Vietnam had been on my travel radar for a few years yet why I never made it there until I did I still don’t know. I even did a two week summer holiday to Laos and Cambodia before Vietnam. And I have been to EVERY country that borders Vietnam (Thailand, China, Cambodia and Laos), plus 5 other nearby countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Macao). In the end it was more a case of going there on a short trip as I had 5 days off work, rather than a saving the best till last thing. Anyway you look at it, I was very excited about heading to Vietnam.
There was a Typhoon in Hong Kong at the time, and I finished work around 12.45 pm.I was working in a Primary School at Shek Kip Mei, a few photos above including with Miss Yo Yo my assistant teacher. I came home, got packed and changed and headed on my regular usual airport trip.
I got the MTR to Tung Chung.
I got the bus from Tung Chung to Hong Kong International Airport.
I had got my visa at the Vietnamese Embassy in Hong Kong the week before – it was a surprisingly simple and easy process.
I got to the airport and checked in easily enough, on a day of raging typhoons, I noticed that most of the flights were delayed or cancelled. There was no information on my flight yet, so through my travel experience I assumed it was also delayed! It was time for a beer. The airport bar does Murphys on tap so I went for one of those and took advantage of the free wi-fi – I took my laptop on this trip.
Enjoying my pint of Murphys with my visa, ready for Vietnam!
Airport check in for my flight – I was flying with Hong Kong Airlines for the first time.
View from Hong Kong Airport taken from Terminal 1.
My flight ticket. Boarding time estimated at 5.20. I was through security and immigration an hour or so before that.
I noticed the earlier flight to Hanoi was delayed, this came on the screen in the bar. But still no update on mine. Then when I turned up at the gate, it was boarding!
The bar at Hong Kong Airport – Cafe Deco.
The good news! My flight was boarding and was on Final Call. While only one other flight in a 40 minute radius was boarding. A lot of flights were cancelled and delayed due to the typhoon. I was lucky.
A bus from the gate to the aeroplane.
The Hong Kong Airlines plane.
Hong Kong Airlines is a budget airline but they still offer free food. We took off only about 10 minutes late. I was sat beside an annoying posh English couple. One of them complained about the food! The other refused to take a free cup of tea. I felt like taking it myself as I love aeroplane food and drink. I don’t know if it’s the actual product I love or the fact I know I’m travelling when consuming it. It was a ham and cheese roll, a water and a cup of tea!
They also brought along a Happy Fortune Cookie.
In Chinese – and my lucky number 22. Flight on time, lucky number, this was already a good trip. The meaning of the Fortune Cookie message was enjoy a candlelit dinner.
I was a millionaire for a few days. This is 2 million Dong – 2,000,000 in 100,000 Dong notes. Worth about 200 US Dollars possibly.
They even had a Business Class Only section. Much too poncey and posh for me. I have been in First Class only twice and milked the free food and don’t mind it now and then but generally it’s just not my thing. In fact the moaning couple to my left on this flight reminded me of two posh English idiots who should have gone Business Class. I find the people in Economy Class must better craic, easier to talk to and best of all they don’t moan.
Night time arrival in Hanoi! The capital city of Vietnam!
I got through immigration quickly, grabbed my bag (despite firstly going to completely the wrong conveyor belt) and it was “Good Evening Vietnam!”
Hanoi International Airport.
I wanted a cheap route to town where I had booked one night in the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel.This bus was 20,000 Dong, so about $1 US Dollar but I’d have to wait until it filled up first! There were NO other foreigners about. I couldn’t believe it and I thought Vietnam was going to be touristy and heaving with travellers!
The weather from the typhoon had made its way to Hanoi as well as I enjoyed the heavy rain pouncing down on the road by the airport.
I then began to check out the minibus options to get to the city centre, as I hate taxis and especially hate the drivers who try to convince you to take their taxi. A minibus would be quicker and just an extra 20,000 Dong ($1 US Dollar more) and there were a few locals waiting.
The minibus – within 20 minutes it was almost full – I think it fitted about 9 people, 2 of them at this point were foreigners – a French couple. I told the driver I was heading for the Old City.
