What a pair of cop outs we are! After months of painful bus journeys we decided to treat ourselves (something we seem to be doing far too often at the moment!) to a flight from Vientiane in Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. We'd heard a fair few horror stories about the overland border crossing mainly involving corrupt policemen charging you for your visa when you've already applied or the 15 hour journey taking upto 30 hours. With time and money being the two things we're running out of we decided to fly, paying only 60 pounds for the privilege. It made me feel rich and I liked it.
We arrived feeling fresh but a little anxious. The Vietnamese are renown for being hard work, stony faced with dollar signs in their eyes. I must admit I had my back up a little and had perhaps taken a stereotype for truth but the Vietnamese we met in Hanoi didn't prove me wrong. As soon as we left arrivals we were ambushed by scam artists wanting to take us on the "official" Vietnamese airline bus. You hear hilarious stories involving the local scam artists telling the tourists they're taking them to said hostel from the Lonely Planet, on the way they telephone their mate who puts a fake name sign up outside. Backpackers arrive, all is well and good. They then leave and the name outside is something totally different. You've been scammed! Sometimes it's unavoidable though so we piled onto a bus and off we went. We met a few sweet girls on the journey (who will feature later in our story!) Becky and Zoe who went to Leeds Met (there's no escape!) and Michelle and Sophia. The weather was appalling. It was raining and misty. I hadn't even contemplated the weather being poor so neither myself or my wardrobe were prepared for rain. It was actually quite refreshing. The humidity in the cities can be horrendous and makes sightseeing particularly difficult. We ended up staying in a pretty naff hostel, the price was right, but everything else was wrong. So wrong it was funny. The first night we were there we'd been out for dinner at this fantastic street stall that did amazing Pho, that's the national dish of Vietnam, it's sort of like a chicken noodle soup. Delicious! Anyway, we'd headed back after having a few beers and were tucked up like the old married couple we're turning into. Next thing there's a knock on the door and the owner is saying something neither of us can understand. They didn't really speak any English at this place. Anyway, Dan and I end up just sitting there shouting 'no thank you!' no idea what we thought he was asking us. It turned out he wanted us to turn the lights and television off to save electricity. At about 10pm. It was hilarious. We were then kept awake all night by the family as they seemed to live in the corridor next to our room. We welcomed in the morning with blood shot eyes and dragged our tired selves out of bed to go visit Ho Chi Min's mausoleum. Welllllll. What a day we had!!
Dan believed the museum to be quite far out of the city so we decided to take a taxi. We flagged down one of the metered taxi's as they are supposed to be more trust worthy. The chap said it shouldn't cost more than a couple of pounds so in we jumped. Before he'd even had a chance to start his engine the meter at 120,000 Vietnamese dong which is about 3/4 pounds. We said to the driver to let us out when the meter read 200,000 as there was no way we were paying more than that! In typical Vietnamese fashion, the driver was claiming the traffic was terrible so took a short cut, which is actually a longer route to let the meter run up. To make matters worse, our driver was literally insane, he was some sort of die hard Man U fan and kept screaming "ROONEY!!" in our faces. He didn't really speak English and when he did he sounded drunk and deranged. Within minutes (we could still see the point we had been picked up at!) the meter hit 200k so we asked to get out. He decided he wasn't going to let us out of the car but kindly agreed to take us the whole way for just 200k. We arrived at the mausoleum with a meter reading of 500,000 and of course he starts demanding the full amount. Before we know it he's locked us both into the taxi and is sitting waiting for his money. There was no way we were going to pay such an insane amount of money, especially after he refused to let us out when we requested. So we stood our ground and eventually made our escape. Or so we thought! As I was climbing out he reached for my hand, I assumed for a hand shake but got something much much worse. Instead of shaking my hand like any normal person, he raised it to his lips and stuck his tongue between my fingers!!!!! I thought I was going to a) vomit, b) punch him, or c) pass out! So I'm desperately trying to yank my hand out of his grasp and I'm looking for a rescue from Dan who is of course too busy looking around outside! I managed to jump out and run away from rapey hand man. What a creep! To top it off, Ho Chi Min was out for the bloody day (of course Corpse' take day trips!) so we failed miserably!
That evening we had an even more amazing meal than the night before. We found this really cool street restaurant where you each have a little BBQ. You picked what food you wanted from a table piled high with all sorts of meats and fish and then you cook it yourselves at your little table! So much fun. Though the downside is that we may have eaten dog. How does one accidentally eat dog I hear you ask... Well we'd selected so many different meats from the table most of which we knew straight away what they were but we had one mystery meat. Dog is a Vietnamese speciality so we put two and two together. I really hope it wasn't dog. Don't kill us Andy, we would never BBQ Faye or Spoof!!
Another thing we did whilst in Vietnam was to visit the Hanoi Hilton, the Hoa Lo prison. The prison was used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam war. I couldn't believe how one sided the portrayal of the war was. Talk about propaganda! The museum mostly focuses on the US soldiers who were detained in the prison. There was a video discussing how the American prisoners had stated that they were privileged to have stayed in the prison to get to know more about Vietnamese and their culture. Video's showing the soldiers in the prison were played to a voice over describing how happy they were, and how grateful they were to their guards for letting them live in the prison.I wouldn't suggest visiting if you were expecting a faithfully-told account of American POW life in Hanoi Hilton, though, you'll be very disappointed by the exhibit - the story is written by the victors after all!