Goooood Morning Vietnam!

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
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Trip End Mar 31, 2014


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

'This is your pilot speaking, we are starting our descent to Hanoi, the local time is 2am and the ground temperature is 24 degrees C'. Sounds like a chilly night in Hanoi, good job we're wrapped up warm and have nice big heavy rucksacks...

We breeze through passport control, get our visas, claim our packs and stumble out into the scorching night air. We have arranged a pick up from a hotel in Hanoi called Posh. We have been making jokes about it standing for 'Pile Of Sh*t Hotel', but after all the energy it has taken to get here from Manila, we are praying we are wrong. We are greeted by a man holding Ian's name on a card, so at least the booking went through. No sooner have we said hello, when our driver hands Ian a mobile phone. Very odd. Ian puts it to his ear, more than a little confused, and is soon having a chat with the hotel manager. It turns out that there is nowhere for us to stay at Posh so we are being transferred to another hotel for the night. We don't care. As long as it has a bed, it's fine. We've been travelling for what seems like days without any sleep and the stress of yesterday has taken it's toll on us. We slump in the taxi on the way to wherever.

After we awake in the morning, the hotel arranges for a taxi to take us to Posh (at no cost) and twenty minutes later we are being greeted by the staff at our new home for the next week. Thankfully, Posh doesn't stand for 'Pile Of Sh*tHotel', is actually really nice and the staff are lovely too. They upgrade us, for the inconvenience, into a big room with a balcony. We are a short stroll from Hoan Kiem Lake (lake of the restored sword) in the heart of the Old Quarter of Hanoi. After a walk around and some food, we feel refreshed and the city has a wonderful vibe to it. It's busy, crazy busy, a constant river of motorbikes swirl round the streets, but is is not oppresive like Bangkok or other larger cities we have been in. We both really like this city and the Vietnamese people are warm and friendly. We soon become masters of crossing the road. The green-cross-code man would have a fit if he came to Hanoi. If you wait for a break in the traffic to cross, your corpse will still be stood at the side of the road 100 years later. If you wait for traffic lights to halt the traffic, then you will also have a very long wait. It you run, then you end up as road-kill. The trick is to just step out into the traffic and walk forward. VERY VERY SLOWLY. Holding your breath can help. If you move really slowly then the flow of traffic just goes around you. They have been dodging people in the road their whole lives and are good at it. You just have to stop yourself from running and take one small step at a time. Easy.

The Old Quater of Hanoi is cluttered but beautiful, a little dirty but wonderful. The traffic circles around Hoan Kiem Lake, which is peaceful, still and tranquil. At the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake is an islet on which stands a small tower called Thap Rua (Turtle Tower), this structure honours the magic turtle that guards the sword of Le Loi. Le Loi was born in about 1384 and is one of Vietnam’s greatest heroes. He rose up to lead an army against the occupying Chinese and drive them out of Vietnam. The Chinese eventually accepted Vietnam's independance and Le Loi became King Le Thai To. The most famous legend told about Le Loi concerns his magical sword given to him by the Dragon King. The stories claim Le Loi grew very tall when he used the sword and that it gave him the strength of many men. One day after the Chinese had been defeated, Le Loi was out boating on the lake when a large turtle surfaced, took the sword
from Le Loi’s belt, and dived back into the depths, carrying the glowing sword in his mouth, back to the Dragon King. The lake was re-named ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’ (Hoan Kiem Lake). We keep our eyes peeled for magic giant turtles and finally see one in a small museam (also on the lake), unfortunately the giant turtle had long ago died and been mummified, but we are told there are still some in the lake. We are unsure if they are magic though.

There is lots to do and see in this part of Hanoi but we need a day of rest. So we relax around the lake for the rest of the day and make plans to explore tomorrow. It's good to be in Vietnam.
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Comments

Michale David Falconer on

Glad to see u r in Vietnam.....hope all is well....

banyon
banyon on

It's a small miracle we actually made it here! Vietnam is amazing and the people are fantastic, loving it here :)

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