10.03.2010 18 °C
So we arrived at the Hanoi airport safe and sound from our Lao Airlines flight (apparently one of the most accident prone airlines in the world – instead of life jackets they advise you to use the cushion of your seat to float. Dodgy!). Strangely enough there was a taxi driver waiting for us with our name written on a piece of cardboard. We happily loaded our bags into his car and then he stated shoving his phone to my ear, "for you mister, for you", I thought this was a bit strange. Sure enough it was. On the other end of the phone was a vietnamese english accent advising me that the guesthouse was booked out and we would have to stay at number 2 guesthouse. We declined this and demanded to be taken to the guesthouse we had booked. So we headed off for the 45 minute drive into town. On the way into town things felt strange, the cab driver took about 10 phone calls and things just didn't feel right. All the way into town we were shooting funny looks at each other as if to say, take us back to the Laos way of life. This town is too busy for us.
We got into the "Old District" of Hanoi, and our taxi driver took us to a funny looking shop front. We unloaded our bags, went inside and asked about our reservation - the kid on the counter had know idea and called his friend, before too long there were four blokes there trying to convince us that the guesthouse we booked was full and we had to stay at this one. We got into a huge argument with the men who eventually conceded that we were too smart for their scam. We paid for the taxi ride, strapped on our packs and took off into the bustling streets of Hanoi. Shock to the system that was!! Sounds, people, bikes, cars, horns, screaming, yelling, dogs, laughing - all at once. ‘Bring back sleepy Luang Prabang!’ we were thinking!
Anyway, we found a nice guesthouse, near the fake guesthouse we had booked, dropped off our packs and went for dinner. (PS Ann says her favourite fake things in asia are fake books and fake guesthouses.) I got sick that night, aches pains, general flu/dengue fever like symptoms. Barely slept a wink and spent almost all of the next day in bed.
By the next morning i was better - we rose early to go to the Mausoleum where dead Ho Chi Minh is on show. This was a great experience. The whole procedure is very strange, wear long clothes, drop this bag there, take your camera there, pick this up there and get that from that window, hands by your side, no talking. All very strange and we weren't anywhere near dead Ho Chi yet. We filed through a funny room following a red mat all the way (with our arms by our sides), and there he is, encased in a glass coffin with fancy wooden trim, dead Uncle Ho Chi Minh himself. He looks good, well preserved. The whole experience was very creepy though. Apparently his wishes were to be cremated, bet he hates who ever decided to preserve him and put him on show for our beady eyes.
Ann was wearing leggings under her skirt to fulfil the long pants rule, however, as these leggings were black and white striped, this was apparently one of the most exotic things the locals had ever seen! Pointing and incredulous looks followed us everywhere we went.
We then went on a walking tour of the Old Town, which was pretty random and interesting.
Our next point of call is a three day tour of Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island. We will update you all when we get back from there. Photos to go up soon too.