I’m finding it almost impossibly hard not to start the entry with a popular line from a certain Robin Williams movie. So impossibly hard in fact, that I’m going to mention it in the first paragraph and therefore keep my air of coolness and originality, but live up to all the clichés at the same time.
I’ve been in Vietnam for a few days now, and probably not unsurprisingly I feel behind on my blogging already. I could probably blame this on the jet-lag. Except I don’t really feel any. I left London on a cold November 19th. With the time differences, long flights, and the changes in the weather… It’s now June.
Well, an English June possibly. It’s actually a pretty comfortable 22 degrees, and all the Vietnamese are walking round in coats complaining about how cold it is. I guess they have a different idea of winter than we do 🙂
Hanoi. Way up there in the North, and Vietnam’s capital is like the quiet step-brother of Ho Chi Minh, or so I hear. Although it is where Ho Chi Minh has a huge state building to show off his glorified preserved waxy body to one and all. An honour that I find rather odd, given he was said to be a much simpler man and requested a far humbler ceremony.
Hanoi appears at first glance to have twice as many motorcyles as it does people, and reminiscent of Istanbul with non-stop traffic, horn blasting traffic-dodging death traps of roads. Ring-tones for car-horn replacements seem incredibly popular though, so that’s a new one on me.
My arrival consisted of no less than an 11 hour plane ride into Hong Kong (Gate 13, for luck), 1.5 hours into Hanoi, and a white-knuckle 10-20 minute taxi ride into the centre and to the Backpackers hostel. Hong Kong provided the perfect stop-off point to pick up some Chinese drugs that James had helpfully recommended to help with stomach bugs (Po Chi I think, I can’t bring myself to check right now), as well as Tiger Balm for insect bites and numbing of the eyes, should it become necessary. I can’t see how it would. His advice was invaluable to the speedy exit from the airport though, and armed with the pictures he drew of the boxes – I was in and out in no time.
It was also my first opportunity to get some real Vietnamese Dong, having only stocked up on a few US Dollars, the unofficial currency of choice in Vietnam. Ordering 1 million Dong made me feel a little bit like I was the richest man alive. Paying 10,000 Dong to go to the toilet made me feel a little bit like I was being ripped off.
So far, all I have seen of Hanoi is a small walk around the lake in the dark, which is said to be heart of the city. And that’s abundantly clear when you see the KFC perched on the corner. Michael, one of the first people I’d met at the hostel was very insistent that I leave at the first opportunity (I’m sure it was nothing personal), so that got me booked onto the boat trip around Ha Long Bay, 3-4 hours bus ride to the east.