So we arrived in Hanoi early really, I had hardly any sleep on the train so I checked in to the hotel and had a little cat nap until 10 o'clock.Jaap and I had a wander around the city.The city is quite small, it's difficult to get your bearings as every street looks the same but the streets are signed very well so not that difficult to find yourself on the map.The architecture has a French influence, so can be lovely but the Vietnamese have no concept of maintenance so they are all really run down, which is a huge shame as the buildings could be gorgeous.All of their cables, for electric etc. are all run above ground so the look completely chaotic.
Really hot, stupidly busy with mopeds everywhere and I mean everywhere it's bloody manic.
Another strange thing about this city is the taxi's they are all Daewoo Matizs??Can you imagine a taxi driver pulling up in a Matiz at home!
I had a local payment to make so tried to get some dollars, being a Saturday the banks all closed at lunchtime - quite annoying!We were coming back to Hanoi after Halong Bay so, I could sort it then.Or so you would think….!
Amy, Sarah & Jaap were leaving the group today, Amy, the Chinese tour guide starts a return trip to Hong Kong, Sarah is joining another group as she booked her trip in two sections and Jaap is going it alone from here on in.Anyway we had a farewell dinner and a couple of drinks, at the prospect of Sarah leaving Claire got very drunk, to the point we had to take her back to the hotel (in a Matiz taxi) after being sick in reception Sarah had to stay up all night looking after her!Breakfast the next day was quite funny, Jaap and I were as bright as a button but the two girls were SOOOO hung-over!
I spent the day wandering the city with Jaap, Dave & Anna, we had a list of places we all wanted to see including The Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, The Hanoi Hilton (Aka Hoa Lo, a POW camp), St Joseph's Cathedral and the huge West Lake.The Old Quarter was pretty cool, lots of markets & shop selling allsorts and some great architecture.Hoan Kiem Lake is quite pretty situated in the centre of Hanoi, it's a welcome break from the constant stream of traffic. We didn't go inside the Hilton or the Cathedral as we were told the Hilton wasn't worth the fee and the Cathedral was closed for Lunch (Bloody Vicars they work one day a week and have the liberty to take a lunch break!)Hoan Kiem Lake was vast and the sections we saw weren't particularly nice. The guide book said the banks of the lake were 'the place to be', not too sure about that, the lake was polluted with lots of dead fish and the banks themselves were lined with building sites and old industrial units!!!
Anyway we found a bar for a cold beer and the world was at one again!
We had to say good bye to Jaap, it was a shame, but I know our paths will cross again as he is taking a similar route down to Phnom Penh.
We met the new leader Nga, first impressions weren't great, she seemed pretty militant - she gave us a bloody lecture on responsible drinking! Bloody cheek!!!The rest of the new group were pretty cool, Alex is a 19 year old guy from Salisbury, Jenna & Andy are a couple from Northern Ireland and four 18year old lads from North London - Tom, Fred, Jeremy and Dave.
After dinner and a few beers we obviously ignored Nga's responsible drinking lecture and stayed in the pub playing pool to the wee hours (Nga went back to the hotel straight after dinner)!We kind of knew our way back to the hotel, but everything looks so different at two in the morning when everything is closed!Still there were 16 of us so we knew we were safe.Looking rather bemused at the map one of the many dodgy moped taxis came over to give us directions.He guided us down a really dark and fairly dodgy looking road and proceeded to follow us at walking pace on his bike.After a couple of blocks, it all felt a bit weird and he was still hovering a hundred yards or so behind us.So I nipped in to another hotel, the only place open on the whole street to check his directions were right.The moped rider comes in to the hotel reception and the concierge and him have a conversation in Vietnamese, turns out he wasn't dodgy, he was just following us to make sure we understood his directions.Although he wasn't so pleased that I didn't trust him so w***ed off and left us to find our own way home, still it was only couple of minutes further up the road!All good fun!