|Hanoi lottery ticket vendor|
|Beers overlooking the central lake|
We woke early to the sounds of bustling activity in the streets below. Even though we have a glassed in balcony and have two sets of windows shut you can still hear the noise from the street. We had both slept well, although the room and the bed were definitely a little on the damp side, but we both agreed that this was not where we wanted to spend our time in Hanoi. Driving around yesterday we had passed another Lonely Planet listed hotel, the Galaxy Hotel, which is says is big with tour groups. It is more central than where we are, looks a little like an anonymous business hotel but is more the type of place where we want to stay.
When we checked out the staff were friendly and we did not get the hard sell to try and make us stay, which is what I had expected. A taxi took us to the Galaxy which turned out to be just a short distance away. Here we were met with a friendly smile and even though it was only just 9:00am, we were able to check into a room straight away. It was a total contrast to last nights affair and very welcome. We spent the morning planning out where we want to go and what we will see in our time in Vietnam. We did a total unpack, sent dirties to the laundry and pulled together another pack of stuff to send home as we do not think we will need thermals, hats and gloves for the rest of our stay in Asia and Africa.
It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we had done all we needed to and were ready to go out and explore. We ambled down from our hotel to Lake Hoan Kiem. It was our first introduction to Hanoi traffic which was quite an experience. There are few cars but the roads are chock solid full of scooters. There seem to be no rules of the road, traffic simply comes at you from all sides. The trick is to walk slowly as you cross any road or junction as it gives the people on the scooters time to see you and to decide how they are going to swerve around you to miss you.
It was a pretty hairy experience as just as you think you are clear a scooter comes from an unexpected direction. Trying to walk on the pavements is a no go. They are either full of overflow from the shops, people sitting and eating or they have been converted into a scooter park. You have no real choice but to walk on the road adding to the traffic chaos but being careful not to walk too close to the pavement which has a narrow open sewer running along side it.
We spent time hunting around trying to find a good camera shop to see if we could replace our lens that is full of water from its dunking in Laos. There are loads of camera shops in Hanoi but most sell slightly out of date point and click cameras and none have lenses for a digital SLR. We tried the five star hotels as well but still no joy. Not surprisingly Stef was getting a bit despondent and down hearted but was revived by a coffee stop by the lake. It was very strange sitting on a warm and sunny afternoon in an open air café surrounded by French colonial buildings watching the scooters whiz by.
From the lake we wandered up to the Kangaroo Café and booked a tour to Halong Bay for the weekend. We then decided that a night time view of the city was needed and headed to the City View café, the top floor of a building that looks a bit like a cruise ship that is on the north shore of the lake. We took up a pew outside and watched night descend. The darker it got the breezier it became and before long quite a stiff wind was blowing. It was a refreshing and cool end to what had been a sticky and hot day.
We decided to take a cyclo back to the hotel. It is basically a bike with a seat attached to the front like a rickshaw. The cyclos compete for space on the roads with the scooters and the few taxis and cars that make it into the old quarter. Everyone seems to have a sixth sense about what is coming and people pass by with literally inches to spare between them and the next mode of transport. I have yet to decide whether I think it is safer to walk or go by cyclo – it is certainly a close call between the two!