We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam quite late in the evening, and things were not quite going according to plan. We couldn’t get money out of any ATMs at the airport, but luckily we’d had a few Thai Baht left that we could exchange.
But troubles continued when we got to our hotel. We were fed a lovely story (with a smile) about being unable to let us stay in the room that night, because the aircon wasn’t working … and it would be unbearably hot to sleep. The latter I believe, but the earlier reasoning for the room availability was less credible, as the room was mysteriously ready first thing the next morning again. But it meant we had to spend the night in a nearby hotel.
And it is amazing how, when you’re hot, tired and sweaty, you’re just less tolerant! So things like the broken shower, flat batteries in the aircon remote, incorrect check-out date, unavailability of a double bed room, incorrect breakfast served, safe not working correctly, lack of instructions in the room, wrong wifi password given etc etc. really irked us! In their defence, they are friendly and did try to rectify most of the above within 24 hours.
One of the priorities after checking in, was finding somewhere showing the football. Tim is a Brighton supporter and the first Brighton vs Manchester City match, opening match of the season, was an important one not to miss! We found a little bar/coffee shop showing the game (at 11.30 pm!), ordered a beer and settled down to watch. 15 minutes later, there was a power cut!
Not only did the TV (and game) go off, but so did the big fans. Within about 5 mins the little 3m x 3m room turned into a sauna. Add to this the fact that 50% of all Vietnamese men smoke, and they smoke everywhere. It was so hot. But imagine someone smoking in your sauna – that soon became unbearable, as I was unable to breathe. We tried to stick it out a few more minutes, but eventually gave up. It didn’t seem like the power was going to return.
First full day in Hanoi, we were wowed by the sights. Especially the scooter scenes: Granny on a scooter, family on a scooter, anything and everything being transported on a scooter, german shepherd on a scooter (obviously not driving himself!), bookseller selling books from his scooter, fruit seller on a scooter, scooter “delivery van”, scooter drivers texting whilst driving (common), but one scooter driver was busy watching a video on his phone whilst driving!
And walking through the Hanoi Old Town is an experience in itself. At first I thought we would surely get run over. Road one ways are disregarded, traffic lights are ignored. People, bicycles, small vans, cars and many, many, many scooters compete for the narrow road space. Scooters are parked on the pavements, people sit chatting, eating, sleeping on the bit of space left between the shop fronts and scooter parking area. This means you have to walk in the street … in single file! But you need eyes in the back of your head as traffic comes from everywhere. Almost no adjustment is necessary for the ‘driving on the right’ thing, because they don’t just drive on the right. They drive anywhere, anytime. But if I compared it to the Bangkok streets where crossing the streets were a nightmare, at least the traffic moves relatively slowly in the Hanoi Old Town, giving you a fighting chance to get across. Another option is: just walk, and hope! They will try to avoid you too.
Hanoi in August is hot. Very hot! Don’t be fooled by the thermometer: 33C looks ok – similar to South African or typical European summers. But it’s the humidity that kills you. Add the 80%+ humidity, and it feels more like 45C+. And in the Old Town, it feels even hotter as the air can’t move. Few places have aircon, so you need to find a spot near a fan, otherwise the car/motorbike fumes combined with the heat, is unbearable. My allergies are really playing up due to the bad air quality. I am struggling to breathe a lot of the time, chest is sore, sinuses bunged up, and generally felling a little below par. But even Tim, who doesn’t suffer allergies, is finding the weather tiring, draining and exhausting.
Also Read: Random Hong Kong facts
It’s day 3 (second full day), and we’re already looking for options where we can get away from the constant noise and heat. We took an Uber to another part of town, to spend some time in Highlands Coffee, lured by full adult chairs, free wifi, peace and quiet and air-conditioning. We achieved 2 out of 4. We have the full seats and wifi, but aircon isn’t working properly and it is incredibly noisy. Sounds like a kids playground at break-time! But, we can cope.