I arrived in Vietnam no problem and despite stories of scary visa officers, all was fine and I jumped in my cab to the hostel.
Yes, hostel. I thought I wanted to give it a try whilst travelling so why not in Hanoi right?
When I arrived, there were A LOT of very young and boisterous people drinking in the bar. Ominous. I was staying in a twelve bed female dorm and immediately met two lovely Canadians and a group of five girls from the UK. Uh oh. We all went for a few beers and then i went to bed. Peaceful, peaceful. The UK ladies, living up the our apparent reputation as a German told me yesterday, came back to the dorm at 5am. There were tears, shouting and eventually drunken slumber. The only thing was they had to be up for a halong bay trip at 6am. It's 7 am and at least half of the hostel staff are in our dorm trying to get them up. They missed the trip. Calamitous.
I spent a great day visiting markets and museums with the Canadians. Vietnamese history and the womens museum. It's easy to see why communism became the political system here. In the twenties Vietnam asked for basic human rights and freedoms from their colonial oppressors which they were denied. When it was time for their independence, is it any wonder they thought no thanks to your political system, we'll do it a different way?
Hanoi is hectic to say the least. Hundreds and hundreds of scooters. No pavement, no road markings, a motoring free for all. The well known tale of walking out in front of traffic and them dodging you is Oh so true. Show no fear!
Last night I went on a street food tour with an amazing Vietnamese guide. We tried ten different types of street food. I know, Vietnamese food baby after two days. we walked the streets of the old quarter and tried pork and mushroom rice flour pancakes, banana flower salad, fried catfish spring rolls, sweet beef noodles, sugar cane drink, fried goodness plate, chewy rice paper and secret sauce salad, ice cream, tapioca and lychee desserts. Sooooo full. The guide was so lovely. She was so open and happy to discuss Vietnam, the culture, herself. she told me how when it comes time for young Vietnamese to get a job, they have to pay for the one they want. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars to be a tour guide. Eek. To be in the police force is the most in demand role as the police can earn so much money from corruption. She was fascinating, a true traveller in her own country and abroad, with impeccable English. Legend. At the end of the tour we went for some bai hoi, Vietnamese draught beer that costs pence that you drink sitting on a miniscule little stool on the street. She told me about how her family want her to get married very much and how good her grandma is at haggling. She was also very interested in me and why I was travelling alone, what I did and what London is like.
Today i went to the hanoi fine art museum. I really like the dark lacquer of Asian art tinged with gold. Very politically on message art from sixties and seventies and more thoughtful stuff looking at legacy of war, environmental damage and nostalgia for how vietnam used to be in most modern section.
Tomorrow I'm going on a three day visit to halong bay and bai tu long bay, staying on a boat and in a home stay with a fishing family. Because we know how much I love boats.... :)