Monthly Archives: September 2019

Day 1 – Sunday September 29 – Hanoi

Our bodies thought it was 3 hours later than the clock was telling us, so by 6:00am we wide awake. By 7 we were at breakfast – a breakfast that could have been at any hotel in the world – and by 8 we were out the door, heading south to the Old Town and Ho Hoan Kiem- a lake with a famous turtle and sword legend. Walking the streets of the Old Town was like stepping back in time, except for the constant threat of traffic. At times it was difficult to know if we were ever going to be able to cross a road, but the advice of walk steadily across and the traffic will go around you seemed to work. As we approached the lake an area was barricaded to keep traffic out. We soon discovered why, as a fun run strided past.

A short time later we were walking behind a group of young children in matching T shirts. “Hanoi English School” was written across their backs. We said hello, and struck up a conversation with their teacher. They were there to find tourists to practice their English language on. So practice they did, then photos, then more questions and more photos. Quite an amazing experience for both sides of the conversation.

We continued around the lake and found a bridge crossing to a small island. People were giving tickets toa guard on the gate, so we investigated and discovered it was a temple. 20000VD later we were in. A stroll around the gardens with amazing bonsai style plants, a temple complete with the usual offerings and an explanation of the sword turtle in the lake.

We then met and talked with lots more children – some school children, but others were mothers with very young kids who wanted the kids to practice English, and even a few uni students approached us to practice conversing.

Next stop was a coffee by the lake, then a stroll back towards the hotel through an area of hardware ‘stores’ that collectively would put the stock levels of Bunnings to shame. Back at the hotel we had a break for a while, before setting off again to explore the other direction from the hotel. By now it was approaching beer o’clock, so we had a Hanoi Lager at a very local looking café next door to the hotel (18000VD – about $1.30) then a few more at an Irish Pub (of course there are Irish Pubs in Hanoi!) where they cost an outrageous 40,000VD (still less than $3)

6:00 was the official start of our tour, meeting with our group leader Bruce, an expat Aussie who’s lived here and worked for Intrepid for 22 years. Our group consists of 15 people from Australia, Ireland, England, America and Germany. After the meeting we all headed off for a genuine Hanoi dinner (and a few more beers). Yum. Total bill for the 2 of us – 250,000VD – all of about $17 for 5 or 6 dishes and 2 beers.

A few other notable mentions: The electrical wiring in the street. OMG. The variety of shops, from up-market fashion shops to belt buckle shops to sidewalk noodle bars all within a few metres of each other. Lots of young women, dressed to the nines taking selfies in front of expensive hotels – building a portfolio maybe?

Day 0 – Saturday September 28, 2019

Early start today, after Carol brought us up to Sydney Airport Ridges last night – Thanks Carol. The hotel was a strenuous 50m walk from the International Departures at the airport, so we were there bright and early – around 5am. We were checked in quite quickly and equally quickly through emigration and security. As always I was stopped for an explosives swab, while dad had the full x-ray treatment. We both passed.

The plane was delayed getting away from Sydney by about an hour. It seems somebody forgot to get the plane out of the garage, but once underway the speedy pilot caught up the lost time. Several meals and a few movies later we were in Hong Kong – with no riots at the airport thankfully. We jumped on to Wi-Fi to check the AFL grand final score (GWS annihilated by Richmond) then headed across the tarmac by shuttle bus to Gate 509 to wait for our Hanoi flight. In Hanoi we picked up our pre-organised visa and were quickly out of the airport. Let the fun begin. We found the bloke with his ‘Intrepid Travel – Kevin Hunter’ sign, who promptly disappeared, presumably to get his car? A few minutes later a car arrived, we were ushered in and away we went. Leaving the car park, the guide wanted payment for the car park, but at this stage we had no Vietnamese Dong. No problem – they took us to an ATM where I withdrew 1,000,000 Dong with the smallest notes dispensed being VD500,000 – a bit difficult for the driver to change. A few minutes later the guide had a phone call. His customer was still waiting at the airport. He asked us if we were Mr [insert random Asian name here]. No! We had managed to get in the wrong car. A minute later we were back at the airport searching for our driver. Eventually all was solved and we were on our way – through chaotic, horns blaring traffic. We never did pay that car park fee. Whole families on mopeds, cars weaving this way and that, lane markings mere suggestions and traffic lights apparently semi-optional to obey. Somehow we made it safely to our hotel, the Hong Ngoc Cochinchine, check in and up to our room to get organised. A 21 hour day. Time for bed.