Wednesday, August 22, 2012

29 July: Johannesburg to Hanoi

06h15 (Bangkok Airport)
Luckily the flight didn't feel nearly as long as it was. Not that I managed to get much sleep, but I did rest for most of it.

We left Joburg and managed to get a middle row all to ourselves. The most helpful check-in counter lady I've ever had the pleasure to deal with :) She switched our online check-in seats especially so we were on either aisle seat of the middle row so it was unlikely anyone would book the middle seat. Score!

I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen first. I loved it. Lately the movies made of all my favourite books have fallen a little short, but this once was lovely. It may have helped that I read the book absolutely ages ago and was starring Ewan McGregor. Haha.

Dinner was delish, Penang Chicken Curry - the days of bad airline food seem long gone!

I started watching The Lorax before I was feeling sleepy. I finished it over a very early breakfast. Animation is not usually my best, but it seemed appropriate for a plane and I quite enjoyed it generally. I also managed to squeeze in 3 episodes of New Girl before we landed in Bangkok.

Breakfast on planes is by far my least favourite meal. At least this one came with a croissant :) I felt so dehydrated for this flight tho, it was quite awful.

After we landed, it was very easy to find our next boarding gate and now we're sitting waiting for our flight to Hanoi - yay!


The flight from Bangkok was uneventful. They fed us again. This time the food was a bit weird ... including a crab-meat sandwich! I luckily managed to get a little more sleep on this flight too :)

We landed in Hanoi at about 09h40 (5hrs ahead of South Africa). We arrived to absolute chaos. Or rather, a huge crowd at the Visa Upon Arrival counter. It was a little confusing because you arrived at the pay point first but actually you have to go around, complete the form, hand in your passport, letter of invitation (which our Halong Bay Cruise company had organised for us), an ID photo and then they produce a full-on proper visa for you right there. It costs 25USD. And it only took about 40mins because of the queue.

After that Passport Control and Baggage Collection was a breeze. We found an info desk, got a map and hired a taxi to our hotel, the Hanoi Eclipse Hotel.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

The drive was quite fascinating. The buildings are all quite colourful and seem to be tall & skinny. So far I am loving Vietnam!

We checked-in and are in a room on the top (5th) floor with a balcony out over the road with a cool view. We had a quick shower and headed out to explore.

Since we left the hotel just after midday, we knew we'd missed Ho Chi Min's Mausoleum's opening time. So first we took a quick walk down to Hoan Kiem Lake. Sheesh the traffic is chaos. And it's only a Sunday! Haha.

From the lake we decided to take one of the bicycle tuk-tuks to Ho Chi Min's Mausoleum anyway, just to check it out. What a wonderful way to travel. Although I'm quite sure we're being completely ripped off at the moment, but it is hard to know on Day One.

I am fascinated by us embalming people. It's not like it was that long ago. It's amazing to me that we still do things like this with our dead.

Anyway, we sadly didn't get to see him. But we took a walk back to the Flag Tower and the statue of Lenin (who I did get to see - haha). We stopped and had some iced-coffees (apparently the thing to do in Vietnam) and had something to eat. Some very tasty beef with peanut noodle salad and some prawn spring rolls.

We were right next door to the Army Museum so just wandered straight into their outdoor displays of planes and tanks and then into a little bit of their museum, not sure if it was the whole thing or not (I think we might've been supposed to actually pay an entry fee?).

After that we took a windy route back to our hotel thru the Old Quarter and then went back to the hotel to rest our poor feet!

Am so impressed, I was emailed yesterday that our 3 overnight train tickets had been delivered to our hotel. And there they were in reception waiting for us. So easy and simple! What a pleasure.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our sleeper train tickets online before we went with Vietnam Railway.

After a nap we headed out at about 18h30 and wandered down Hang Ngang Road for the night market. We were a bit early and the rain was starting. The rain was quite lovely to walk thru in this heat!

Then we headed to My May road to try and find The Trucker's Facebook Name-Twin who was meeting us for dinner.

Do you have a Facebook Name-Twin? I had one but she got married so our names don't really match anymore. Funny how we both became Facebook friends with our Name-Twins. Haha. And his happened to be teaching English in Vietnam at the moment so they made a plan to actually meet! How totally awesome is that?

We headed the wrong way down the road and decided to stop for a beer at one of the backpackers (mostly to use their free wi-fi since our only means of communication with the Name-Twin was Facebook messaging - haha). Luckily we were early for the dinner.

After finishing our drinks, we headed back down the road to a little restaurant called New Day where after about half an hour we realised that the Name-Twin was actually already there but 2 floors up!

The food was so good! We shared Hanoi (pork) springrolls, some "Fresh" spring rolls (prawns in rice paper) and hot and sour seafood soup.

The Trucker had beef in curry sauce for mains and I had Noodles with shrimp and pork. So good! Good fun meeting The Trucker's Name-Twin too - haha.

By the time we left, it was pouring. Yay for rain ponchos. A wise investment in the rainy season here! Unfortunately tho, that meant that the night market was already packing up, so we missed it completely.

What a fantastic first day of our trip :D


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an excellent first day! Wow, I've never even thought of meeting a facebook name twin. How does one go about doing that? Just randomly send them a friend request and take it from there or what?

phillygirl said...

Pretty much. I don't think the intention was to really meet (they became friends ages ago), but The Trucker just happened to realise they were about to be in the same city, so why not :) I think it makes for an awesome story. And some pretty funny facebook photo tags!

Anonymous said...

How weird. I'm friends on Facebook with my name twin too! She found me about a year ago. Sounds like you had an awesome first day.

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