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HANOI AND ORGANISED CHAOS IN THE STREETS

WHERE CAN I PUT THAT OTHER BAG OF POTATOES

 

A HARD WORKING BUT HAPPY PEOPLE ALWAYS ON THE GO

AN EXTREMELY TALLENTED PEOPLE

THE VIEW FROM OUR HOTEL WINDOW IN SA PA

OUR LOCAL PERSONALGUIDE

98 AND STILL ACTIVE

 

HEADING OUT INTO HA LONG BAY

WE CLIMBED MANY STAIRS ON ONE OF THE ISLANDS TO GET THIS PICTURE, OUR REWARD WAS 360 OF INDESCRIBALBE BEAUTY.

MANY OF THE PEOPLE LIVE ON FLOATING HOMES

Vietnam

We arrived in Hanoi at 1.00 am and were met at the airport by the Hotel arranged taxi. We had booked into the Kangaroo Hotel (it's true) via the internet back home. $3.50 per person per night and they would pick us up from the airport. Seemed unbelievably cheap and as the taxi drew closer to Hanoi city and the old sector, and started navigating and weaving it's way through the swarming (even at this hour) mass of small motorcycles, we became increasingly worried about our booking (perhaps we should have gone to $4.50 pp) The neighborhood - lets just say - appeared challenging and more than a little past it's use by date and we kept hoping the taxi wouldn't stop here or there or in fact anywhere in this area. But it did and there was the sign 'Kangaroo Hotel'. Well we didn't expect the Ritz and where else are we to go at One in the morning, but we shouldn't have been so judgmental. Even at that hour the staff greeted us warmly and our room, although old was clean and spacious and comfortable and we slept soundly.
We were awoken early to the sounds of a city awaking and thousands of small motorcycles buzzing and tooting their way to where ever they were going. As I mentioned at the beginning, we've been to a few countries and cities but Hanoi and the traffic and small motorcycles has to be seen to be believed. There is no regard for traffic lights, lanes, indicating or any other road rules, only an endless throng of small motorcycles and the occasional car or bus that surge forward towards each other. At intersections the traffic merges - unbelievably -and everyone gets through. Horns are used constantly to warn others - hey, I'm coming through. To cross the street - the only way is to not look at the on coming traffic. If you did you'd never cross. The tip here is to look straight ahead and just walk. Don't worry that hundreds of small motorcycles are descending upon you. As you walk, at a constant pace, the bikes will weave around you. The trick is not to hesitate. If you hesitate then you create chaos. If you don't the riders anticipate your direction and pace and adjust accordingly and everyone survives. Difficult to do the first time but it does work.
We thought we had over-packed our bike before leaving Toowoomba, but again in Hanoi, we came to realise that if you can carry a chest of draws, 2 pigs or 4 people on a 110cc bike then we should be able to carry a small house on our bike!!! I won't say it's 'unbelievable' again, but it does have to be seen to be believed.
Our first day in Hanoi and we decided to walk the streets and sample the real people. Check the photos to sample the vibrant exciting atmosphere of life in this bustling city. Near to the hotel are streets that specialise in various goods. For instance there is a street that only sells Silk, another that only sells wood carvings and another that only sells hardware products like locks and chains. Wow. More shopping but the bike can't take any more, can I sneak in a few things at such ridiculously cheap prices. Just too good to pass up.

We only had 7 days in Vietnam so we needed to make the most of them. Hanoi was a buzz but there was more to see and our hotel was able to offer tours to such highlights as Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay. We negotiated a good deal from the staff at the Kangaroo Hotel and headed off for the first adventure to Sa Pa in northern Vietnam. The hotel staff knew that this couple of Aussie oldies wouldn't have a hope of getting on the right overnight train to Sa Pa so one of them accompanied us in the taxi to the station and ensured we got on the right train. The train trip was great. An overnight sleeper that rocked us to sleep and we slept like logs, the bit extra we had paid for the thick mattress well worth it. In the morning a bus picked us up from the station and took us on the 90 minute trip into the highlands of Sa Pa. Again the hotel was almost too good and very organised for a constant flow of tourists, we were shuffled into breakfast and introduced to our personal guide who would take us trekking over the next two days.

That afternoon we were taken on a 6 km hike on small paths through several small communities and our guide explained the way of life for these simple people. The living conditions looked difficult but we were introduced to a 98 year old women who was still quite sprightly although now relegated to looking after the children after having done her bit in the fields. A hard but simple stress free life away from pollution and eating healthy foods seems to be the key. Having our own personal guide meant we could stop and take photos when we liked and also ask many questions and she showed us through several of the homes we passed. The next day we left early for a 10 km hike through more local communities. At times the going was quite difficult but I'm pleased to say my knees held out and the scenery made it all worth while. Fortunately at the end of the hike a vehicle met us to take us back to the hotel where we cleaned up, had an early dinner and got ready for the return train trip to Hanoi.

COLOURFUL PEOPLE FROM MANY INTERESTING MINORITY COMMUNITIES LIVING IN THE SPECTACULAR NORTHERN HIGHLANDS

Back in Hanoi

We weren't sure how we would get from the train station in Hanoi at 4.00 am back to the Kangaroo Hotel but as we got off the train, there was one of the hotel staff to meet us. Amazing service and back at the hotel they let us use a room for quick shower and clean up before catching the bus that would take us on the 4 hour trip to Ha Long Bay where we would catch our boat that would take us to the islands. Ha Long Bay is dotted with hundreds of small limestone islands that rise impressively out of the ocean. It is a surreal experience to be on a Chinese Junk cruising through this misty wonderland soaking in the atmosphere.
We stayed one night on the Junk and the anchor was thrown into the water in the middle of the bay where we enjoyed a tasty meal with some prawns we had just picked up from a floating fishing community.

The next day it was off to Cat Ba - the largest island in the bay. We had recently been from train to mini bus to boat to mini bus and we're starting to miss the bike and doing our own thing but no worries, we were able to hire a bike from one of the locals for $5.00 for the day and scooted along every road on the island. We passed through the local people as they went about their daily tasks, laying the squid out to dry, working the fields and delivering two huge pigs on the back of a scooter not too different to our load! It felt good to be on our own again and independent and I know Haydn enjoyed riding a bike again, even if it was only a 110cc.

The following day was a biggie. Our guide collected us from the hotel at 8.30 am, took us by bus to the jetty where we boarded another Junk to take us back to Ha Long Bay. We had lunch there before catching another bus back to Hanoi. A quick clean up at the hotel again then a taxi to the airport and a flight back to Singapore and yet another taxi ride to our hotel. 6 different transports and at 3.00 am we collapsed into our beds. Well we're at least making the most of each day?
Our experiences of Vietnam are all positive and we would highly recommend a visit. The people are all very friendly and helpful and welcome visitors


◊ The Kangaroo Hotel staff were just great and organised everything for us, they made our short stay in Hanoi memorable. Included in our deal was the city tour, 1 night, two days in Sa Pa and 3 days in Ha Long Bay. (hanoikangaroohotel@yahoo.com)

◊Take a small boat ride out to the floating fishing village on Cat Ba island where a third of the population of the island live on small boats guarded by large watch dogs, fascinating stuff!

Next page will take you on to Malaysia


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rollover ©Haydn and Dianne Durnell 2004