We’ve experienced a phenomenon on this trip whereby when it comes to the end of a really nice stay somewhere the last day is unlike all those before, unexpected noise, screaming kids, something upsets the equilibrium and we are happy to be leaving. It seems Hanoi is doing that for the whole of Vietnam.
When we first arrived to its little buzzy streets crowded with stores, restaurants, cafes and kamikaze motorbike drivers who plough through red lights with glee, we loved it! … and then it all changed, first it rained, we had been warned it would but the weather reports lulled us into a false sense of security and we believed we would escape the cold and drizzle but sadly not. Although after 10 months of loveliness and the only real cold we’ve had so far being at Inle Lake in Myanmar, we cannot complain.
But it didn’t end there, we had to get 2 visas while in Hanoi, hence the rather long 2 weeks scheduled. We’d prepared everything needed and submitted our application for the first the day after we arrived, to be told we needed some more information previously unasked for. Deep breath, J whizzed off on a moped taxi to get it printed and information supplied we were told to return the next day to check everything was ok. Which felt like and was a total bullshit request as they email you if there is a problem but anyway, dutifully we went back to be told yes yes all ok, now go pay. At a bank way across the other side of town. Which we tried to do, except neither of our bank cards would work and we had to wander around until we found a cash machine that would take them. To make the day extra special I shut my hand in the bank door as we returned to pay for our visas, which we would collect after what turned out to be an annoying Ha Long Bay trip, yes yes it was BEAUTIFUL and we did meet lovely people but the time and money wasted has somewhat tarnished the memory for the time being.
Moving on, the hotel we had planned to spend the entirety of our time in Hanoi at turned out to be a little too noisy, couple that with its bland breakfast and the fact they wrote on our laundry we decided to change hotel for the second part of our stay. No problem, except when we returned from Ha Long Bay unexpectedly early neither our old nor new hotel had any room for us. So after a day wasted waiting around and 4 hours plus in a minibus from Ha Long Bay, both in need of a shower we went on line and booked a nearby hotel and happily headed to it. To find they did not in fact have availability after all. A call to booking.com to cancel the reservation, as the hotel would not, we found yet another and booked, this time calling to confirm they actually did have rooms available before heading to them, smart cookies that we are.
Not the nicest looking hotel from the outside it has to be said, but hey it’s only for one night and how bad can it be. FYI if you have to ask that question you already know the answer, it’s going to be bad, VERY VERY BAD. It started with the staff, all of who looked to be bored teenagers telling us to cancel the booking on Booking.com and pay them directly. We tried to explain that we could not do that, that if we cancelled the booking we would be charged, between our Vietnamese and their English this was clearly not being conveyed and some 10 minutes of having the same conversation later I asked if we could just have the room we’d booked and sort it out after, having no intention of cancelling booking.com. You pay now, ok fine, we’ll pay now, BIG mistake when you haven’t seen the room as it turns out as we were led to a windowless pooppile of a room but at least the sheets were clean. We were both so tired and utterly fed up at this point we did not even argue, paid the man and shut the door so at last we could take a shower, which was in the same space as the loo, a space about 3 foot square, ok maybe that’s being a bit generous, 2.5 x 3 foot more likely.
The night passed, the lobby phone rang constantly until 3.45 am when it blissfully stopped, the staff started chatting up a storm at 6am. It is only for 1 night was our mantra as we pushed hysteria aside.
The next morning was surprisingly lovely, we checked out and having searched for the best breakfast in Hanoi headed to Joma bakery where we settled in for a morning of reading and eating delicious baked goods before heading to our new hotel. Our room is on the 6th floor with a little sofa and desk, a lovely modern bathroom, and windows so lacking in soundproofing it’s as if they were not there at all, which we found out when the bar along the street started doing karaoke at 11.30 at night. Oh and the bed is like sleeping on the floor it is so hard which is not surprising when we took a look, it’s a wooden box. OK I scream in my head YOU WIN, WE’RE DONE, any lingering desire to remain quashed! get me out of here as fast as you can! Saturday cannot come soon enough but Hanoi was not done with us yet.
We made the trek to the first embassy to collect our passports which miraculously had been issued without further incident and head straight to the second embassy. Where we are told (by admittedly a very nice and helpful young man) that we need to pay in US dollars but but we’re not in America we are in Vietnam and we are not applying for an American Visa. Oh and NOWHERE within a 5 mile radius can change money into USD for us. So we traipse around until someone suggest a street miles away and we jump into yet another taxi and go off to change money at an awful rate before returning and paying for our visas, which barring anything unforeseen we will collect in 3 days.
I woke up yesterday to a dime size bald patch along my hairline, deep breathing it seems is not doing its job. The reality is that travelling is not always a joy, things will go pear-shaped, people will not always be nice, some will try to rip you off and motorbikes will cccasionally try to run you over. The good usually outweighs the bad and nothing that’s happened these last few weeks has been catastrophic. The majority of our time in Vietnam has been quite wonderful, we’ve met lovely people and seen amazing sights, that said I can take a hint, it is most definitely time to move on, HELLO CHINA, here we come! Xx