Well hello there!
So now before you go and get all accusatory of my general lack of updating this thingy magigy, now is probably a good idea to let you know about this amazing new thing the Vietnamese government has decided to implement. So basically, they have decided that there is a new need to curb all of this 'free radical' thinking that is sending shock-waves around Vietnam and the world and so have decided to block a few websites including access to travellerspoint (where I write the blog, and facebook). So anyway we decided that especially since we were going to be on the move so much in Vietnam, and breaking the law wasn't exactly on my to do list (we'll get to where that bit changes later on i promise) we decided to postpone the Vietnam part of the blog until we got to Cambodia...and so after 8 hours sitting on a bus through some of Cambodia's best roads (for a similar road in New Zealand, look up Meremere dirt track club).
Guessing the best place to start would be where we left you all last time, on tenterhooks about our upcoming flight with Lao Aviation and taking bets about how likely it was we would actually arrive in Hanoi) Well, we set off from our friendly guesthouse, leaving a few little momento's behind like a sheep sort toy etc (they had a few babies in the household that worked as the perfect alarm clock for morning alms at 6am), jumped in a 2 person tuk tuk (motorbike with 2 seats coming out the side rather than from behind) and hurtled out to the airport at a great rate of knots. (for those pondering the 2nd part of the title, its the motto/tagline for Lao Aviation. . and doesnt instill nearly as much faith as they would have liked)
So we rocked up at LP airport a killer 3 hours beforehand and figured we would try our luck at getting on the earlier flight, no luck there but we would soon find out that this was in fact a blessing in disguised as that flight would be delayed around 8 hours, and as is the way in Lao we found out purely by chance...not a single infomation board in the whole airport! But everything all went fine, got on the plane and off we set to Hanoi. Now for those of you who havent been to Hanoi, its big, really, really big. And there is at least 3 times as many scooters as there are people in the city (dont ask me how that works, im still working on that too..) Couple this with being in a developing nation and all in all you have yourself set for quite possibly the last night of your life (that may be being a tad dramatic, but its for dramatic effect and thus i'm forgiven). So that's what we were set for, giant dirty city full of scooters, noise, and scams. And we weren't disappointed.
Once we landed we met up with a few chicks from germany and the netherlands and set off to try and find a hotel for the next couple of nights, and saw us weaving towards the general direction of a lake which promised to be backpacker salvation.
Found a place aptly called the bamboo hotel (for piece of mind it was neither made of bamboo, nor really a hotel, but did the job), checked in, went to find yet another room with no windows, and a bathroom door that wouldnt close (to date we have only had one with both of these qualities) and then attempted to venture out into the city. Now normally when you are heading down one of the main streets of a foreign city and you see a mass of 200,000 people chanting, revving motorbikes, with communist flags, and lighting fires you might think, especially in somewhere like Vietnam, you might want to head the other direction. Now call it jet-lag, tiredness, or just a side effect of the malaria pills but that idea didn't spring to mind at all at the time, but there was probably a reason we were the only white people in this crowd. So, hypothetically, what would you do, being a complete foreigner, and having not been in the country, let alone the city for more than 4 hours? Well, we started to lead a few of these chants. Turns out, chanting "Vietnam Chian Thien! (Vietnam are the Champions)" gets you alot of freinds very quickly, and we soon had our own crowd of 10,000 taking lead from us (now properly equipped with flags, bandana's and stickers). So we had our photo taken quite a few time by a guy sporting a lanyard with some vietnamese newpaper written all over it (so if you have seen us in any newpapers, let us know...we'd kinda like to find a copy haha!) and had probably over 100 photos with complete strangers being complete posers. All in all, we were starting to warm to the city. That was until, we tried to get to sleep at the hotel to the sound of literally non stop honking from these bite sized scooters blaring their way through the streets, but we survived, just, and woke up the next morning with a headache to match the experience from the night before.
The next day, to sum up the rather boring morning, we spent most of it trying to buy a sim card (2 hours of paperwork...ahhh Vietnamese efficiency) and getting completely lost around 1/10th of the city. In the afternoon, we met our vietnamese saviours (a guy and his freinds who also went to Rangitoto College) and they have us a whirlwind tour involving icecream, the first university in Vietnam, and taught the edible art of dehusking and eating sunflower seeds with iced lemon tea (the travel doctor would have a hernia reading this). Then it was off to try this sort of meat/noodle/breadcrumb kebab (the above were sort of minced together then skewered - i figure the travel doctor advising against all of this is still away having his hernia) and off to see the lowering off the flag at Ho Chi Minh's tomb (sorta like vietnams answer to the changing of the guards at buckingham palace, but with a distinctly socialist feel to the whole process.) Feeling all very awe inspired and patriotic about vietnam (oh a quick fun fact about Ho Chi here, he goes on holiday once a year to Russia to get re preserved (I guess itr must be rather like re pickling onions), and when we went we had just got back, so was all sparkling new again.
Afterwards it was milk tea, followed by cocktails at some ritsy restaurant overlooking a Ho Kiem Lake, and bid farewell to our rather brisk introduction to Hanoi...but at the same time , ready to leave the hustle and bustle for some down time in Hoi An (yes I know we hadnt been in a big city for more than 48 hours before needing to 'escape' from it all but meh im kiwi, and thats good enough excuse for anything haha!).
So the next morning, it was back in a taxi (another small scam here, but nothing particularly noteworthy) and off to the airport to ship ourselves down to Da Nang. Now in order to save a bit of time here we are just gonna summarise everything about the 4 days we spent here into a few key points:
1. Vietnam Airlines like to change flights....alot...so we left 2 days later than we were planning to.
2. Da Nang (and Hoi An ) have their own eco system basically which means that only in this city is it the rainy season from october to march (EVERYWHERE else in south east asia this is the dry season), and thus it rained like monsoon every single day.
3. Emma (she decided on this name herself) is quite probably the single most outrageous woman/suit fitter i have ever met "Dont worry darling, Emma will sort everything out for you" (yes she did refer to herself in 3rd person, which I though was rather cool)
4.Our hotel was AMAZING, like actually. $12 a night got you an air con'd room, pool and gym, and just the general uber-fanciness you would expect from a hotel.
SO, thats pretty much the main points from the first 5 days in Vietnam, im off to bed now and will cover Ho Chi Minh ***(shudder)**** tomorrow as thats going to require a whole blog in itself haha.
See you all then,
Thats all folks!