So I naively thought that Hong Kong was a culture shock, boy I wasn’t ready for the crazy quirky land that is Vietnam!! The minute a stepped foot outside the airport in Hanoi, I was mobbed by blood thirsty taxi/mini-bus/bus drivers vying for my business. Eventually after much to-ing and fro-ing and procrastination I got a mini-bus to Hanoi for a pre-arranged fare of $2.
The trip was like something out of the wacky races…beeping, weaving, breaking, speeding through all the traffic, past rice paddies and a huge truck crash(which was a little disconcerting seeing as I didn’t have much faith in our own driver).
Eventually arrived in Hanoi in one piece. I wanted to be dropped off at the Old Quarter near the lake, they off course dropped me way out, conveniently outside a hotel which I am assuming is their friends hotel. Then there was some arguing about the fare, they tried to charge me 300,000 dong which is around $18. Luckily I was a bit weary when I got into the bus so I took all my money and hid it in other compartments and just put $2 into my wallet, so when he demanded more
Temple of Literature The scholars of Hanoi used to come here.
money, I just told him that was all that I had and that was what we had agreed. After much arguing and smiling on my side, he eventually walked off in a huff with me calling after him that I hope he had a nice day…
I tried to get my bearings so went to a nearby green area to gather my thoughts and figure out where they had dropped me. As I was walking I had people shouting at me trying to get me to buy their postcards, fruit, get a lift, you name it they were selling it. Eventually I bought some post cards from a woman just so that she could give me some directions, not particularly enamoured with the Vietnamese culture so far! Turns out I was so far away from where I wanted to be that I wasn’t even on my lonely planet map. I had to walk for about a mile or two in the scorching heat with a 16kg backpack crossing roads with millions of Mopeds following no traffic laws heading straight for me, hoping and praying they would stop. Makes things more interesting, taking your life into your hands everytime you
Motorbike! You ain’t nothing in Vietnam without a Moped/Motorbike/Scooter.
cross the road. I eventually found a hostel run by two Ozzie guys called Hanoi Backpackers and booked myself in for the night for a sweet rate of $7.50 a night.
After the experience of the day I decided to just relax in the safety and comfort of the hostel…would leave venturing out into Hanoi for another day.
Made some friends in the hostel and for the next couple of days spent my time seeing the sights that Hanoi has to offer, including mouth watering fruit shakes, bowls of poh (noodle soup), honey sambos and an apple-like fruit/veg that I never got the name of. Also went along to watch some of the friends that I had made eat snake…it was an awesome experience. You go in and they pick out a live snake, they remove the still beating heart and offer it as a shot for the more brave of us…in our case it was an Ozzie called Brad. Then the others that were partaking got to have a shot of the snake’s blood followed by the bile….yummy!!! We were brought around the back to a hidden gem of a place, it was a beautiful dining area
Basket Case These poor ladies walk around all day with really heavy baskets, how do they do it! Some of their legs bend out of shape from years of carrying heavy loads.
made of bamboo, hovering over an inlet of water, this was a nice natural surprise as we were in the middle of the urban jungle. I have to say the spread that the guys received was well worth the $15 they paid for the snake. There was about five different courses all served in unique ways: Deep Fried Minced Snake, Steamed Snake, Snake Skin, Sauteed Snake and Snake Bones with Vegetables, nothing goes to waste.
I really began to embrace the craziness of the city and love the vibrancy that it brings. One of the highlights of the trips was sitting at the lake chatting to three Vietnamese girls to help improve their English and giving them a bit of a history lesson on Ireland in the process, was really good to get an insiders view of Hanoi and the culture. Hanoi got off to a bad start with me, but given a little time and culture re-adjusting I really enjoyed my time here.
On your marks, get set, go!!
Doesn’t even come close to describing how many motorbikes are in Hanoi, such a noisy city with all the beeping!
He was fascinated with us foreigners being in his backyard.
The beautiful location for eating of the snake.
Doing it like the locals we enjoy some honey toasted sandwiches