Day 01 (part 2)
22.03.2009 - 22.03.2009
Just in case you are lost in all the destinations, here is a map of Vietnam.
And also, just in case you are lost in all the street names, here is a map of Hanoi.
After an hour or so, we reached the Vietnam Airlines office along Ba Trieu Street. True enough, even before getting out of the van, several motorcycle (xe om) drivers have already crowded up to get passengers. I politely declined and decided to walk to the hotel. Thank goodness for the map! Would be totally lost without it!
Finally reached my destination at around 11 a.m. The hotel is located along Hang Thiec Street. Got my keys in a matter of minutes and up to the fifth storey I go (no lift!). Earlier our friend David Rorke had booked the room for me. It's a place where he will usually introduce brothers to stay at, thus we get a lower price than other rooms. More about David later. The staff are very friendly and the room looks ok. Not fantastic but still decent. USD10 per night. Also comes with a balcony. But the weather is really hot, so with all the windows around the room, the room is literally baking during the day, even with the air-con switched on. Anyway that doesn't bother me much as I went out again soon.
I started walking all the way to the train station to get tickets for Hue on Wednesday night. Motor divers are everywhere! But I never felt too pestered as they always leave me alone after I say "No, thank you". The traffic condition in Hanoi must be seen to believe! Loads of motorbikes, and almost everyone drive however they like. Traffic lights are mostly for decorative purposes, and all road users are mind-readers. There is never a break from all that honking and they somehow manage not to knock into each other on the road. I am impressed.
Here is a video of the traffic in Hanoi. This is how the roads look like every moment of the day! And this wasn't the most impressive scene on the road that I have seen there.
I arrived at the railway station by walking along the tracks, and successfully overcame the challenge of getting a ticket. As I did not have enough Vietnamese Dong with me, I had to pay in USD, at the unfavourable rate of USD1 = 15000 Dong. The actual rate is USD1 = 17600 Dong. Anyway I paid USD 35 for a Level 1 hard bed overnight sleeper train ticket to Hue. The original intention was to get a soft bed, but they were all sold out. Since I am around here, I might as well get 2 bottles of mineral water for the next two days.
Feeling hungry now so ordered a bowl of pho ga (chicken kuay tiao soup) at one of the stalls I passed by. 20000 Dong for a bowl, and that's my first meal in Vietnam. Doesn't really taste out of the world. The national dish sure isn't cheap, considering most people here earn so little. 20000 dong is nearly RM4! I continued my walk back to the hotel. So far I haven't met a stranger in Hanoi that I can describe as friendly, so my opinion is that folks in Hanoi aren't very amiable towards foreigners. Or maybe I don't look like a foreigner enough for them to be especially friendly?