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Today was one of those "necessary evil" days where we had boring stuff to do that took up most of the day leaving no time for sightseeing in its own right. We were still looking around to try and get a new lens for the camera and followed a recommendation from the hotel manager who is a keen photographer. We are not really sure if we did find the right shop and the one we did find did not have the type of lens Stef was after. They did though repair and clean cameras so we left our slightly soggy and fogged up lens with them to see what they could do. Ironically the lens was originally assembled in Vietnam so we hoped the repair route would work.

Needing cash we went to the ANZ bank which seemed to take forever. We still have left over currency from both China and Laos and tried to change it here with no success. Our next stop was the Post Office to send yet another parcel home where, after seeing us standing waiting for ten minutes they finally told us we needed to come back more than an hour later after one in the afternoon. We wandered on to Vietnam Airlines to check flight options down to Hue. There are three flights a day but on Monday there is only space on the one at six thirty in the morning, a bit too early. Tuesday’s lunchtime flight only has seats in business class, $20 extra.

Always time for a beer, a fresh Bia Ha Noi

We went to the café on the lake to consider options and decided to look into trains instead. A return trip to the Post Office was successful this time round but it took forty five minutes to send our parcel. As with China you turn up with what you want to send and they then find suitable packaging for you. That part of the process seemed to be quite quick. What took time was all the associated form filling, not helped as most of them were only in Vietnamese so we had to get translations as we went. Finally our bits and pieces were boxed up, wrapped in brown paper, labelled, customs cleared (subject to scanning) and ready to go.

From here we went out to the train station to find out about trains to Hue. As it is the run up to the Tet (New Year) Festival the trains are pretty busy and although we could go by train the only one with soft sleeper accommodation available leaves at three on Monday afternoon and arrives at four on Tuesday morning. It was certainly not ideal and much to Stef’s dismay, as he had got quite excited at the prospect of a Vietnamese train journey, we decided it would be easier, although more expensive to fly. Vietnam Airlines were quick and efficient and we soon walked out with Business Class tickets for the one hour flight on Tuesday lunchtime. It is a bit of a luxury but neither of us feel up to a long bus journey and we do not want a train that arrives so early in the morning. Compared to European prices though even our Business Class ticket is cheap costing about £70 for the two of us.

By this stage it was already late in the afternoon and we were both beyond the stage where we could drum up the enthusiasm for sightseeing. We tried to find one of the cinema’s listed in Lonely Planet but either we were in totally the wrong place or it no longer exists as we found the addresses either side of it but could find no trace of the cinema itself. We ambled up towards the Cathedral and stopped off for some lunch. Stef, already not a happy chap as we are not travelling by train, decided to get huffy because the café we went into was very definitely for Western tourists and was not a local place. We found yesterday that the affordable places that look hygienic enough for you to want to eat in them are so geared for tourists that you could be anywhere in the world, there is little Vietnamese food on the menu.

Later in the afternoon we went to retrieve our camera lens. It is now dry and demisted inside and sort of works if you focus it manually but it is a long way off being perfect. No doubt we will look again when we get to Ho Chi Minh City. Cyclos took us back to our hotel through what was the maddest traffic we have yet faced in Hanoi. It was as if the whole city was out on the streets. Our hotel is near a large traffic junction and with the volume of traffic trying to get through it had all just ground to a halt, despite the efforts of the local police to direct the traffic and keep it moving. Apparently it is the effect of more people coming into the city to make their final preparations for the Tet festival next weekend.