We had an OK night on the train from Sapa. Vietnamese trains are a lot older than the Chinese ones - and a little bit rougher round the edges. We shared with a Vietnamese mother and toddler - the toddler was terrified of me but I soon taught her to stick her tongue out much to Fran's disgust. We arrived at the crack of dawn in Hanoi - and the pre-arranged pickup from the hotel wasn't there - so it was the usual negotiation with the taxi driver to get the meter turned on. We arrived at the hotel for a quick shower and change - needed it as our room was on the 4th floor with very steep stairs to it.
We spent the day walking round the old quarter in Hanoi - wandering through and looking what the various tours had to offer. The old quarter is what you would expect of an Asian city - lots of colour, traffic chaos with scooters everywhere and lots of different smells. There were different streets for each type of shop - we were on the junction of chicken street and the paper decoration shops. Our initial impressions of Hanoi is that there are of tourists with lots of associated hassle from vendors, touts etc. trying to sell you stuff - a bit of a culture shock when compared to China.
After our walk, we ended up at the water puppet theatre and managed to get 2 tickets for the evening performance. The show was quite entertaining even though we didn't understand a word of the commentary. It seemed to a mixture of folk tales and scenes from rural life - complete with fishermen and flying fish. Next day we decided to explore the city outside of the old quarter. We walked towards the Ho Chi Minh complex (his mausoleum and museum) but had trouble finding it as there was a large military area in the way. We ended up going through the botanical gardens - as it was Saturday it was wedding day and it was full of wedding parties having their pictures taken. We were trying to find a Pagoda, but got lost again and ended up down a back alley but recognised it as there was a B52 in the lake complete with a plaque to it. From there, we found our way to the Pagoda - when we got there decided that the B-52 lake was better. We then went on to the temple of literature - a sort of university. It was difficult to believe that the temple was under 1foot of water 3 weeks earlier. All the thesis were written on large stones - interesting place. We had to book our train ticket out and then went on to find the 'Hanoi Hilton' - the former prison. Unfortunately we arrived just as it closed so we will have to come back for that.