A colorful, fascinating semester has come to an end.
On the last Friday before break, this was me:
Saturday, 3am, we were in the customs line. Destination – VIETNAM!
Once in Vietnam we, as Americans were hit with the hefty visa fee of $125– yikes, this was foreshadowing on the next 7 days to come, more on that later.
Wallets lighter, onto making our way to Hanoi City.
Once in the lobby of the airport, we were barraged from every travel agent stand, all selling the same tours, transportation ,etc. We weeded our way through until we found one we liked (one that wasn’t trying to auction off services).
We asked an agent how much a cab to the city was – $17.
We researched beforehand (ok, on the spot; Vietnam has 8G wifi for 7 days for $9! It worked great and came in oh so handy for situations like this!) and saw there was a public bus from the airpot to Hanoi.
We asked the Agent how much the bus was – $17 and took two hours…?
That didn’t seem right, things weren’t adding up (pun intended).
We could smell things were getting fishy and decided to move on to the next
sleazy and dishonest Travel Agents.
While getting our amazing, fabulous, SIM cards, we started talking to the SIM Card Technician, who informed us that the Bus (Bus #86) in question was actually $1.50 and didn’t take 2 hours.
We found the Bus, $1.35 and 45 minutes later, we were in Hanoi (We liked the SIM Card Tech’s lies much better than the Travel Agents!).
Bus 86 is a brand new bus route that runs from Hanoi Airport to Hanoi Train Station and a few stops in between, it runs very frequently and we were thrilled to find it and so glad we didn’t fall to the clutches to dishonest Travel Agents trying to take advantage of us farangs! (For this instance, anyway).
How to Find it?
From Hanoi Airport:
Literally walk outside, make a left, and walk towards where are the buses are, its orange and you can’t miss it.
From Hanoi Train Station:
Walk outside and make a right, theres an orange kiosk/stand, again, can’t be missed. Pay the tenant $1.35 and hop on!
OK, enough about the beloved bus!
We dropped our backpacks off at Hanoi Train Station
(We had a train to catch to Sapa there that evening) and then headed to get a bowl of Vietnam’s national dish: PHO!
Prior to our arrival I researched a few Pho places that were recommended, we narrowed it down one and when were arrived- IT.WAS.CLOSED. Heart = Sunk.
A shop owner must’ve heard our hearts fall to the dirty pavement and came out and informed us there was another Pho Restaurant just a few storefronts down the street.
The Pho Shop had two choices; Small & Big. We went with two smalls (we had to save room for beer later).
The noodles were perfectly soft, immeshed in a chicken broth that warmed your soul.
POST Pho; exploring the Hanoi!
The streets on Hanoi have held onto their French influence; walking the streets were often very reminiscent of New Orleans.The worn, faded stucco buildings were the entranceways into a myriad of vein-like alleyways; pulsing with “businesses”, shoe shines, bah mi stands, laundry facilities all congested together wherever there was space available.
We made our way to the Vietnam Military Museum.
We explored the memorials and many of the tanks, airplanes and weapons used during the “American War” (in Vietnam, the war is referred to the “American War”).
Riding the overnight train was, interesting.
Its rather loud and always shaking, I tried to fall asleep on my stomach at one point, but my ass kept jiggling.
Although it was difficult to sleep, it was a neat experience that I’m glad I got to do, and one I don’t necessarily have to do again :).
So anyway, onto Sapa.
We arrived early in the morning (6am) and were met by cool crisp air and fog.
Sapa is a charming little mountain town filled with a bunch of harassing locals that want to see you ANYTHING
After breakfast and saying goodbye to our new friend, we decided to go on a trek into Sapa and visit a local village.
The trek went down into the valleys near Sapa in a town called Ta Van. Nothing but rolling hills and rice patties.
We made our way to the village, got a lesson on the making of their local crafts.
Beautiful intricate batiks.
The views were amazingly beautiful…
That night we spent the night in a homestay in Ta Van.
The next morning , we decided to rent motorbikes and explore beautiful Sapa and Cat Cat; a nearby National Park.
Of course, our Motorbikes were crap; speedometer not working, missing rearview mirror and the lights on mine were a no go. The Fog was coming in heavy by the end of the day so I whipped out my flashlight so trucks/cars could have a better chance seeing me.
A flashlight is a imperative to a traveler- do NOT leave home without it!
Through the cold, rain, and fog, we made it to Cat Cat:
Views? Worth it.
Stay Tuned, coming up: Halong Bay, Hai Van Pass, getting my eyebrows waxed on the street and Japan!