Last day in Hong Kong. I’m actually going to miss my tiny little room and the craziness that is ChungKing. Have to be on a bus at 11:30 so go for one last wander, as well as getting my ever-growing pile of postcards sent off, before I have to pack up and head for the bus.
…Which does not endear itself to me at all when I decides to drive off without letting me on. Lovely. Thankfully its a regular service and another one showed up 12 minutes later. Immediately forgiven when I discover it has WiFi and surf for the hour and 20 minutes it takes to get there. Sadly don’t have a lot of time to explore this airport, which is kind of sad because it is huge and awesome, though do have enough time to grab a very quick lunch (silly in hindsight, turned out my flight had meals on board) and exchange what was left of my Hong Kong Dollars into Vietnamese Dong.
I’d decided to take a chance when I reached Hanoi airport and try my hand at public transport. The airport has no train, so you can only get to the city (a good hour away) via taxi or the bus. The taxi would have cost me nearly 15 pounds, while the bus would cost me 30p. Looked at the maps and decided that if I got the no.17, it would take me to the Kim Ma bus station, which was just about walking distance to my hotel.
Great theory, except despite the guy on the bus saying it would stop at Kim Ma, it didn’t, and I was kicked off the bus in the middle of a city I didn’t know. Before I had time to panic, I had 3 guys on me asking if I wanted a Motor-Taxi. Given my options, seems a very good choice right now, and motorbikes are the best way to get around Vietnam.
The funny thing about Asia? Every time I go somewhere new and see how they handle road rules, I think ‘okay, it cannot possible get any crazier than this’ and then it goes and gets worse. Vietnam traffic is insane! Nobody stops at red lights, people crossing put out a hand and throw themselves out on leaps of faith, bikes huddle up like shoals of fish and you just hope everyone’s going the same way as you. Halfway through my trip my driver’s coat started ringing, and he reached into his pocket and started talking on the phone. While riding a scooter through insanely heavy traffic with a passenger, while having to dodge the odd pedestrian trying to walk across!
That said, for all of its dangers and insanity, within five minutes I was in love with Hanoi. Its exactly what I expected – a giant market teeming with life and scooters and the odd beautiful structure popping up. I’m actually sorry to get off the bike once we finally reach Bodega Hotel – a good 10 minute bike ride away, god only knows where I was actually dropped off on the bus…
Bodega Hotel has a dorm room – which was where I was staying – but is actually a hotel (so once again, no kitchen) and was about as central as I could have hoped. Went out for a walk to see what was around, and its pretty heavy in markets, along with a giant lake that I later learned was Hoan Kiem, one of the most important in Hanoi.
I was mostly looking for food, since I’d been told food was cheap in Vietnam. Unfortunately, I was still wrapping my head around the exchange rate (things get hard when you have to think in millions and thousands) and think I may have been a little ripped off – bought some doughnut-like things for 80,000 dong, and half a kilo of lychee for 200,000 (and she wanted more – when I tried to return them she accepted that price). Since learned that was close to 7.50 altogether – way more than I expected. Lesson learned to figure out the exchange rate at least.
When I got back to the hotel, I was told that if I wanted to try Vietnamese food, there was a restaurant not too far from here that was very good. Quan an Ngon, which was listed on the map they had at reception and was in walking distance.
As it turns out, it is very good – if again more expensive than I’d been planning to spend on food. Apparently in Vietnam its something of tradition (at least from how I’ve been treated) to eat multiple things at meals – so you have small portions with the expectations that you’ll order several (and eat tapas style if you’re with friends). This restaurant definitely expected that, so my greenhorn ways were looked upon with some amusement. I ordered fried tofu and 3 spring rolls. Actually ordered something else as well, but they never wrote it down, and by the time I had finished the other items I honestly didn’t want it. Price was about 185000 dong, and at least half of that was due to me having expensive juice tastes and ordering 2 apple juices. Got to get back on the water.
Tomorrow I head towards Ha Long Bay, where most of my meals have been paid for. Should be good for keeping my costs down (fingers crossed).