Saturday, 16 February 2013


16th Feb - Vietnam

I shared a taxi to the airport with two people from the hostel and waited around until my flight. Singapore airport does things differently and instead of going through customs before you get to the departure lounges, you do it/get scanned as you go into your departure gate! My flight to Vietnam was 3hrs and I arrived at 10am in the morning. I got there and realised I didn’t have enough money to pay for my visa stamp. So I qued to hand over my passport and visa forms and then a lovely lady from the visa office took me through arrivals to an ATM so I could withdraw some money – 1 million dong!!! ONE MILLION! It felt like I should have won the lottery, but actually that was only around £35-40! So a kind Irish guy had saved me a place in the que to collect my passport which now contained my visa, but the visa lady just let me roll on up to the front and get it – bonus, special treatment! So I paid, but I let her take the money as my head couldn’t get around the 100,000’s and 1000’s and such – too many zeros to work out at that time in the morning – and went through passport control. Then the irish guy came running up – turned out in my haste I’d forgotten my travel documents folder – doh! Then went to wait at the conveyor belt for my luggage, and waited, and waited, the irish guy turned up and we waited some more, and then...we both realised we were waiting at the wrong belt!! So we raced over to the other side where our bags were the last ones going around and said our goodbyes.

I got a taxi to the centre to Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. Turns out it’s down a side street ‘backpacker alley’ where cars can’t go. I arrived and checked in, all pretty good, in a mixed dorm room, comfy bunk beds, all with massive individual lockers and a bathroom. It had free wifi, restaurant, common area, and a rooftop bar with a decent happy hour (2 happy hours on a Saturday and half price beer from 3pm on Sundays it turns out – score). Within half an hour of sorting my bags out, in walks a girl from Holland called Iris, who has been travelling with Lorna from Manchester since south Vietnam, both having just arrived in Hanoi and a guy called Tom from Suffolk who’d just arrived and was doing the same route as me, and a guy called Dan from Harlow who had two more days in Vietnam before heading to Moscow and had just arrived in Hanoi also. And so a Hanoi Backpackers friendship group was formed!

We were all hungry so all decided to go to lunch together at a local joint as we were all watching the pennies. We ended up going for Bun Cha, a sweet fish sauce broth, with fried pork patties, rice noodles on the side to dip in and greens – it was so yummy and a great introduction to Vietnamese street food! However, we’d agreed with the woman that it was 20,000 dong, but after we’d eaten she turned around and said we’d agreed to 40,000 dong. Errr no you didn’t love, you blatantly held out a 20 bill otherwise we wouldn’t have eaten with you as we’d made it clear even 30,000 was too much! So ensued an argument with the staff that escalated into other locals getting involved who kept apologising to us for the ‘bad’ Vietnamese and that they were so sorry these people were trying to scam us and were trying to argue our point in Vietnamese to the food joint owners. We decided to leave our money and go but the woman came running up to Lorna grabbed her by the arm and wouldn’t let her leave, screaming at her in Vietnamese and taking her picture on her phone, for what we dreaded to think about. We found this rather scary so Dan decided to just chuck her the extra cash and we pegged it.

So we went back to the hostel and some of the guys chilled for the afternoon. I went to some local shops for some cosmetics shopping as I’d run out of things and managed to find an amazingly cheap shop so told everyone else about it and it became our local Hanoi pit-stop. Then Iris was a little bored so we both went up onto the roof top to meet people and make use of happy hour and she gave me some tips on the rest of Vietnam. After a while Dan, Tom and Lorna came to join us and we all started drinking, playing giant Jenga and getting to know some others. Then the hostel shut it’s bar at 9pm after the 2nd happy hour (first happy hour was 5-6pm on beers and the 2nd was 8-9pm on BOGOFF vodkas – YES!)

We grabbed something to eat in the restaurant downstairs and then we followed the hostel gang (foreigners worked as tour reps here) to the other Hanoi Backpackers which was the party hostel and we drank there for a bit longer. On the way I needed to pee as the walk was frickin’ miles! Dan was mortified as I went in a local food joint but I’m sorry when a girls gotta go, a girls gotta go! The others were pretty tired by the time we finished up at Backpackers 2 so when we were to head onto the next place they went home and me and Dan stayed out. Before they left we all made a pact to get up early for breakfast so that we could go to see Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum together (his preserved body) as it shut at 11am. So we’ll see if that ends up happening tomorrow morning!!

We ended up going to a small Irish bar, which at first seemed a little dead, but then...we realised it had a club upstairs!! So we stayed and partied there until 11pm, when the police raided the place as there is a strict curfew in Hanoi, so we all had to go. Luckily the police were really friendly and were even laughing and joking with us! The rest of the group who’d come out went on to an illegal underground club but me and Dan decided to try and find our way home as were knackered and wanted to get home before we were too drunk to navigate our way back. I was pretty surprised that with the help of a map and good map reading skills, Dan got us back within half an hour – without any detours! We wanted to head to KFC by the lake as we needed food but it was shut – poo. So we just headed back instead.

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