17.12.2008 - 18.12.2008 20 °C
After we said our good-bye's to Hong Kong, Annie and I set out to our new destination.... Vietnam. The city of Hanoi to be exact. It is only a 2 hr flight from HK to Hanoi. Annie and I were excited to continue our trip as soon as we landed in Hanoi. When we landed, Annie and I were a little confused and worried on how we would get to our hotel from the Airport. We had read that it can be a bit of a challenge figuring out a safe and economical way to get from the airport to our hotel in the city of Hanoi. We found out that there was a Vietnam Airlines mini-bus that could take us to their offices in Hanoi from the airport. Little did we know that all of the mini-bus drivers that we encountered outside of the airport all claimed that they were from Vietnam Airlines and they could take us to our hotel. After some hassle with travel price we went with a mini-bus that we thought was from the airlines, but we later found out that it was not. Oh well, we figured that this driver will get us to our hotel. When we got to the mini-bus there were other people already inside which made us a little bit more at ease that we were not the only ones in the bus with a strange driver. The bus could hold about 6 people with baggage. When we finally departed our mini-bus was packed in with 11 people and baggage. We were packed in like clowns in a clown car. It's about a 45 min drive from the airport to Hanoi, our journey took about 2hrs. The long ride was mostly due to traffic, but the dropping off all of passengers that were inside the mini-bus added to the travel time. The traffic in Hanoi is horrible. Annie and I could not believe how many mopeds were running through the streets. It looked like we were in a motorcycle convention. Driving in Hanoi takes some skills as no one here follows any sense of proper driving safety and caution...of course that is from our point of view. Everyone drives whenever and wherever they want. A one way street becomes a two way street in seconds. You can imagine how stressful it can be trying to cross the street on foot.
Last night we caught a water puppet show, a unique art form to Vietnam, and the most famous one resides in Hanoi. The show was very different. The puppeters are actually in waist high water, operating the puppets. We called it a night when we couldn't find anything to eat but a travellers pub. We cop-ed out and had a hamburger and grilled cheese for dinner.
Today we regrouped and set out to really explore the city and learn how to confidently cross the streets during the daylight. First stop was to a travel agent to book a cruise to Halong bay...then lunch. Andy finally had some pho...i had a pork chop...still sort of cop-ping out. Afterwards we headed out to the Lake in Hanoi. The lake is centered around a legend of a king and a giant tortoise. These giant tortises live in the lake and they managed to petrify one in the 60's. We made a visit out to Ho Chi Minh's masoleum, but it was closed. We settled for his private house and car collection...not exactly something i've seen on Cribs, but very impressive for the time.
Overall, Hanoi is not exactly what we expected. The city is very hustle and bustle and the city is trying to work on recycling and cleaner practices. It was a little disappointing to see that some of the major historical sites were not cared for well and may not be around for many generations. I did suffer from a little bit of shell shock but after settling down with a big pate bagette and fresh guava juice, me nerves were calmed and I'm ready to set sail on our cruise.