intersection coming to blows. Here they just deal with it. There is no animosity, no extended digits. Wonder who has the better system, or at least, who has the greater maturity.
The van weaves through the alley ways of the Old Quarter they call streets and pulls up, or rather just stops, outside the hotel May De Ville. We pile out into the noise and odours of it all. Reuben and Caitlin pile straight
The hotel is great. Mid budget. Yes Craig we could have gone cheaper. Our room is the triple share on the 3rd floor overlooking the street. Open the window and you become part of it. It's a large room, has everything we need and I'd stay here again.
The first question from the Caitlin was 'how long are we here for?'. It wasn't her normal, cos I never want to go home tone either. Both want to settle in for a while and are just a little nervous about negotiating the streets. So dad goes for his first look around.
Within 200 metres I was in love with the place. Bit of the excitement, not a word I use often, of the first time in the vibrance of Hong Kong in the 80's or that first walk around Kathmandu. It must have been really something to visit 30 years ago.
Walked down to the Hoan Kiem Lake which is about 2 minutes walk from the hotel. Takes about 30 seconds to work out the negotiating the roads. It's seems simply put to be 'I see you, you see me' we work around each other.
Little more interesting when your having that same informal relationship with 40 motorbikes at once but getting the hang of it. Their house, their rules.
Like someone once said, 'if you want everywhere to be like home, probably better you stay at home.'
Lots of family groups and teams of young people strolling around and being a Sunday there is some street theatre, buskers, street hawkers and food vendors. Spot a French cafe on the corner and mark that for later.
Sadly, thought I should probably go back and collect Caitlin and Reuben. So I did. Went back out and started walking. They followed. I left them to work it out. Within a minute I could tell they had gotten the excitement. Within 2 intersections they had the crossing the road thing sorted. Within 3 minutes they were buzzing.
Watched some buskers by the lake and walked around the edge of it amongst the colour of everything that was happening. Suddenly, Reuben froze. From 150 metres out he had spotted the number one thing on his purchase list. Adidas Yeezys! And there was a herd of them!
There was no stealthy approach, no casual, 'oh
Taking a break...
...Highlamds Coffee house, Old Quarter. Bit of a refuge on a cold day. Good coffee.
look father, this vendor has something called Adidas Yeezys'. More of a battering ram approach through the front door. And this is where 'Yoda' (complete with annoyingly hairy ears) had the opportunity to impart some knowledge to the young Padawan. Difficult to negotiate from a position of callous indifference when there is a 6' 1" whimpering, shaking mess beside you, salivating over this weird looking shoe with a reverence generally reserved for a deity. The vendor smiled at me, gauged my bargaining position and stated his price. The gibbering mess beside me is nodding in agreement then goes pale when I thank the man for his time and walk away.
We then had a family group conference. I explain that the main rule of bargaining is that everyone finishes up happy, customer and vendor alike. Point out that had we paid the vendors first price he would have shut up shop for the day and taken his family, including in laws, out for dinner on his windfall while still putting a little aside.
Three stores down we try again. 20 minutes later we leave there with Reuben carrying a bag containing his Yeezys and Caitlin the proud owner
...a very tolerant big brother
...modelling the new North Face jackets.
of a pair of Nike Air Force Ones. And we paid considerably less for both combined than the initial price first offered by the previous vendor. Suddenly these two just love Hanoi.
After a casual and relatively early dinner continue exploring. Find some night markets but everyone just a little bushed so don't give it the time it deserved. Looked really interesting and probably could have been some purchases made.
Instead we headed back for the May De Ville, stopping en route at a French cafe overlooking the lake and settling down with coffee and a debrief of the day.
One of the things I like about it here is there is a level for everyone. For those intrepid fravellers who boast of living on $3 a day to those who want a little of what they recognise mixed in for comfort. Now ever you travel, there is a level here for most of us.
Drifted off to the slowly decreasing cacophony of scooter and bike horns. Woke up to the opposite as the regularity and volume of them steadily increased.
Good breakfast on the 10 th floor included in the room rate so sat
up there and planned the day looking out over the lake and temple.
A lot cooler today so long trousers and sweatshirts the order of the day. Walked down to the lake and paid a brief visit to the temple there. Nothing particularly special about it and looked better from a distance than up close. Quick stroll around it and through the temple. Kids first experience of such a place. Interesting and nice setting.
Crossed the bridge back to the shoreline and headed further around the lake and into the French Quarter. A couple of the malls there more akin to Singapore than Hanoi. Spent the whole morning just perusing the quarter and a number of the significant landmarks such as the Hanoi Opera House which is modelled, word is, on the Paris Opera House.
Back in the Old Quarter for coffee and cheesecakes in the Highland Cafe, yet another one overlooking the lake. Good coffee, good value.
Had some laundry to get sorted but couldn't find a laundromat anywhere. Hotel rates just a little too high. Turned out my mistake was not taking my laudromat to the travel agent immediately opposite the hotel. Charge by
the kilo. Cost $3.
Took a tip from Traveladvisor and had dinner at the Red Bean Restaurant. Great food, great experience. Hanoi standards expensive, Auckland standards not much more than feeding three at the local food court. If I come back to Hanoi this will be top of my list. Not into restaurant reviews but Reubs had a religious experience with the duck while my three pork dish, a specialty of Hanoi, has changed my appreciation of pork. The rice paper shrimp spring rolls for the appetiser were incredible. Following dinner another walk around and watch the world go by down at the lake. Its the thing you do in Hanoi. Now quite cold and many of the shops are closing up early It seems. Back to May De Ville for sleep.
Tuesday is day 3 in Hanoi and our last. Woke up to pouring rain and real chill. Ended up a slow start while we waited for it to settle a little. First purchase of the day were three, non matching, North Face jackets. Cost $9 each. Not sure their genuine. Hard to say really.
Then started walking. Headed toward the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. About
a 40 minute walk. It's slow going working through the traffic. Interesting character Ho Chi Minh. Quite the traveller and the adventurer as well as politician and soldier. Cleanest place in Hanoi. Drift around this area for a while, view one of the palaces and then decide to drift back. Caught a taxi back more for the experience than anything. Coffee and spring rolls at another cafe in the Old Quarter was lunch. And a very good one too.
Back in the Old Quarter and Caitlin and I did a lap of the lake grabbing a couple of crepes, really good, for a $1 each at a street stall, just to get us through until dinner. Cool just having a chat. Familiar with the place and just seeing same places from different perspectives each time. Locals are on the footpath playing a game abit like hacky sack but with something more akin to a weighted badminton shuttle. Had to buy one.
Streets are fascinating. Footpath is multi purpose. On one street saw what looked like a dog carcass being prepared, fish being gutted and filleted, live prawns and crabs alongside, floral displays being prepared at the neighbouring stall
and amazing fruit and vegetable stalls and shops mixed amongst stores selling copy sports shoes and others selling North Face and Under Armour clothing and jackets.
Back and then out for dinner. Less said about that the better. Just not a good meal.
We've enjoyed Hanoi, despite the culture shock of the first few minutes. Great experience and definitely a place I'd like to come back too.
Tomorrow we head for Halong Bay. Collected at 8:30 am for a 3 hour drive to the boat. Should be interesting.
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