I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of love I have for Hanoi.
I was always looking forward to coming to Vietnam out of all the countries in S.E Asia but Hanoi really won me over from the get-go. Hitching a ride in a taxi from the airport with Dan and Bianca, we witnessed the chaos the country brings from the minute we stepped out into the streets.
Being a non-driver I am usually quite a placid passenger and go over random thoughts floating in my head rather than concentrate on the road, however during this trip my driving senses have went into overload as it can be quite a hairy experience on the roads here.
Well to be fair… there is A LOT of traffic with motorbikes on the roads but they do actually only drive about 10mph because there are so many of them. Safety in numbers is what they say yeah?
So back to the 4 of us in the taxi…ready to drop D&B off at their hostel – Atlantic. Thankfully Dan is an organised man and had done his research knowing the address of the hostel and what it even looked like from the outside. (Unlike us two fools who knew the name of our hostel and roughly the area it was in)
We hear the taximan – a longnailed man – on his mobile jibberjabbering away to someone (not an uncommon occurance here) so we take no notice of it. When we arrive in the old quarter, he pulls up to a pavement and a man opens the door (friendly staff at their hostel, we thought). He preceeds to ask them where they are staying and D&B reply saying Atlantic Hostel.
“Oh no sorry to tell you all the rooms are booked up but if you come with me I will bring you to our sister hostel just down the street where we have many rooms for you,” replies the man outside the taxi.
“Uh no we reserved a room here, ” said Dan “And I know what the place looks like, I’m gonna go take a look to check we’re at the right place.”
So out he gets and of course… we are not at the Atlantic Hostel advertised in Hostelworld. Turns out it’s all part of an elaborate scam here to steal business from other hotels, guesthouses and hostel owners.
This little trick made us stay on our toes when finding our hostel and of course dealing with any travel agencies or cafes in the town itself for the rest of the duration of our stay.
Although this may seem like a real scaremonger story, believe it or not the blatant copying of buildings, businesses, restaurants, hostels in this city actually add a little to the charm of the place.
Copyright doesn’t exist here which means you can fill your pockets with fake ANYTHING – dvds for 50p the newest releases…it’s like Nutt’s Corner market on acid.
The traffic also adds a little something something to the city… It’s very intimidating on your first day in the city with fear of being flatlined by a stamped of mopeds but with time you just do what the locals do and walk on out and let them move around you.
We stayed beside the big lake in the Old Quarter which was lovely at night-time, a bit like Bangkok, a city that has a whole new face when the sun goes down. However, in this city traffic and people seem to disappear around 11pm giving you that space to breathe.
The locals reminded me a lot of the chinese people we seen when we were in Hong Kong, their english is very good and they’ve got a great sense of humour with the tourists (ref: my motorbike admirer Hanoi Bob “If you never go, you’ll never know”)
Probably the biggest attraction of the city is going to see Uncle Ho’s dead body in his mausoleum, where he has lay dead for over 40 years. I was quite surprised to see he still had his infamous grey beard in tact (even tho he goes to Russia for 3 months every year for a make over – no lie)
We took in a water puppet show – the Vietnamese Punch and Judy, as well as wandering the Old Quarter and surrounding areas with a failed search for an unopen water park too.
On our way to Saigon – there’s temptation to return to Hanoi to work for a few months, tis really a place I could see myself working in but keep your eyes posted on Borebags to see if we make it back up one day!!