Arriving in Hanoi on Friday 22nd December at 5.00am (!), I disembarked from the sleeper train from Lao Cai after a fairly good night’s sleep. My “co-kupé-ettes” (probably not a word, but it should be) were not a party crowd, consisting of a young brother and sister (well, mid-20s is young to me now) and a couple of middle-aged guys, so we were lights out well before 11.00pm.Walking across the tracks, I decided to hang around the station for a couple of hours as I wasn’t sure when the hostel opened, although I needn’t have worried; I just didn’t fancy sitting on the pavement, in the dark early morning in Hanoi.
After checking in and then checking out the dorm and a quick shower, it was time for me to concentrate on the number one priority…to try and hunt down a replacement charger for the laptop. After a trawl of the internet, I found four possible addresses but it eventually took almost 5 hours of walking, talking, taxis and waiting until I found the only place that could supply a new charger, which was the good news, but the bad news was that it wouldn't be here until Monday; I had to hope that they had understood all correctly as the shop staff’s English was only marginally better than my Vietnamese!
As most of the day had gone already, I thought that the time was ripe to relinquish the mad professor haircut that I had been cultivating for the last 20 weeks and take a chance on a Hanoiian Hanoiese Hanoiette a barber’s shop in Hanoi. You will see the result of the work in the photos.
Given that I had to be in Hanoi until Monday, I decided to arrange the trip to Halong Bay. This is one of the top tourist attractions in Vietnam (which I had been advised was a “must see”) and there were loads of tour operators to choose from. However, as it was heading towards New Year, a good deal of the tours were full (or so we were told) but I managed to find a place on a mid-range tour through the hostel. The trip would start at 08.30 the next day, but there was still time to have a wander around the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Hanoi is a ridiculously busy town, with bicycles, motorbikes, scooters and mopeds being the preferred form of transport. When you sit and watch the unchoreographed movements of all the vehicles at junctions, with no apparent rules or right of way, you just wonder how it all happens, but work it seems to. Fortunately, my new found skill set in road crossing, which was started in Russia, honed in Mongolia and perfected in China, proved to be very useful.
After wandering around the old quarter (which is, obviously, code for getting hopelessly lost) I finally found a nice restaurant in which to sample some Hanoi fare; not too bad at all. The journey home was a tad complicated, and I had to ask directions a couple of times but it would have helped if those I asked could have read maps! The journey back to the hostel was further delayed by the numerous offers of a motorbike, then marijuana, women and boys in that order…all politely refused, of course!