Back seat, travelling again, happy, ready for the Hanoi adventure.
We left the airport a few minutes later and I was joined by a South African lady who sat next to me. Her name is Theresa and she is from Johannesburg.
Theresa was staying in a hotel in central Hanoi – also in the Old City and I enjoyed chatting to her. She had unfortunately missed her flight, as she was on a connection. Her flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi had been delayed, meaning she couldn’t make her flight back to Johannesburg (via Doha). I felt for her as I knew how that feels, having had the same types of situation many times on my travels. The bus journey was dark and wet so we couldn’t really enjoy Hanoi by night, but it was chatting to Theresa that made me happy. Again this is one of the reasons I hate hotels, taxis and first class sections. As you generally meet less people when you travel and you definitely meet less interesting people. On local buses, dingy local transport, cheap transport options (this minibus was $2 US Dollars, a taxi would have been about $20), in hostels and in economy class you always meet more interesting and friendlier people.
Hanoi by night from the minibus. The oddest thing was I saw hardly any motorbikes or scooters. I was shocked and a bit upset. Everyone I had met before had told me that Vietnam was crazy for motorbikes. Having been in places like Shinying, Tainan and Jakarta I expected no buses or cars here, and 90% motorbikes/scooters. How wrong those people were! It was more like 90% buses and cars and 10% motorbikes. However we made it to the Old City and we had stopped sporadically on the way in to let various local people out. We stopped at Quang Trung and the driver signalled me to get out here, or for an extra $1 US Dollar could take me straight to the hostel. It was already about 8.30 pm, so I went for the speed option, gave him an extra $1 US Dollar (my minibus then cost me about $3 US Dollars) and within minutes he dropped me on a street corner. The corner between Ngo Huyen and Ly Quoc Su.
I could tell it was close to the hostel – it just looked and felt like a “backpackers area” and I was shocked to find that Ngo Huyen, the street I’m staying on is just full of hostels and tour agencies! So this is where all the tourists are.
3 minute walk and I had checked into the wonderful Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. Time to dump the bags, maybe shower and change and have a beer.
I was on the third floor in an 8 bed dorm. The room was called Flip Flop and I was in Bed 60.The toilet room doubled up as the shower as most places in Asia do.
My bed is the top bunk in the corner. They had lockers too. Almost immediately I met two of the others in my room – a Korean guy called Daeuk and a Japanese lady called Hiro. They were very friendly, talkative and welcoming and we bonded quickly. I asked if they fancied a beer in the hostel bar as it closed at 9.30 pm and they said “yes”! I quickly put my stuff away and went downstairs to the bar. It must have been around 9pm and I had happened to notice that the hostel bar closed at 9.30 pm.
One of the amazing things about travel is sampling the beers from each different city, country or region. My first night in Vietnam was great because I was able to quickly try three new beers. I started with the cheapest one, Halida and ordered it in the hostel bar. It was 25,000 Dong, just over $1 US Dollar. Cheap as it is – but even this beer would be dear for Vietnam. Hostels and hotel bars are always a wee bit dearer.
First beer in Vietnam – a Halida. If I was marking on beer quality – 6/10. If I was marking on how happy I was it would be a 9/10. Hiro took this photo and the three of us were the only ones in the bar just drinking and talking away.
I bought another beer just before last orders – Biere Larue. It was a bigger bottle and 30,000 Dong. Great photo above of the three of us in the bar, taken by the bar staff. Bad weather had meant that neither Hiro or Daeuk could do the tour of Ha Long Bay that they had wanted, and they both had only another day left in Hanoi. But Hiro had booked herself on the next morning early 7am departure to Ha Long Bay so she decided on an early night, while Daeuk and I fancied chatting and drinking cheap beer at a local restaurant for a while longer. In the meantime I also met Jack from Melbourne at the bar – I would meet him again the following night and watch some Aussie Rules with him.
In Hanoi at night there is a place called Bia Hoi Corner. You can just sit and drink there all night. Bia Hoi is the word for beer. This wasn’t the actual Bia Hoi corner, but a stand alone restaurant on the street called Phu Doan.
