The flight from Vientiane was painless enough, it was delayed by a couple of hours but the airport was ok so no problem. Our bodies had a bit of a shock when we got off the plane though, going from 32 degrees to 15 degrees in the space of an hour is not good! Our first impressions of Vietnam was that it was similar to India in a lot of ways with everyone feeling the need to honk their horn for no apparent reason, men pissing in the street at any available opportunity and the scams that go on. From that moment we knew we would love Vietnam.
From the airport we managed to get on a local bus to take us into the old city of Hanoi, the bus was packed and we were both stood up holding onto our backpacks, paying the conductor for the bus journey wasn't that easy, he didn't have any change and neither did we as we had just got the cash from the ATM. Eventually he gave me my change and short changed me, not by much, but we began to realise that this was how they got more money out of tourists! The bus journey took about 1.15 minutes, it was dark and really cold by this point so when a man jumped on the bus to promote his hotel we just said yes. It was nice enough and had a hot shower which is all i was bothered about. We didn't get left alone by the staff their though, they were always on at us to book a tour with them, it got really annoying after a while, Matthew told them they would lose all our business if they didn't leave us alone.
Our first night did not go so well, we got wrapped up and went for a wonder around the old town, found a really good place to eat which was a street stall where you picked what you wanted to eat from the stall and they BBQ'd it for you, it was lovely and really cheap. However on the way back we thought we knew where we were going and got extremely lost. We ended up at the other side of town from our hotel and had to walk past the military area to find our way back. This was heavily guarded with armed officers all over the place. While we were walking past all these buildings my trainers really started rubbing me to the point where i had rubbed the skin of my ankle, i couldn't carry on any further so i stopped to adjust my trainer socks, i was literally stood still for 5 seconds before one of the armed guards blew his whistle at me to move on! Matthew shouted at me for stopping, saying i looked like i was casing the joint! but come on girls you know how painful it is! In my mind i thought it was better to stop where he could see what i was doing rather than down the street where i may have looked suspicious, anyway i was obviously wrong and it meant that i had to walk for about 10 minutes ( it was a very long street) with my trainer unfastened. We eventually found our way back with the help of a few locals and i decided i didn't want to walk down that street again.
The next morning we set off in the pouring rain to visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, even though the poor man wanted to be cremated the mausoleum was constructed so that all the vietnamese could pay their respects for what he had done for their country during his lifetime. Neither of us had been to a mausloeum before and were just interest to see one. We walked for about 45 minutes to get there to find it had just closed. Typical! We did however see the changing of the guards infront of the mausoleum which was quite amusing as they walked really strangely. As we were there we thought we may aswell see all the other sights around that area so we went to Ho Chi Minh's stilt house pagoda and then went into the museum that was dedicated to Ho Chi Minh. He was the founder and leader of the vietnamese communist party for north Vietnam from 1946 and fought for the reunification of the country, this led to the civil war between north and south Vietnam. South Vietnam was backed by both France and the US so that the country wouldn't come under communist rule, but Ho Chi Minh persevered with the plan of Independance for Vietnam. Although we are not really sure why, his face is all over North Vietnam and he is classed as a man of the people as he potrayed himself as a very amicable, simple person (Not like Brown who is just simple!). However when viewing the museum the impression we had was that it told only one side of the story and seemed to gloss over the fact that thousands of people lost their lives for the cause.
On the way back we went to the military museum so Matthew could look at all the fighter planes and tanks etc. It was ok, but most of the writing was in French so we didn't really spend that long there. That night we went for a walk to the lake where Matthew bought a few books, he thought he had got a real bargain until we got them home and they were photocopies!!! They are good copies though, but its a bloody good job we didn't pay the price they were asking. We went to the same food stall for tea and didn't get lost on the way back to our hotel. The next morning we went on a day trip to Halong bay and on our last morning in Hanoi we got to see the mausoleum. It was ok but i didn't really see what all the fuss was about.
Overall we really enjoyed Hanoi, even though the traffic was an absolute nightmare with a billion bikes on the road (that maybe a bit of an exageration) but it was extremely hard to cross any road without the fear of getting knocked over. The guide book even recommended that tourists should walk really slowly when crossing the road so the bikes can go around you as they won't stop for anything. This seemed to work as we had no near misses!