Hanoi: a fascinating chaos

After the technological and neat Singaporewe expected the opposite but no less spectacular, Hanoi.

With a stifling heat, we landed in the capital of Vietnam, we got off the plane and waited in long lines for inmigration where there were lines for locals, foreigners and diplomats. There, soldiers ask for passports, check your visa, hand you the passport back and make a gesture to go out, to call the following person immediately. The don´t look at you or talk to you. Our row was endless and with extreme slowness.
It was finally our turn. The woman who checked our visas began to shake her head no and called her manager, another expressionless guy who told us to go with him to the Visas department. Ale asked if there was any problem but anybody said a single word.
We got to the counter, where the manager made a negative gesture pointing out a letter in the visa certificate. Other man told us that the vietnamese embassy in Argentinahad made a mistake when they printed the Visa in our passports. Therefore, we were getting ready for bribery. But no! The good man crossed out the wrong letter, signed and we began to breathe again.
Once out of the airport we went to a van where we were told that the trip from the airport to the hotel was usd 5 per person, we got and the driver asked us to wait because we would leave once the van was full of passenger. In the van we met two men from India who were looking for cheap accommodation in Hanoi, so we got to talking and we recommended them our hotel, at a very convenient prize and in the center of the old quarter. After 40 minutes the driver wouldn’t leave, so one of the Indians offered us to share a taxi for usd20. Because of being four people, it was the same cost as the van.

About 30 kilometers are from the airport to the 3B Hotel. In most of the path we saw rural areas worked by people without any machine. It was like watching a documentary about decades ago: all those people on their knees wearing those typical hats, flattened cone-shaped and long-sleeved shirts for sun protection. Also, people wearing masks. Pollution in Hanoican be seen as a thick cloud that makes the horizon is blurred. We arrived at the hotel, located in the old quarter of the city, and they received us with cold lemonade to enjoy while we did the check in. One of the girls at the reception escorted us to the room, opened the door, and on the bed we saw two swans made out of towels wishing us «happy honey moon». We didn’t remember that in the flood of email we send to the hotel, we said it was our honeymoon… everything is to get better room rates…

We went for a walk and met with the inception of chaos. Traffic lights are scarce in Hanoi and motorbikes abound.
We went for a walk and met with the inception of chaos. Traffic lights are scarce in Hanoi and motorbikes abound. So if you want to cross the street, shut your eyes, do not look to the sides and go. The thing works, they dodge you and you go. At first it is dizzying, then you get used to it. The tricky part is trying to walk on the sidewalk where scooters are more important than people.
The life of the Vietnamese capital goes through the street where street vending rules. Shops usually have houses upstairs where the merchants live. Health and hygiene, well, thank you. Cleaning conditions are generally loose. Before starting the trip we said we were going to try everything. Standing in front of the woman preparing Poh (Vietnamese soup, part of breakfast, made of noodles and chicken) on the ground, you think twice.
It was 6 pm, we hadn´t had lunch. We went to a local average restaurant and ordered rice with chicken and a large Tiger beer. It’s so hot that they put fans on the sidewalk. The result of the eating experience: a delicious meal and good price: usd 6 total.
At night we went to the night market where we found poor quality clothes, crafts, shoes and street food. One of the main streets is closed to traffic, anyway motorbikes drive between people and complicate the step. Sidewalks also are full of tiny tables and chairs where you can drink the world’s cheapest beer: two draft beers less, than 2 argentinian pesos. We wandered around and went to bed early.

After the tour to Halong Bay, we visited the city´s highlights: the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, where we did a two-hour queue to see for 20 seconds the embalmed body of the leader.
We took a break to try the egg coffee, which turned out to be a delicious coffee with egg similar in consistency to condensed milk. Then we walked in the Temple of Literature. Tomorrow is likely to go to the museum of military history of Vietnam.
Egg coffee

Halong Bay
7:00 a.m. Up for breakfast and reload energy to go to one of the new natural wonders of the world since 2011.
Located 170kms east of Hanoi and 400kms from the border with Chinathis set of 1600 islands and islets has its legend. They say the Jade Emperor sent heavenly dragons to defend their land from Chinese invaders. Dragons spat jewels that formed the geography of the bay. Hence its name, Ha Long or descending dragon.
After a 3-hour trip, we reached the bay where we waited for a boat that took us to the cruise Garden Bay, where we were greeted with a shower of rose petals, literal. With us there was a group of French, with an average of 60 years, very sociable, eager to talk about football.
We arrived for lunch and by reading the menu we realized it was more refined than we had thought. Oysters, prawns, local fish and crab were some of the dishes. We finished lunch and went kayaking. Two minutes of rest were enough to give the French a reason to tease me for the rest of the cruise. Furthermore, the guide «codeless» yelled at me in front of everyone that I had the paddles backwards.
One employee of the boat had a mnemonic rule with which he associated with passengers with a famous personality or objects. For example, every time he saw me, he said «Messi Nambe tu (number two)» clarifying that the best was Cristiano Ronaldo. The «worst» was for two French named as whiskey and beer every time he saw them.
The activities of the tour included visits to various caves, viewpoints, beaches, cooking class where I must say that Ale was showcased by making spring roles with rice paper.
The last day we were taught to make flowers out of fruits and vegetables where we were spectators. You know that my fine motor skills don´t go with these practices and that could have made a mess.
During dinner I happened to ask the waitress if the papaya salad was spicy. Why did I do that? she began repeating «no epaizi not epaizi, and little bit epaizi» (not spicy, little spicy) about thirty times, no exaggeration. It was one of those times when you want the ground to open up … In that moment, the manager of the cruise came to tell us that we had two drinks for free because it was our honeymoon. Other benefits of the honeymooners: ocean view room and a bouquet of roses on the bed.

Finally, the Halong bay cruise was amazing. It felt like being inside a postcard and to be treated like they did it will be engraved in our eyes and in our hearts. Let´s come back to Hanoiand traveling!