Cheers with my new Korean buddy Daeuk – another new beer.
This beer was called Hanoi Beer. Oddly written in English – probably aimed at the tourist market I’d have thought. I tried almost 10 new types of beer in Vietnam. This was the cheapest one, but ultimately the worst. I didn’t have a care in the world. This was as refreshing and relaxing as life could ever get. We ordered a beer each at the start but you basically share them and drink from a glass, similar to the way I drank with Neil in Taiwan in 2009. I’m used to this sort of custom when I travel and I like it. Though I still prefer my own culture and the “buy your own, drink your own” philosophy.
There was another restaurant across the road doing exactly the same thing as we were doing – drinking under shelter from the rain.
This was the wee restaurant we drank in. I had eaten lunch before I left the flat and food on the flight so as usual wasn’t hungry. The beer was good enough! Restaurant name – Chuyen Sua Chua.
Enjoying my first bottle of Hanoi Beer.
It was a hot hot night, and the beer goes hot rather quickly so they bring you bowls of ice to put in your beer – this waters the flavour down sure, but also keeps them cold. You also need to be careful of drinking ice on your travels. I didn’t trust it in South America. Though in parts of Taiwan I had done. Here in Vietnam I trusted it in Hanoi only. Since it was the capital, capital cities are generally alright. The clear friendliness and hospitality of the Vietnamese was so evident already on the first night.
The hot food stand at our wee restaurant was busy. They offered us a few times but we declined. Once we had finished one beer, they simply bring more over, there is a trust that foreigners will pay for their drinks, so you don’t pay a penny until you leave.
We sank a fair few more and relaxed. Daeuk was on his way back to Korea after a few years of travelling and working. I enjoyed his stories and he had some good ones to tell. He spent some time living in Spain in a remote area. So he could speak Spanish, English and Japanese. For starters! On his journey he had also been living in France for a while. And he had even visited a few Arab and Middle East countries on his way back across to Asia. This was fascinating. Panny and I plan to go to the Middle East at some point (she has been to UAE before, while a night in Doha and a stopover in Dubai are as far as my Middle East ventures have stretched to date!). Morrocco, Syria, Tibet and India were just a few of the places that Daeuk had been recently.
The chat continued ansd we made plans to do some sightseeing the following day. He had already been round Hanoi a bit, but I mentioned the Hoa Lo Prison and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Palace so we both agreed to have an early night and get up rise and shine to do that. If Hiro’s trip to Ha Long Bay was cancelled again, it was expected she would join us too.
A few more photos of an incredible welcome to Vietnam. I was loving it!
From – Work at Shek Kip Mei, HONG KONG
To – Bia Hoi, Phu Doan, Old City, Hanoi, VIETNAM
Via – Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong Airport, Hanoi Airport, Hanoi Backpackers Hostel
Transport Used – Hong Kong MTR, Tung Chung Bus, Airport Bus, Aeroplane, Vietnam Airport Minibus
Nationalities Met – Hong Kongers, South Africans, English, Australians, Vietnamese, South Korean, Japanese.
Strange Currencies – Hong Kong Dollars, Vietnamese Dong
Bars Visited – Cafe Deco, The Back Barat Hanoi Backapckers, Chuyen Sua Chua Restaurant
Beers Tried – Murphys, Halida, Biere Larue, Hanoi Beer
New friends – Daeuk and Hiro
Where I Stayed – Hanoi Backpackers Hostel http://www.vietnambackpackerhostels.com/
Key Song –
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – BY THE WAY (I just like it):
Key Film –
There are many, and most of them based on the American War in Vietnam, but this one sticks in the memory most:
GOOD MORNING VIETNAM TRAILER:
My Videos –
ARRIVAL AT HANOI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:
GETTING A MINIBUS FROM HANOI AIRPORT:
THINKING OF GETTING A BUS FROM HANOI AIRPORT:
MINIBUS FROM HANOI AIRPORT TO OLD CITY:
MY DORM – FLIP FLOP IN HANOI BACKPACKERS HOSTEL:
TORRENTIAL RAIN AND BEERS WITH DAEUK IN HANOI, VIETNAM:
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