13.11.2008 - 14.11.2008
Finally arrived in Hanoi after a harrowing overnight bus ride. The sleeper bus was a bit different this time as there was a sort of 'capsule' for your lower legs/feet. Thinking that I was choosing the lesser of two evils by choosing to 'sleep' in a top bunk instead of the closterphobic lower bunks... I'm still unsure if I chose correctly or not. Sleep was haphazard. There was constant swaying being in the top portion of the bus, I was fearful at times that I was going to sway right over the edge of the bunk onto the poor people below me. The karaoke was interesting but not quite enjoyable, and the constant horn honking (still haven't gotten used to this) was enough to keep even the dead awake. But, I arrived safely.
Arriving in the morning, I was certain that I was not going to be able to check into a hotel for hours. This thought along with the fact that sleep had evaded me, and i hadn't had a cigarette in nearly 12 hours, was enough to put my mood quite foul as the taxi and moto-bike drivers soon found out.
Descending from the bus, the swarm of drivers mobbed me. 'taxi? moto? where you go? you want taxi? i take you to hotel? taxi? moto? where you go?' My initial response was polite and plenty of 'no thank you's' but they just wouldn't stop and each response got nastier and nastier. I just wanted to figure out where I was and have a smoke!! Finally, I told one poor soul that if he didn't get out of my face It would be a cold day in hell before I would ever ride with him. I think they got the point as they all stepped back....only about 2ft!!
Finally figuring out where I am (about 2-3km from the city center), an European couple and I decide to share a taxi.
Checked into the hotel and took a nice hot shower and my mood improved greatly. I never have been a morning person.... I headed over to the Kangaroo Cafe to get my Halong Bay tour scheduled. I have to say, I am impressed at this point with the Kangaroo Cafe. There was no big push to sell me any of their tours. I was handed a book to look through that thouroughly explained the different options and nearly had to lasso someone when I was decided and ready to book! Everywhere else I have been has hounded me and stood over my shoulder and given a hard sell but the people here left me alone to decide which was a very nice change.
Next on the agenda is to book the Water Puppet performance for later in the evening. This was done quick and easy and then I wandered around the city. I had actually taken my lonely planet with me with intentions of following the 'walking tour' of the city but very quickly got distracted and lost and no longer knew how or where to go to get back to my walking tour so it was abandoned. I aimlessly wandered through the city, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (some not so good). Finally stopping for a coffee and a snack I asked the server where I was on the map. The spot she pointed to was nearly off the map!! I guess I wandered much further than I had thought. Miraculously, I made it back to my hotel for a little afternoon nap.
The water puppet performance was not as good as I had anticipated. Although paying for 'premium' seats for a whopping $60K dong (about $3.50 usd), my seat was horrible. I was in the 5th row, which should be good for about any performance, right? Wrong...this particular stage (being water) is actually set much lower than the traditional stages so I could barley see anything due to the heads of the people in the 4 rows in front of me. If you go, I recommend demanding either front row or paying the lower fee and sitting much further up in the theater. The entire performance was set to traditional music, which was interesting but due to my not speaking Vietnamese, I didn't understand any of what was going on.... The puppets themselves were nice and the maneuvering of them took some talent. 2/5 if I had to rate it.
Had a wonderful dinner after the show then retired early for my Halong Bay trip in the morning.
Life is good....