First Stop in Vietnam, Hanoi!

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When we walked out of the Hanoi airport I was amazed, not because of the view but because I was actually here. I ran into a little issue in the Hong Kong airport with my Vietnam visa. I thought I was so prepared; I had the two copies of my passport photo, two copies of the entrance forms, my printed visa form, and $45 US dollars. I had it neatly in a folder and was ready to go. We go up to the Vietnam kiosk and hand over our visa letters with our passports. We stood there talking about getting bloody Mary’s while we waited if we could find a place that had them since we were early and then the lady put a paper back on the counter and said this person cannot go till tomorrow. I looked down positive it couldn’t be mine and of course it was. I was so confused. She started pointing at the date. It said November 26th and it in fact was the 24th. Shit. I must have been looking at the second flight we were going to take on the 26yh. The agent started talking about going to the embassy and changing my flight and how I can get there in two days. My face glazed over as I started seeing Hanoi disappear, Halong Bay disappear, and wasted money. Becky said don’t panic but that is exactly what I started to do. I stepped out of line and sat maybe three feet from the agent on the groud and dumped all my stuff out. You know that person you see in the airport looking distraught who you feel bad for because clearly something is goign really wrong? That was me. I went back to the visa website and saw I could buy a four hour visa so I did that first but that wasn’t ideal because I would miss my flight. I then emailed the people who sent my first wrong visa. Luckily they responded. I could get the dates changed in an hour for an additiaonl $85. Done! I agreed and made the payment. We had 1 hour and 15 minutes till check in closed at 2:30 pm. I got the visa emailed to me at 2:15 and was able to check in. If we needed a drink before we really needed a Bloody Mary after that.

-The infamous power lines of Hanoi.-

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Back to the real subject of this post Hanoi. I was happy there. I loved it. I was amazed by the culture and people. It was so different than other places I had been and I wanted to see more and know more about Vietnam with each thing I learned. One of my favorite parts was that they use the sidewalks as restaurant and bar space and the seats and tables are plastic. You know those small stools you would use for toddlers to be able to reach the bathroom sink? Those are the seats they would put out for you to sit and have a beer or tea and sunflower seeds. Hundreds of people would be sitting there. And if you think they are at full occupancy they would just pull out another stool. Same with the restaurants. You want a table? They would pull out a plastic table off of the stack and then put the stools down for you to sit on. If there was a place for them to put a sign on the wall or sit that could be a restaurant. People would even have pop up places, that is what I’m calling them, where they just had a portable burner and would just sit down and people would come to be served. That was the kitchen. It was seriously so cool to see.

Another thing we quickly noticed was that there were barely any street lights. In the downtown Hanoi where we did all our street crossing there were none. Cars are very expensive and most of the families cannot afford them so they all ride scooters. This means hundreds of scooters carrying thousands of people, sometimes four at a time, through the streets. This made for the scariest time crossing the street. Imagine screaming, lots of waiting, and being petrified. On our way out one night we met two guys from our hostel who were actually from Denver as well, small world, and they taught us the trick to cross the street. You look at them and walk consistently right into traffic. Sounds like a trick but it works. They just go around you. If you “frog hop” they might hit you.

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The French influence was very apparent in the food from the pho to the bahn mi which makes sense because they were French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. Our first night we went to Porte d’Annam for dinner and had amazing spring roll apps and pho. I learned that the pho is different based on whether you get it from northern or southern Vietnam. The pho we had in Hanoi was beef and pork. The second night we had street food. I can’t tell you exaclty what we had becuase no matter what I pointed to and asked for they served me what they wanted and however much they wanted. They gave us a bowl of sauce, plate of fresh greens like cilantro and sprouts, and then a plate of fried spring rolls and dumplings; I think.

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We also went out in Hanoi which was really fun. We went to Hair of the Dog, Base, and Light House.  The first two are easy to get to from probably whatever hostel you are staying at by walking (we stayed at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- The Original). They are only open till 12:30 though so the Lighthouse is a club that is open late into the morning hours. This is the diviest club I have ever been to. Dirt floors and just not much to it at all besides walls, but it was awesome! This club attracted the typical backpackers; English, Australian, and Irish. I spent a good portion of the night talking to an Irish guy about marriage to gain citizenship. It is that type of place. Like I said before I loved it.

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-Pictures from our walking tour-

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After our walking tour our guide took us to get Vietnamese coffee on a roof top cafe. This was an egg cream coffee so the it had whipped egg whites in it.

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We had a 7 pm flight from Hanoi to Hoi An. I had the best bahn mi sandwich that cost $1 and we finally got our Bloody Marys.

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