We really wanted to like Hanoi. Really. And we did for a while. But then it just got so hard. By the time we left today, we were fuming.
|Me on Hammond's Minsk!|
Day one in the city was actually pretty cool. Here's what happened:
Ricky got to drive through the Hanoi traffic for about half an hour, while I was on a bike with another man.
Ricky and I were in a 3 person motorbike sandwich (Driver, me, Ricky).
I sat on Richard Hammond’s pink Minsk from the Top Gear Vietnam Special episode.
|Here's a pic that was hanging up outside the bike shop. Richard Hammond has one arm on the red thing (actually a model ship) behind the pink bike.|
|Ricky in the jeep we got to "roll" in.|
We rode down the crowded streets of Hanoi in a Wilson jeep.
We took a stroll around the lake.
We saw a show at the Water Puppet Theater.
|The Lake in the Old Quarter.|
Day two was no disappointment either:
We picked up our bikes.
I learned to ride mine.
The next day was a big sight-seeing day.
We saw B-52 in a lake.
|The B-52, still in the lake.|
Got to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum,a few minutes before they closed for lunch, but it was kind of disappointing anyway, so we didn’t mind.
|Ho Chi Minh sees everything.|
Got some lunch.
Paid for "free" parking
Went to prison (Now a museum), and saw John McCain's Pilot uniform, along with a French guillotine.
Saw a strange temple where photo shoots were going on.
Saw an embalmed 250 kg turtle found in the lake in 1965.
|That could make a lot of soup.|
|One of the lovely models.|
Now, here’s where it gets bad. See, throughout the first three days, we’d been having problems with food. We had some gross pig-foot noodle soup, when we actually ordered something different, and some pitiful portions of other foods. At every turn we were overcharged, even after asking the price before ordering. One night Ricky got me a few donut-type things these ladies sell in baskets on the street. For just a few of them (they are small and round) the woman wanted 150,000 dong, which is about $7.50. He got her down to 20,000 dong ($1) but was irritated that she would even ask for so much.
We started getting the feeling that all the scams we had heard about were very very real.
So the next day (yesterday) we drove over to the Temple of Literature, which wasn’t actually all that interesting, except for that there were a bunch of high school graduates in their caps and gowns taking lots of pictures. We had parked the bikes a ways back. As we locked up the bikes with our chains and padlocks (we’re taking no chances) people across the street laughed. Oh well, we thought.
Soon, though, we decided to head back, because we were concerned about the safety of our rides. As we walked up, Ricky saw a couple of men looking at us and laughing, and one was sitting on Ricky’s bike. He walked across the street as we walked up. We unlocked, pulled out, and were getting ready to go, but Ricky’s bike wouldn’t move. His accelerator cable was missing. I looked across the street and saw that there was a repair shop, where all the laughing men were. So, what happened was that those guys broke Ricky’s bike so that we would have to go across the road for them to fix it. And everyone on our side of the street was pointing for us to go over there.
Well, we most certainly weren’t going to do that. Instead, Ricky pushed his bike to the shop where we bought mine to have the guy fix it. I rode on ahead and was going to meet him there, except I was angry and stressed and it was rush hour (but then, what hour isn’t rush hour in Hanoi?) and I got lost in the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. One way streets, stop lights everyone ignores, and oh the honking! I was so tense by the time I finally reached our hotel and found out that Ricky had already left the shop with his repaired bike.
We pretty much just gave up on Hanoi then. Luckily we were leaving the next day.
So today we got packed up and Ricky went to pay, and the guy at reception kept saying we owed him 3 nights’ money, not 2, when in fact we had already paid for all but the last 2 nights. He demanded a receipt, because apparently they don’t keep any records there. Fortunately, we hadn’t thrown it away, but he still didn’t believe us. Ricky just handed him the money we owed and walked out.
Then we realized that they still had our keys for locking up our bikes (they bring the bikes inside at night), so I had to go in and ask for them. A woman looked for them while the man berated me for us being “bad people! You are not good people! I never see bad people like you! First time!” I just said ok and left. As we were tying our bags on the bikes he came out and loitered around, swearing at us and telling us he hopes we die on the road today, because, you know, professionalism.
We didn’t die on the road today, but we did get blatantly overcharged for two meals. But the drive is a different story.
So, I guess our opinion of Vietnam is up in the air right now. Our initial impression was that it was a fun and interesting place, but now all we see are the dollar signs lighting up in everyone’s eyes as we pass, even more so than in other places we’ve been. We’re fairly committed, with the bikes and visa and all, so we’ll just have to see how things go.