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Hanoi - Good Morning Vietnam!!!!!!

Vietnam (Hanoi) 2006-08-03

Unbelievable how quick You get use to new things!! We thought that our Taxi driver, who took us to Pacific Prince Hotel in the old quarters of Hanoi, was completely insane!! Motorbikes, motorbikes, motorbikes and motorbikes. They are everywhere. Click to enlarge.He was honking ALL the time and tried to go faster then all the others by blinking with his full beam even though there was an overtaking in front of us!!

There are motorbikes everywhere and of course now one reacts on the honking, EVERYONE is honking all the time!! And traffic light, what is that? Now one bothers... If You think there are many motorbikes in Malaysia and Thailand - tenfold it! But we have found a way to stay alive crossing the streets; seek eye contact, walk slowly and don't look afraid!!

Quy at Pacific Prince Hotel. A very, very nice guy. Click to enlarge.We stay at a very good hotel in he old quarters of Hanoi, we can warmly recommend Pacific Prince Hotel! Clean and very fresh, AC and a very helpful and reliable staff - especially Quy at the picture. Including a nice buffet' breakfast we only pay 25 USD/room!
(Updated 2007-11-20. Quy is not working at hotel any longer and has sold teh hotel he has been running the last year. If you are planning to go to Hanoi and need a cheap hotel and someone who can take care of you write an email to Quy and ask him what he can do for you.

These old quarters in Hanoi don’t look like any other capitol we have seen, so far. It smells good, we feel safe and You get e feeling of a small town if You don’t count the motorbikes of course!

Every quarter is specialist, i.e. there is one road for curtains, one with spices, linen, T-shirts and SHOES!!! We have never ever seen this much shoes at the same place, Eva is in paradise!! But, we hardly don't buy anything.......we have "shrunken" our backpacks (sent some things back home and also give away some thing) and have only things for tropical heat. Well, yes, Anders bought 2 T-shirts from a very charming "street selling" girl. (In fact he really needed one) And just because she was so very nice Eva bought one as well even thought she didn’t need one. In every corner of the street there is at least ten guys with motor bikes offering their services and You cannot walk more than 10 meters before a "bicycle taxi" tries to sell “one hour very cheap”

There are signs of the old Indochina everywhere – in meaning that it is inspired by France and it is not unusual that some Vietnamese people speak French. There is also another big sign of the “American war”; 75% of the population are 30 years and under!!! And if You think back, the war ended in 1975. Just one thought: - How will the streets look like when all these young people on their motor bikes become old??

After a very tasteful (and cheap) lunch we enjoyed a show at the “Water Puppet Theatre” Very nice and we think very Vietnamese. We found the “Cha Ca” street and had “Cha Ca” for dinner (we found it so tasty so we had that for even one more dinner). Cha Ca is a specialty in Hanoi, a bit like fondue with grilled fish and a lot of dill!! Vietnam in total is very cheap and the cheapest was probably the “tarte de citron” that we had at a French cafe' for about 0,30 cent!

We had an early breakfast and prepared ourselves to queue for Ho Chi Minh, Uncle Ho, Mausoleum. The Vietnamese people often make pilgrimage to honor their Land Father. During the one hour queue (!) we had no rain, same when we visited the museum and his former House but when we took a LONG walk to see the Long Bien Bridge (same architect who designed the Eiffel tower in Paris) it was raining cat and dogs. During the American war this bridge (built about 100 years ago) was nearly destroyed but the Vietnamese repaired it.

Now it is their rainy season and so we notice. We have had rainy days the first four days in Hanoi. Despite that we decided to take a tour to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island. Most of the traveling around Hanoi is made up by organized trips that you buy at the hotel or at the numerous small travel agents all around town. It's cheap but of course there are a lot of tourists on the places you go to. High level of control so you can not go without your passport - you have to leave it now and then but the guides takes care of all the formalities.

We stayed one night at the boat and one at a hotel in Cat Ba. The harbor in Halong Bay was made 5 years ago and had a capacity of 50 boats - now there are more than 400 boats so it's very busy in the harbor!!

We kayaked and swim in the water, despite the rain that we have, among the island that all together (3000 islands) are a World Heritage Site. On our trip we are 6 persons, four from Spain (or Bascia as they prefer to say!) and us + our guide who speaks very good English, i.e. there is a lot of space on the boat and we have very good service. This country has understood there is a lot of money in tourism and a lot of young people go to University to study Tourism. They are very proud of their country - not so surprisingly when you know their history with Chinese, French and Americans that they have been fighting against to get their independence. Halong Bay is very beautiful with its limestone islands, beaches and it must be even more beautiful when the sun is shining! We visited the Amazing Caves and Vow - they are really amazing and impressive. Very Big!

When we returned to our hotel in Hanoi after 4 hours in a minibus we are greeted by Quy at Pacific Hotel. He has kept a room for us even though we where not sure we would be back there. He is really good and a little unique to Hanoi. This is a very good hotel to use as base camp in Hanoi. The lesson we learned the first days in Hanoi is that tourism is relatively new and the balance is not there yet. You always have to be alert and if you are naive you have to pay for it but the things Quy fixes for us are straight and we know what to get and no discussions about money. You are a "dollar machine" for most of the people - just be aware of that fact. Even the taxis can be cheating you even though they are on meter - the trig them so the taximeter flies away. We have been lucky or maybe we are little bit more experienced than some of the tourists we met but no scams against us so far! Well, this cheating will be turned against them if they don't get a better control over it.

During the evening Anders sits in the lobby and drinks Tiger beer with the body guards of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. He is on an official meeting with the government of Vietnam for some days. They are around 20 people at our hotel and this gives Anders a very good time to practice his Spanish!!

On our way to Perfume Pagoda in the boat. Click to enlarge.Yesterday we went on a full day tour to the Perfume Pagoda - and boy it was HOT. The sun was shining and we had + 35 degrees so we had to use hat and sun scream and of course liters of water to make the one hour uphill trip to the cave. Before that we spent 2 hours in a small bus and after that one hour in a small rowing boat. The hike was really rewarding and in the cave it was cooler so we could rest a while before it was down to go down again where we are served lunch.

We are back at Pacific Prince at around 7 PM and Anders looks for a dinner place and finds a Vietnamese Gourmet restaurant. Very, very nice food in a beautiful setting but the restaurant was relative expensive and we had no VISA card with us so we could only take a Pernod for drinks and two delicious main dishes with beer and water as we only had $25 in the pocket!! Well, this was expensive in Vietnamese terms - in Europe you would hardly get two drinks for $25 - well, maybe a bottle of water as well.

Tonight we take the airplane to Hue' in the Central Vietnam. The old capital with a lot of history and then it's very close to DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Hue' is also famous for its food so maybe we will see if there any cooking school we can attend. We will probably spend some days in the Hue' area.

Today we will have a working day, i.e. work on Internet, burn CD, go to the post office - our experience is that these days go very quickly!

We will be back with a report from Central Vietnam!

Lots of hugs from EvAnders