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October 31st 2010
Published: December 20th 2012
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31st Oct: The bus ride from hell today! Left Laos today. We were up at 5 am and got picked up at 5:30 to go to the bus station. The bus left not long after 6:30 but the journey leaving Phonesavanh was a nightmare. As soon as we left the bus station we literally stopped every two seconds so we could pick up every Tom, Dick and Harry along the roadside. It was all the Vietnamese workers returning home to Vietnam. It took us over an hour to get to the end of town as wew were stopping all the time. The bus was heaving and the aisle was filled with blokes sitting on those little plastic stools. Some people got on the bus and were like fuck it, I'm not sitting in the aisle and got off again. I'm so glad that Frannie made the bloke take us to the bus station and not get on at our guesthouse as we would of ended up in the aisle.

However the drive was beautiful, Laos definitely has some stunning scenery. We got to Laos immigration at 11 and we waited until last as we couldn't be arsed with all the pushing and shoving going on. The locals (I dunno if they were Lao or Vietnamese) had to pay some money to get their passports stamped. But luckily us foreigners didn't have to pay a thing. Makes a nice change. Once we were stamped out of Laos we had to walk down the hill to enter Vietnam.

Vietnamese immigration was interesting! Some of the blokes on our bus were detained and handcuffed. Love a bit of drama! However it was pretty chill. One guy was handcuffed and another was handcuffed to a chair. However he was making the most of it and had moved his chair into the sun outside. We spent a while waiting to get our passports back. It was mad, no computers, they were just writing everything down in a big book. We changed our leftover Lao kip for some Vietnamese dong. We were probably ripped off but we had no use for it and we nedded a small bit of local money to get us started.

Back on the bus for about 5-10 minutes and we arrived at the proper border town to get some lunch. The food was delicious. We had a right good feast. A big thanks to Emily and Kwan, two Australian Vietnamese we had met on the bus. They just order loads for us. They also helped out all the other foreigners on the bus. It was a good job we had changed our money as the restaurant didn't accept US$. We had about 40 minutes there, I think and then it was back on to the bus. The journey was fine, apart from when we broke down around 6ish, delaying us a bit. Trust us to break down about an hour from our intended destination. However the problem was soon fixed and we got into Vinh around seven. Me and Franny had contemplated staying there overnight, but there was nothing there and we luckily got some tickets on a bloke's sleeper bus, as the official ticket station had sold out, when we went and checked. I went to get some money at a cashpoint nearby. There was no prblems getting money out, which was a relief.

We had dinner at a little restaurant at the bus station and sat outside chatting and having a drink. They were all laughing at me as I downed a bottle of water on the spot. I can definitely say I was dehydrated. The bus was due to leave at 10, we got on at 9 and got settled into our individual beds. They were quite comfy. We left early a bit before 10, I think it was because we were full. The lights were dimmed and I soon nodded off.

1st Nov: I woke up when we arrived in Hanoi, around 4 am. Luckily for us the bus driver didn't kick us off and let us stay on and get another couple of hours kip. He eventually kicked us off around 6 am. We took a taxi to the Old Quarter. Once again thank god for Emily and Kwan as they stopped the taxi driver ripping us off too badly. We got the taxi to the Old Quarter and we were dropped off at Hoan Kiem Lake. Now that was a cool introduction to Vietnam and Hanoi. Sittnig by the lake at half six in the morning as the city is starting to come to life and there are tonnes of old people doing tai chi. There was a lovely atmosphere.

After having some time chilling at the lake. We put together a plan of action for the next couple of hours. Brekky and find a place to stay. We went for breakfast at a place that Kwan had previously been to when he had visited the city before with his mother. We had pho bo, which is beef noodle soup. It was lovely and certainly hit the spot. Then we took a wander to find a hotel. We found one on one of the main streets in the backpacker area. It was nice, me and Franny were gonna sharea room and it would be $15 between us. We couldn't check in propeorly eventhough we had seen the rooms as the cleaners had to clean them. So we dumped our stuff and had some computer time. Then me and Frannie took a short wander around the streets near our hostel. Hanoi is definitely mental for traffic. There are just so many motorbikes weaving in and out.

