Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hoi Hoi Hanoi

Saigon - jam, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Early morning in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam. It is dry but that is about all that can be said. We were NOT met off the train and we were ripped off by a taxi driver bringing us to the hotel, where the doors were shut and the lights were off (it was 5 am). Ringing on the doorbell, we managed to wake the receptionist who told us that the hotel was full (with tour groups) and that they had not received any reservation for us or for the Swedish chap who travelled up on the train with us. This despite the fact that we had heard our respective receptionists in our hotels in Hue phone this place up and make resevations. The chap here showed us his book and our names were not there and he explained that it would have been his friend on duty at the time the calles were made. Likewise, when we phoned teh hotel in Hue, the chap there said it was one of his colleagues who would have made the reservation. We have the feeling that somehow our respective reservations have bene lost to accommodate the tour group which arrived yesterday. As Fred and I know to our cost, tour groups come first! So now we are stuck here while it is still dark and the streets still eerily quiet until it is polite to go somewhere else to see if we can check in. In the meantime, it is quite cool and I have wet socks and shoes from yesterday afternoon in Hue.

This seems to be quite typical of travelling in Vietnam where you think you have agreed something and then it turns out (usually too late) that what you thought the other side was offering is not quite what you were led to believe. For instance, when you are met by ten chaps at a bus stop, yelling at you to go to their hotel,you decide to go withone having made some negotiations about price andquality of service, only to be brought to the hotel and to be told by the receptionist that either the price for the quality agreed is higher or the quality for the price agreed is lower.

Likewise, my new shorts. In Hoi An, I thought I would join the masses in getting some article of clothing made. They gave me a Next catalogue and despite the fact that most of teh examples hanging inn the shop not looking remotely fashionable, I was assured that they could reproduce anything in the catalogue subject to the material they had on offer. I decided to go for some shorts, knee length with a bit of design and I was measured up every way possible, around the waist,the hips, the legs, to the knee and so on.

A day later, I returned expectantly, only to find that there were absolutely no design features, the shorts stopped well short of my keens and the waist was a good 4 cms too wide. Eventually after returning another two times, I finally took delivery of them and am wearing them now. Not so bad, but I am sure they would have been cheaper in a market in Europe!

Anyway, altogther, travelling in Vietnam has been a very pleasurable experience, with people generally being friendlier than expected.

We now have a bit more time here in the north than is necessary, having rushed through the last few days a bit too much. Now we are here we are wondering what to do for the next six days until we go trekking in the mountains around Sa Pa. Hopefully, the weather will be fine and we can go down to Ha Long Bay on the coast with its limestone outcrops. Seems like Cuc Phuong National Park might be interesting as well.

It is already 6.20and getting light. We are in the Old Quater of Hanoi, which the book had promised us to be absolutely bustling with activity, but still it is quiet, Anyway, I am glad that I bought a jumper with me, as Richard just said, its not warm out there either.

Just a quick note at the end of the day to say that we have survived the streets of Hanoi. They became an awful lot busier after I finished writing earlier on. The busiest streets we have seen so far and although narrow, almost impossible to cross. It stayed dry, but it was cold. Maximum 17 degrees, after we have been used to 3. Unfortunately, for Richard, they do not sell woollen clothes here so he bought himself a nice beige synthetic top, to keep a little bit warm. Anyway, it should be warmer tomorrow. The big question is whether or not we get the tail-end of Typhoon Durian this week, important to know if we want to spend a night on a boat in Ha Long Bay. More about our Hanoi experience tomorrow. Time for an early dinner and see if we can catch a bit of teh Tottenham - Arsenal match. Quite bizarrely, we found ourselves watching a re-run of the 1993 FA Cup Final on Star Sports between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday, which Arsenal won 2-1 in the last minute of extra time. Nice to be reminded of the skills of Chris Waddle though.



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