And we’re off! Only 54 klms from Viengxay to the Vietnam border – but it took us over 3 hours Shocking road but lots to see (and do!) along the way.
We had several stops before the border crossing – the usual deliveries and pick ups and drop offs. Here our driver and his offsider stopped to negotiate the purchase of some ducks……..
Which he then stuck into a plastic bag up to their necks and tied them onto the roof of the minibus! Happy to report that at the end of the journey they were still alive – but for how long is anyone’s guess….. la orange??
Beautiful mountain scenery along winding narrow roads which once again had the local travellers barffing into their sick bags…
Rice paddies as far (almost) as you can see. Let’s hope that the UXO is all cleared from here.
We’ve become quite blasé about the road falling off and being as narrow as a footpath.
At last we reached the border crossing – this is the Lao side. Every body out of the bus. Walk over to the other side. Get processed – we noticed that we were the last to have our passports and visas attended to – and then walk into Vietnam for lunch at 3 in the afternoon.
The Vietnamese border facility. While I was drinking tea with the mini bus driver and his mates Will was attending to our bag searches by the authorities. Everyone was in uniform and looking very “official” so I didn’t risk taking photos of them here even though they were all very friendly.
The minute you drive away from the border crossing the difference in the roads is marked! They are so wide and smooth – not a broken bit in sight. This should be a breeze – a mere five hours to go! First stop Thanh Hoa. . and they have BEER!!
This is a big, busy town – we only had an overnighter here and the highlight was the huge, beautiful hotel SUITE we had for which we paid the princely sum of $aud32! The hotel is called, and no sniggering thanks! Phu Hung Hotel. Highly recommended – except for the restaurant fiasco where there is no English and no menu!
After the sleep of the dead we are refreshed and ready for a four hours train trip North to Hanoi. Soft seats cost $aud12.70 – for two people. We would not recommend taking the hard seats and saving a small amount – it’s hell in there! The train station.
Beautiful Hanoi – let’s see what changes may have happened in ten years.
It is still a busy bustling city – still hot, still relatively inexpensive and the food is still sensational. The people here are helpful and not (very) pushy. They will ask you to buy but they aren’t in your face…
We are here for Independence Week so nightly celebrations and decorations around the city – flags everywhere. We took a walking tour with a couple of young students who volunteer to do this for free. Mainly so that they can practice their English and interact with foreigners. But remember to tip them….
Decorative book made of fresh flowers commemorating National Day on September 2. In1945, at Ba Đình Square, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Viet Minh, declared Vietnam’s independence under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN).
We were treated to traditional and also non-traditional street music every night of our six night stay in Ha Noi. Many of the streets are closed to traffic which makes things a lot more pleasant to wander around on foot.
And the food!! Hanoi has some of the best food ever! Favourites include Bun Cha (pronounced boon cha) just buy one between two people – it is BIG!
fresh spring rolls, Banh Cuon – steamed rice pancakes filled with pork mince, mushrooms and topped with fried shallots, lime and fresh herbs and of course the famous pho ga (chicken and noodles soup) and bahn mi (Vietnamese bread roll stuffed with chicken or pork, pate and pickled vegetables) just to mention a very few. The BBQ which you cook yourself is also very popular and is truly delicious.
and don’t forget to squeeze over the juice of the tiny and so delicious limes that you are given at most meals. Dinner time – below.
And don’t forget about the amazing bakeries and cakes.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. We stayed in the Old Quarter which seems to be handy to everything and teeming with life, fun and food. And shops. And hawkers.
‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ or Hoan Kiem Lake. Legend describes how an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty and in doing so saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the lake – this is the abridged version (pardon the pun!)
To get to the temple, walk across the bright red Huc Bridge to Jade Island.
Exercise to music and
The obligatory interview and photograph from students who are practicing their English. Can you pick the foreigners ??
I had this last time and am waiting my turn (while sipping $4 Mojitos) for my $1 street pedicure – only this time it is $3 -inflation!
We saw our share of gorgeous old traditional houses -the Ancient House at 87 Ma May Street
Couple of dudes having a rest and a smoke
Hỏa Lò Prison was used by the French Colonists to hold political prisoners and later by North Vietnam to house US Prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. During this later period it was known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. The prison was demolished during the 1990s, and the gatehouse remains as a museum.
French guillotine used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries.
Conditions were horrendous.
Bach Ma Temple
The herb lady delivering the freshest of herbs for our Pho
One of the many, MANY bars for Happy Hour all set up the French way with all the chairs facing the streets. Hanoi beers cost about $aus1.20 a bottle and at happy hour they are 2 for one. And Happy Hour starts early… Cocktails are also cheap but the wine isn’t great and is a bit more expensive. If you want imported wines (as opposed to the local Da Lat wine – drinkable but not sensational) expect to pay about $aus6- $7 a smallish glass. But the glasses themselves are proper wine glasses – not the crap things I’ve had elsewhere.
Loving the kindergarten chairs….
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a church on Nha Tho Street in the Hoàn Kiếm District of Hanoi – Will declined to pop in for a quick word…..
So the verdict on Hanoi ten years on – in fact, we feel that not much has changed. It feels a bit busier, more people, more traffic but essentially the same. A wonderful, exciting, easy place to be and we won’t be leaving it another 10 years to revisit. With several empty suitcases. Have I mentioned the shopping???
So much to do here and we highly recommend a visit. Allow your selves at least a week – I’ve hardly scratched the surface.