Asia | South East Asia | Vietnam – Arrival in Hanoi
Day 1 – Hanoi
Omigod! I love Hanoi! It’s very much how I expected. I’m managing to find my way around without a map – an interesting feat here, to say the least.
The Thien Thay Hotel is gorgeous and perfect and lovely. While I was in the shower someone was incessantly knocking on the door but I couldn’t be bothered to answer. It was my first bathing in 48 hours or so.
EVA Airlines, in their typical fashion left EWR late and I had only 40 minutes allowed for transit in Taipei to begin with. When I first asked the purser about my connection she asked me why I bought a ticket with a 40 minute transfer. Um, ok. She said I could catch a connection the following morning and I had an internal wigout. In the end the flight to Hanoi was held 20 minutes for me and a handful of others to make it.
From the air you can see Hanoi’s French colonial architecture. You have to sign a customs declaration stating that you aren’t bringing any pornography or harmful toys that will negatively impact developing young minds or something to that effect.
My first impression of the very pristine airport and Hanoi in general was: Who let the kids take over and play customs & immigration. Seriously, all the soldiers and agents look like they’re 12. Next up, people really do wear conical bamboo hats and carry buckets via rods across their shoulders. I was sure this was a stereotype. My mistake.
Hoan Kiem Lake has a beautiful pagoda in the middle of it. This is the only place the vendors have been a bit annoying. They are young and persistent and soft-spoken and will ask you why you keep saying ‘no’ and follow you a bit. But, I am after all, a pro at this kind of avoidance.
I walked through some of the old quarter and then went through a more touristic section of restaurants and shops. There are a lot of Italian restaurants with homemade pasta – not exactly what I came to Vietnam for. As for the more hardcore street food type places, things here are so laid back I can’t yet differentiate between an alleyway eatery or someone’s living room with a large family around the table.
Crossing the street takes some skill. I initially thought people were on some kind of psychic stop/go wavelength until I noticed the miniscule traffic lights. Weaving thru the many self-created lanes of taxis, motos, cyclos, cyclists, etc. is kind of like being in a video game but you do get the hang of it after a few times, just take it one lane at a time.