I’m going to lay my cards down early and say, Dear Reader, that this blog post isn’t likely to be that interesting as I did hardly anything in Hanoi. So if you want to stop reading now, I won’t mind too much. I’m not being self-depricating or modest – I know how awesome my other travelogues have been – so please, do save your self the trouble and read something else.
Ok, well, I arrived in Hanoi on my first ever propeller propelled passenger plane (say that eating a plate of peas). As usual, I hadn’t done any research into this place. I didn’t even know any of the language. Usually I make a token effort at learning ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, but my iPod, with the Vietnamese language app, had broken the day before. Thankfully though, you can always count on the kindness of strangers (up until the point they murder you with an axe). A helpful lady at the airport was heading into the city centre, took me under her wing, taught me some of the language and showed me where the backpacker district was.
The place I had wanted to stay was called, imaginatively “Backpackers”. It has an Aladdin’s cave reputation for drawing in travellers who are never seen again. As well as the most popular bar in town, it houses dozens of computers, giant flatscreen TVs, pool tables, table football, blah, blah, blah. I know the point of travelling is to see amazing new things, but still, it’s cool. Unfortunately, they were fully booked, so I was shut out in the wet streets of Hanoi to find another place. I found a reasonable hotel, but it was very lonely in the private room, so I immediately headed back to Backpackers.
I had my first taste of frog’s legs outside (at a restaurant, it wasn’t something I just found in the gutter), which were actually very tasty, although I didn’t like the site of seeing an entire foot in my noodles. I wasted the rest of the evening getting wasted in Backpackers.
The next day is when really, nothing happened. I tried to find the cathedral and got lost for hours. I tried to walk to the war museums, and got lost. I was going to go see the remains of Ho Chi Minh, but thought, either I’ll get lost on the way, or I’ll find it and get creeped out seeing a communist corpse.
Hanoi itself was all right, I supose, although I didn’t see it in the best light (overcast and gray). The amount of tuktuks and motorbikes racing down the side streets was staggering, even for Asian standards. I got nearly run over at least half a dozen times walking the short distance from my hostel to Backpackers. The walk around the central lake, with colourful bridge to the ancient temple in the middle, was charming, but mostly it was an overindustrialised, polluted city. I didn’t feel too guilty leaving it so soon, for the smaller town of Hue, by night bus.