When we got back to the hotel our room was ready. I had a shower, heavenly! It's so nice to feel clean. I went back to the lake and had a little look around and then headed back to the hotel for a nap. I woke up around 4 and went out for what was meant to be a short stroll in the neighbourhood by my hotel. However I got very, very lost and ended up miles away. When I finally got my bearing with the help of a moto driver I walked back to where I was staying. Had a pizza for tea and was in bed not long after 9. Dead rock n roll!

2nd Nov: Woke up around 6:30, me and Frannie went for a final breakfast together. Well he has brekky and I had a coffee. We came back to the hotel and I said bye to them, as they were all leaving to go to Halong Bay. I checked out of the hotel and made my way to the next street across, where I had found a dead cheap hostel. $5 a night which included breakfast and all the free beer you could drink. Score! Then it was time for breakfast, fresh spring rolls.

After breakfast I went back to Hoan Kiem lake and wandered the whole perimetre of the lake. It's really pretty, but the air was a bit smoggy. There are loads of locals just going about their daily business and it is also a popular spot for couples to get their wedding photos shot at. After walking around the lake I went into the Jade Temple, which is on the edge of the lake. It was pretty, but there wasn't much to see inside and it was packed with people. As I left the temple my flip-flop broke. Bloody great! I'd just bought them a few days earlier in Laos. Well they were only about two quid. I hobbled back to the hostel and got directions to a place to get my flip-flop fixed.

The place where I got my flip-flop fixed was cool. It was a little shop type thing on the edge of the pavement. On the ground surrounding the bloke was hundreds of pairs of shoes. Bless some random bloke in the street, who translated for us. I think it probably cost as much to repair as what I had orginially paid. I sat on a little stool in the street with only one shoe on watching the world go by as he fixed my shoe.

I went to Hoa Lo prison aka the Hanoi Hilton. The prison was built by the French, when they ruled Vietnam, at the turn of the 20th century. The French used the prison to hold and execute Vietnamese freedom fighters. The museum shows how prisoners were treat by the French. It was pretty brutal by the looks of things. They were made to lie on a wooden platform and their feet were shackled together. Also the guillotine was pretty scary, even just to look at. I dread to thing about it being used. During the Vietnam War the prosin was used to detain American prisoners of war, that had been shut down. John McCain was detained there and they have his flight suit on display. In the courtyard they have some gruesome murals on the walls. There is a lot of propoganda, but still interesting and worth a visit. After the museum I went to the Vietnamese equivalant of Maccy Ds, Pho 24, a fast food noodle place. I had pho bo, it was canny nice.

Back at the hostel I had a lazy afternoon. I booked my trip to Halong Bay for the next day and caught up on my diary as I was quite far behind. then it was a wander around and dinner, before trying to get an early night.

6th: After arriving back in Hanoi last night I had a bit of a lie-in this morning. I got up just before breakfast finished and went to eat that. My day were spent pottering around. I spent a lot of time drinking coffee, I found a lovely cafe right next to the Cathedral. It was a bit expensive, but a lovely little place, where I enjoyed reading books and magazines. I found a JoMa bakery in Hanoi. I loved going to the one in Luang Prabang, so had a lovely lunch there one day, sitting in the courtyard. The only really touristy thing I did was vidit the army museum. It was quite interesting. Also there were a tonne of old comrades there, on a trip, it would of been cool to have been able to talk to one or some of them about their experiences. I booked a night bus to take me to Sapa, as it takes you all the way in to town, where as the train drops you somewhere else and then you have to fanny on getting a minibus. Got a moto to the bus depot.

9th-10th Nov: Got back to Hanoi in the early hours of the morning. I took a taxi for the train station to the hostel. Was ripped off, grr! Couldn't sleep when I got back to the hostel, so I had a few free beers and some facebook time. Had a lazy couple of days just wandering, relaxing, eating and drinknig lots of coffee. Then it was time to move on and start making my way south. I booked the sleeper bus to take me to Hue. I had an open ticket that would take me all the way to Saigon.

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