I always fancied visiting Vietnam. I don't know why. Maybe because of all Vietnam war movies I have watched... Or because it sounds very mystical and so oriental. I always wanted to feel the heat, wet air on my skin, witness hectic life in the major cities and calmness of villages.
This year my dream comes true!
We have bought tickets to Hanoi! Old Skyscanner came handy again.
As for the last couple of years, at the end of summer holidays, together with Joanna we sit down and plan our winter adventure.
We open Skyscanner, choose FROM UK and destination EVERYWHERE, and then we search. This way we have already backpacked South of India, Morocco (twice), Tenerife. Vietnam this year, for 5 weeks!
Our trip starts at 10 am on Monday, 9th December at Edinburgh's train station. We go to London, then metro to Heathrow. From there we supposed to catch a flight to Paris, spend a night in a hotel, catch a morning flight to China and eventually get to Hanoi by 11.55pm on Wednesday 11th December.
Long trip, we could probably make it easier, but it would be far more expensive, and after all we trusted Skyscanner!
So this was our plan... But when you travel, especially backpacking, things can change very quickly.
It has turned out that Air France has oversold tickets and there is no space for us on the plane to Paris. Slightly shocked we have been ask to sit down and stay calm.
After long, stressful wait great news!
Air France has managed to get us on a straight flight to China, no connection through Paris, much less hassle and what's best we will be in Hanoi 24h faster!
We are informed that our new flight leaves in 2h so we can chill out in the bar area using vouchers provided. We also getting a small compensation for all trouble caused. 250 pounds per head pays for half of our travel expenses! Missing the flight is not a bad thing after all.
Plane lands in Hanoi at 11.50pm. It takes us more than an hour to sort out a visa on arrival, collect the luggage, etc. We are getting pick up by the hotel's car, and we are arriving at Bluebell Hotel slightly before 2 am.
12 dollars per night hotel turns out to be really nice. Clean, big room with en suite shower. The bed is a little bit too hard, but hey, apparently it is excellent for your back!
We sleep till 3 pm and next few days we spend on strolling along busy streets of Vietnamese capital, getting lost, eating delicious street food and fighting off jet lag with wakes us up each day at four in the morning. Did I mentioned church bells with goes off every 15min all night and crazy, loudest ever chicken?!
After 3 days in Hanoi, we decide to move on. We are booking 2 days trip to Halong Bay, one of 7 new wonders of the natural world. 3h in the bus, then aboard Chinese junk which takes us to the bay. We visit a beautiful cave, climb 500 steps to the spot place, and we stay overnight on the board. Rooms are ok, food could be better. We are a little disappointed... There are far too many tourists around, literally couple of dozens fully loaded ships leave the port every hour. We are getting stuck in the cave, it's busier here than in boxing day on Princes Street. Plus our guide turns out to be not nice at all. For the price, we expect a little bit more professionalism and customer care. 7 years in UK makes you great complainer!
Luckily our companions turn out to be a great bunch, and it saves the trip. We are an international group of travellers from Austria, India, USA, England, Argentina and us two, Polish with a Scottish twist. We talk a lot, sharing experiences, tips and having a great time.
The trip finishes on Saturday 14th December at 5.30pm when we are getting drop off back to Hanoi. As we have booked an overnight train to Hanoi beforehand, we have few hours to kill. Restaurant, few beers and coffee do the trick. Joanna's getting chicky manicure and pedicure for 3 dollars each. Sounds like a bargain to me.
In the train we are sharing a room with Vietnamese family who is already in beds when we arrived. Hard sleeper beds are hard indeed, but it does not stop us from nodding off. I wake up after 2hours and start writing... Now at 4am, there is no more story to tell, we will see what next few days will bring. Stay tuned in...