Off to Vietnam, first stop Hanoi.

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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi
February 23rd 2014
Published: February 24th 2014
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Up at 4.30am, just time for a quick drink and then off to Don Muaeng airport, courtesy of a lift from Jeremy. We were there by 5am, had already checked in online and just needed to drop off our luggage before finding somewhere for breakfast.

Ha ha. That process didn’t work with Air Asia. Failed to find any online check in or baggage drop and had no other option but to join the total chaos which was the undivided and non-specific queue for the check-in counters. We asked two members of staff about our online check-in status but they just waved us into the same queue.

Movement along the queue was slow, to put it mildly. On a couple of occasions we didn’t move at all for 15 minutes. Then we realised that people were sneaking into the front, right up to the desks, after going under the barriers with their luggage. A couple of times we saw someone had made it up to a desk only for the check-in clerk to turn his sign round to closed ! We were all getting quite cross really. Not helped by the chaos of people having to leave the queue and dash to another set of hastily opened desks as their flights were called.

At 6.10, 5 minutes before our check-in closed we estimated we needed about 30 minutes more to get to the desk. Then a man waving a card frantically with our flight on it pointed us to another desk they had just opened, specially for our flight and we ran across and eventually checked in there.

No breakfast and very shirty feedback given to Air Asia though the flight itself was fine and took just 1½ hours. Then another hour at Hanoi airport getting and paying for our visas (we had already done the application bit on line from home) before we collected our bags and found a taxi into the city.

Hanoi was wet, all day but it had been forecast so we were dressed appropriately.

A brilliant city, love every bit of it.

Our hotel, the Tirant, is right in the middle of the Old quarter in a fantastic location. We got another upgrade, this time to an executive room – which basically means we got bananas and funny packets of sweet cake stuff. Oh and our own computer in the room, which we need as for some reason this laptop can’t get on to Facebook or Twitter so I suspect the hotel wifi firewall is blocking them.

As we arrived well before lunch but without breakfast we had a snack of spring rolls and drinks in the hotel bistro before setting out to explore. Still wet but decided to ignore the rain and carry on regardless.

We’ve visited some busy places but nothing to compare to Hanoi. Bob likened it to Taiwan. The old quarter is really very much like Bangkok Chinatown except it is all in open streets not covered alleyways.

The building style is quite unique as each house is very narrow but also deep and high. They are called Tube houses and are built this way as historically more taxes were paid the bigger the building frontage. To get round this they built backwards and upwards. Nowadays the fronts are generally tiny shops, crammed floor to ceiling with a fascinating assortment of goodies and the family live in the long thin rooms behind. Total hotchpotch but some fascinating views were to be had through open doors and down the little alleyways.

We realised eventually that each street or area has its own speciality and began to recognize where we were by what was on sale. Toy Street, fruit street, flower street, fabric street etc etc. We believe that anything we could want, including things we didn’t know existed, is for sale here somewhere in the warren of streets, though I have yet to find any jingle bells and could do with some for my angels.

We have to date not been run over by any of the 1 million scooters which ride round and round the narrow streets weaving in and out between the pedal rickshaws, taxis and tradesmen carrying their wares in two basket shoulder poles. Crossing roads is a bit of a nightmare as if there are any rules of the road they are not followed. The white paint used for zebra crossing is a complete waste of time and money. But there is a good side to this, we are becoming very nimble and adept at dodging in front of and between moving vehicles.

We've also, because of the rain, seen some wonderfully inventive rain capes today, some, worn on scooters and covering driver and passenger and in several cases 3 passengers. Good head covers too including cycling while holding an umbrella. Wonderful.

We had a lovely dinner at the Green Tangerine, a French restaurant with a Vietnamese twist then a walk along a night market, still in the rain before collapsing onto our emperor sized hotel bed.

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