Hiding in airports
Trip Start Oct 04, 2004
102Trip End Ongoing
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Because of our time-scale, we caught a flight from HCMC upto Hanoi, Vietnam's second biggest city. It was on this flight Jo and I sat next to a really nice man flying home. Like most Vietnamese, he took a shine to Jo, well you don't see many blonde girls here, and in broken English, talked to her most of the way.
He spoke about his country, where was good to visit, and what to do in Hanoi, and later on into the flight offered to share our taxi to show us where to stay. It was when he asked this, warning bells started to ring. He was probably very genuine, but we were both so paranoid we would get ripped off, we made some feeble excuse, and after touchdown, legged it to the baggage claim.
It was only when we were in the taxi heading towards Hanoi, that we started to feel bad. The look on the guy's face when we brushed him off with our excuses was terrible. To him we were a foreign couple he could practice his English on, but to us, he was a typical Asian guy, out to rip us off.
Maybe not everyone was here to make money off us?
The airport was a good 30 mins away from our hotel, so we chilled out in the back of the cab. Driving to Hanoi, we noticed how different the scenery was. A lot more industrial, run down and desolate. It looked like the people that worked these lands had it tough.
It was when we were passing through the old quarter (where we were staying) we felt the french presence Hanoi was renowned for. Vietnam had been run by the French a few times during the last century, and because of this, parts of the country still held onto some Parisian charm. It was nice, a lot more chilled out than HCMC.
It was around 9pm so we went for a walk around to get our bearings. Walking around the corner, we got stopped by a guy, holding, which was common in Vietnam, a box full of fake books and postcards. Normally we just say no thank you, but this guy had so much charisma, it was hard to walk away. We certainly didn't need any books or postcards, but i still ended up walking away with 20 postcards of Hanoi that looked like they were printed in 1970, and because of lack of change on his behalf, cost me a small fortune!
We grabbed a bite to eat in a small cafe above a busy intersection. It was here we saw our first motorbike crash!
Sadly, although keen to stay out for a drink, the fun police were out in force, strictly enforcing Hanoi's 11pm 'shut-up shop' Luckily the lonely planet had listed a couple of Australian owned pubs that held lock ins, so we made our way there!
The following we day we thought we'd try out the lonely planet' guided walk. We spent the next 4-5 hours walking the streets, ducking down alleyways and hidden lane ways, en-counting a rich diversity of people working their trade. Each corner we turned, we encounterd shops filled to the brim with yet another commodity. See they planned it well here, instead of having a shoe/key/bag shop on each street, they just had 20 shoe shops on one specific street, and called it shoe street, and then 20 key cutting shops and called that key street. Its a lot easier to compare prices if the shops are next to each other! We were surprised to see 'counterfeit' street had changed from selling fake nike T-shirts and handbags to a street solely dedicated to selling Christmas tat! (See photos).
At the end of the walk we stopped near a cathedral and noticed a small sign for full body massages. We never really turn down the option of 1hr massages for $10, so after the shock of 2 white people walking into there shop, we were quickly ushered up some tiny stairs, obviously built for smaller, Asian legs. Now I'm one for tough massages, most visits to Sydney, i have a little Chinese man walk up and down my body, but Jo's the opposite. I sensed early on that the groans coming from her were more of agony, than of delight, and i could tell she couldn't wait for the hour to be up!
We finished the day walking around Hoan Kiem Lake, looking on with astonishment at the runners doing there post work run, just as people do in Hyde park in London and Central park in NYC. Nothing out of the ordinary really, but it was such a foggy day, the pollution had left a thick layer of smog at head height, not ideal when your breathing in bucket loads! This small lake between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter is central to Hanoian folklore. A ghostly shrine (the Turtle Pagoda) standing on an islet at its center pays homage to a golden turtle. In the 15th century, this heroic reptile is said to have returned a magic sword to its home in the lake after it had been taken.
We had only really touched on a bit of Hanoi, but really loved the place. Sadly it was winter time, and being further north than HCMC, it meant colder, greyer days; fog lingered in the air that made it resemble France in a winter day! Not ideal when the only clothes i had brought were t-shirts and shorts! It would be nice to return in the summer months and see how much the city changes. Stopping in one of the many travel shops, we booked ourselves onto a much raved about tour, the world Heritage site of Ha long Bay. Lets hope the sun breaks out for that!