Friday, November 28th, 2003 – Day 283 to Saturday, November 29th, 2003 – Day 284

Friday, November 28th, 2003 – Day 283

I was up at 9.00a, and but decided to take advantage of the nice room which I have but have used so little. I watched Chris Farley in Black Sheep. Its a funny comedy and I did not know he committed suicide in 1997 (he was 33).

Anyway after a good shower etc., I finally starting packing my bags at 11.45am. When I was packing my day pack where I keep my passport, I could not find the money belt. It has little money in it (some Hong Kong Dollars) but has my International vaccination Certificate. It has some business cards and photos as well. I did not want it missing. I looked high and low, and though one of the cleaners had nicked it.

I went down to reception and explained. I did not lose the head but asked she look into it. I headed down to Sinh Cafe to get the telephone number of the hotel in Hoi An I stayed in, but I was 95% positive, I had it in this town as well. Anyway, I rang them and they had seen no sign of it so I headed back and went through my bags again. I found it at the bottom of big back pack underneath some laundry I did at the last hotel. Relief. It took nearly two hours of stress. I It was now 1.30pm. My bus was at 5.30pm. Off to Hanoi I go.

It collected us on time but it was not a Sinh Cafe bus. As there were only 5 tourists we were passed onto some other company. Within an hour, the bus was full of locals. It was noisy and stuffy. The journey was OK but I did not get any sleep.

Saturday, November 29th, 2003 – Day 284

We arrived at 6.00am and it was cold. We were dropped off on the middle of no where and there were many touts about. I decided to walk to my chosen hotel but I did not feel comfortable in the he dark. I hailed a moto taxi and off we went. He got totally lost and it took 25 minutes to get there. The hotel was OK and had an OK room for 10 USD. I decided to drop down and book into a 6 USD a night hostel 20 minutes away. It was 7.00am when I got there. I decided to rest and it was 11.00am before I woke.

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, ranks among the world’s most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in 1010, and though the nation’s capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam’s capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years marvelously preserved.

Hanoi has a reputation, doubtless accrued from the American war years, as a dour northern political outpost. While the city is certainly smaller, slower, and far less developed than chaotic Saigon, and there are some vestiges of Soviet-influenced concrete monolith architecture, there are some beautiful, quiet streets and neighborhoods in Hanoi, and such placid air gives it a gracious, almost regal flavor. It is set amid dozens of lakes of various sizes, around which you can usually find a cafe, a pagoda or two, and absorbing vignettes of street life.

At 11.00am I decided to walk around the cities old quarter.

Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem Lake

The Old Quarter evolved from workshop villages clustered by trades, or guilds, in the early 13th century. It’s now an area of narrow, ancient, winding streets, each named for the trade it formerly featured. Even today, streets tend to be for either silk, silver, or antiques. It’s a fascinating slice of centuries-old life in Hanoi, including markets that are so pleasantly crowded that the street itself narrows to a few feet. Hoan Kiem is considered the center of the city. It is also known as the Lake of the Recovered Sword. In the mid-15th century, the gods gave emperor Le Thai To a magical sword to defeat Chinese invaders. While the emperor was boating on the lake one day, a giant tortoise reared up and snatched the sword, returning it to its rightful owners and ushering peace into the kingdom. Stroll around the lake in the early morning or evening to savor local life among the willow trees and see elders playing chess or doing tai chi. In the center of the lake is the Tortoise Pagoda; on the northern part is Ngoc Son pagoda, reachable only by the Bridge of the Rising Sun and open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Women Work Hard here. Carring a cart during rush hour. (29-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Old Quarter Shop. (29-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Statue. (29-11-2003)

I was wearing my Irish Rugby Jersey and I was stopped by a chap in the street from Clonmel. After a while talking, we decided to meet for a few drinks that night. He was spending 3 weeks in Vietnam after spending a year in New Zealand (a place he said he was glad to leave).

I walked around and got totally lost on the outskirts of the city. I was well lost and had to get a moto taxi back in. I met rob at 9.00pm in the Funky Monkey.

Funky Monkey (tel. 04/928-6113) has music, pool tables, pizzas, and a cool black-light menu.

We had a good time and a good few drinks. He told me of his first day in the city. He had been ripped out nearly a dozen times. He was over charged from the airport into town. They delivered him to a hotel that charged 18 USD per night for a shabby room (normal prices are between 7-12 USD), he used moto taxis which charged 2 USD (normal price is .50 cent). Worse of all he went to a club last night called Apocalypse Now.

Its a down and dirty joint with black walls, a thatched-roof bar, and lights with “blood” streaks on them. Everybody comes — backpackers, locals, expats — and it’s all somehow great fun. Plus, it’s open later than practically any bar in Hanoi, until 4am or so — this is definitely an “end of the night” place. While they don’t serve food, they do serve up great music and beer for US$1. There’s a pool table and a small dance floor as well.

He met a local girl and they went back to his hotel. Its well known that 99% of Vietnamese hotels will not allow guests especially Vietnamese ones. They had to book into a hotel for 40 USD. In the morning she asked for taxi money. Fine, says the Clonmel man. How much!! 300 USD she says. The boyo from clonmel was shocked and finally bargained her down to 35 USD after cashing some travelers cheques.

Anyway we went to another place called Monicas until 4.00am, when I had to call it a night. I was wrecked!! We met five Irish girls. We thought when they came into the Pub they were an English hen party such was there dress. We spoke to them and it turnrd out they were from Dublin. They were on da way to da beachesss in Thailand. no offense, but it was like they were transported directly from inner city Dublin to here. Everything was . do ya know what I mean. The accents were panomine.