Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hanoi, Vietnam

March 1, 2011—We took off from Vientiane right on time. This time we flew in a bigger, newer turboprop plane. We even received a nice little snack and a drink on the way. We landed at Hanoi Airport and were transported in a bus to Immigration where we turned in our letter authorizing a 30-day visa. One is not allowed into Vietnam without either a previously applied for visa or a letter authorizing a visa. It took only a few minutes and our visas were ready. We paid our $50, received our passports, and headed to our baggage claim.

As we left with our bags, we met our driver, who took us to his car. As we pulled out of the parking lot, we were amazed at the traffic. There were cars and motor scooters everywhere. We drove for about an hour to get to our hotel. The most amazing site on our drive was a man on a scooter with a small cow on the back of the seat. The cow was alive and hogtied with its back against the driver, and its legs were hanging off the back. Steve tried to get a picture, but our kamikaze driver was going too fast. We did, at one point, get a picture of this man with a tree on his cycle, and a family of four sharing their scooter. If we thought that Thailand was bad, Hanoi is even worse.

He stopped on the street, and Sun, from our Especen Hotel, met us. He helped Steve with our bags, and then we followed him down an alley, made a left into another alley, and there we were at the Especen Hotel. We checked in and were shown to our room—on the fifth floor, which meant climbing 80 stairs because there was no elevator. The room was large was pretty basic. It was clean so it was fine.

We put our things away, relaxed for a little while, and then headed out for dinner. We found a nice restaurant in our alley and enjoyed a delicious meal. The city at night is vibrant. There was still traffic going in all directions. Red lights apply only to cars, usually. Motor scooters don’t seem to pay attention to them. We walked along just enjoying the sights and watching the people. People were out on the sidewalks eating or just enjoying a drink. They sat on child-size stools sitting at child-size tables.

We walked along for quite awhile and went into several shops to browse. We stopped at a bakery and bought some tiramisu for dessert. The people were not as friendly as in Thailand and Laos, but they were not unfriendly either. They were just a bit standoffish. After about three hours, we decided to call it a night and returned to our hotel.

The next day had to spend some time dealing with hotel and airline reservations for our trip to Hoi An. We then walked a few blocks where we found a nice coffee bar so that we could get a caffeine fix. The coffee here is quite strong so I usually need to add some water. Steve, on the other hand, loves it.

We continued down the street to the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, better known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” We walked through the museum. The French built the prison during the 1880s but was used in the 1930s to imprison the Vietnamese revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh. There was a section on the American POWs with pictures and written documents, and we found that part quite biased. The pictures of the POWs eating Christmas dinner, decorating a Christmas tree, playing basketball, and shooting pool were hard to take. We had read about the bias, so we thought that we were prepared; however, it bothered us more than we expected. It did, however, cause us both to feel a tremendous amount of pride in and respect for the Americans who were held here.

We left in a somber mood and decided that we should eat some lunch. We ended up at a local restaurant close to our hotel and enjoyed noodle soup with beef brisket and shallots. From the restaurant we walked around Lake Hoan Kiem to the post office, where we bought some post cards and stamps. We continued around the lake to the market district where there were too many stores to look in. Steve did find a baseball cap for $4. We stopped to have a cold beer at Legend’s Brew Pub on the second floor of a building. From our table on the balcony, we sat and were entertained by the traffic chaos that was occurring in the street. There was a roundy-round, but the traffic ignored it. It turned out that the only thing it was good for was parking spots.

Now it was time to return to the hotel for a few hours. We had decided that we would climb those 80 stairs twice a day. Once in the afternoon and once at night—it’s all our bodies could take. Around 6:30 we left to find a street-side food hawker that we had seen the night before. It took us a little while, but we finally found it and sat down at a miniature table on miniature stools. Steve went up and ordered chicken, beef, and prawn shish kabobs with bread for us. A young lady soon delivered the skewers and bread spread with honey and grilled. It was very good food, and we were stuffed when we left.

We needed to walk off dinner, so we just strolled around the streets for awhile. I wanted to find some orange juice, but after looking up and down our street, we gave up. Steve stepped off the curb to cross the street, but I stopped to check for traffic. When I did step down, I rolled my left foot on the curb and went down—hearing cracking as I went. The curbs here meet the street at an angle so it is easier to fall. Steve came running back toy see if I was alright. I was able to get up, but I could not walk very well. We managed to get back to the hotel, where I had to deal with the 80 steps. We immediately put ice on my foot, and I took Ibuprophen. We decided to wait until morning to see how it was.

I had an uncomfortable night and in the morning my foot was swollen and very sore. Steve went online to check the U.S. Embassy site. He was able to find a medical clinic listed there, so we called and were told to come in at 9 o’clock. We had packed the night before, so we left the room and made our way down to the lobby. We had scheduled a city tour for the day so we had to cancel it. We checked out, and Sun, the manager, called a taxi for us. We were driving in morning rush hour, so it was again quite entertaining. The motor scooters would go by the taxi, scraping the handlebars as they went. What’s really amazing is that we have seen very expensive cars—BMWs, Mercedes, Audis— on these streets.

We arrived at the clinic early, but the doctor came to look at my foot almost immediately. He ordered an xray and then called me in. Luckily, I had not broken any bones. He felt that I had a severe sprain and perhaps a pulled tendon. He gave me a long-acting anti-inflammatory and the nurse wrapped my foot in an ace bandage. He said that I should stay off the foot for two days, and after that I should take it easy for a week or two. I thanked him for the excellent care and went to pay the bill, which was $149 USD.

Our next step was to find a hotel where we could hang out for the day since our train did not leave until 7 p.m. Once again, Steve got online and found one close to the train station. We were able to get a room for the day at the Eternity Hotel, which turned out to be a lovely hotel. I worked on the pictures and the blog. Steve was able to soak in a large bathtub—what a treat.
The train to Hue will take about 13 hours. We should arrive around 8 o’clock in the morning. We have read contradictory information about this trip, so we will just have to wait and see how it goes.

I hope you enjoy this video. I was not able to edit it, but we got a kick out of it.

1 comment:

Tran Trong Minh said...

Thank you for great tour information of Vietnam Linda.
I was at the www.eternityhotel.vn as well