Friday, 3 February 2017

Tuesday 2nd August 2016 (Hoi An / Hanoi, Vietnam)

One of my Facebook posts:
So, it's all quite 'exciting'... We spent all night up with Harry and Tom vomiting (Harry said he counted, and that he was sick 13 separate times!) the result being they are both too weak to travel today - we are supposed to be flying to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. We decided that Lucy, Jack and I would still fly today (though I'm still feeling rubbish myself) and Scott and the boys will join us when they can - it being easier and cheaper to get last minute hotel rooms and flights for 3 rather than 6. To further complicate matters, we got an email in the early hours of this morning bringing our flight time forward by one hour! Mad rush while we finished packing and Scott made sure I knew what the heck I'm supposed to be doing!! Lucy, Jack and I have managed to make it on time and are sitting in the departure lounge. Let the adventure continue!!

What a night! At about 1am, Scott got an email saying our flight time to Hanoi, Vietnam, had changed. Instead of leaving the hotel at 7am, we now needed to leave at 6am. The boys were still being sick, and we had no idea what state they'd be in by the morning. 
As time went on it became clear that Tom wouldn't be able to fly. Harry, in spite of being sick more often, seemed to be feeling a bit brighter, so we decided I would catch the flight with Lucy, Jack and Harry, and got packed up. 
We went down to the hotel foyer, where Jack went into the restaurant to get some breakfast, even though they weren't officially open yet. Scott had been explaining everything I needed to do, and we'd divided up passports and money etc, but then Harry said he felt sick again and rushed off to the toilet. We then had a mad scramble while we decided Harry had better stay behind after all, and I gave his clothes and passport back (bearing in mind Harry still had no suitcase, so all his stuff was shoved in our cases!) Scott took Harry back upstairs and Lucy, Jack and I got a taxi.

At the airport, we didn't have an awful lot of time, but we checked our luggage in, then I went and explained our situation to some airline staff, asking if I could change Scott's flight. They said we could only do it with a Doctor's note, so I rang him and let him know. He'd managed to talk to the hotel who could let him have his room for another day. He said he'd book new flights for the next day, and would meet us in Hanoi.
I breathed a sigh of relief when we made it to the departure lounge. I felt very adventurous travelling on my own with the kids across Vietnam!

Touching down on the tarmac in Hanoi, with our Vietjet plane in the background! We got a bus to the terminal.

We were just outside the airport looking for a taxi, when a German woman came up and asked where we were going. Our hotels were in the same district, so she asked if we could share a taxi.
We did, and had a pleasant journey of about half an hour or so into central Hanoi. She was a school teacher, travelling on her own for the summer holidays.

Hanoi was built up and busy, with a lot to look at! It's Vietnam's capital, and is about 1000 years old, with a population of about 8 million. It's one of the world's fastest growing cities.

We dropped off the school teacher and she left us half the fare, then we got dropped opposite our hotel on a busy junction. A guy came over and offered to help with our bags, but I wasn't sure if he was from our hotel or not, so we took our own but he led us in, and we got checked in OK.
We had booked two rooms each with three beds, but they didn't have that for us - instead we had three rooms with two beds! Jack had one room, and Lucy and I shared another. I asked the staff to give a key to Scott who'd be arriving probably the next day, as we would likely be out (we'd planned to go to Halong Bay the next day). I wasn't 100% sure they understood me, and I don't think the third room was ready yet anyway.
The hotel was shabbier than the others we stayed at so far, but I was just glad to have a base again.

Quite a different view out our bedroom window from the previous day's!

I was feeling pretty rubbish still, and it was extremely hot and humid. My flu had gone onto my chest and I kept coughing. I'd been taking medicine every four hours since I first got ill.
The TV in Lucy's and my room didn't work, so I'd asked reception about it, but then a couple of people came later and spent ages in our room trying to fix it. I just wanted to rest by then, so tried to tell them it was OK, and not to worry about fixing the TV, but they didn't understand. Eventually they gave up trying to fix it and left. Lucy had gone to Jack's room, so I was then able to get a good rest before we eventually ventured out to get food and to try and book a tour to Halong Bay.

Hanoi was crazy! The main things that struck me were the business of the roads and how hard it was to cross them, and how crowded many of the pavements were - with food stalls, motorbikes and mopeds, and people sitting around on little plastic stools.
I wasn't really enjoying it that much - it all felt a bit stressful - especially trying to cross the roads, when there never seemed any breaks in the traffic. Even when there was a pedestrian crossing, you could never quite trust the traffic!

We had got a quote from the hotel for a Halong Bay Tour, but Scott had told us to go to a place he'd seem recommended on the internet. We found our way there, but the tours were nearly US $100 each, which seemed a lot, plus I didn't have enough cash on me anyway. We decided to try elsewhere, and resort to the hotel's tours if needs be (I think there were two options at $45 and $65). We stopped off at a couple of places offering cheaper tours, but I didn't feel very comfortable with them, so didn't book anything.

The typical crazy mish mash of buildings in Hanoi.

For lunch, Jack looked up somewhere with good reviews on the internet on his phone, and led the way. There's no way we would have dared go in if Jack hadn't looked it up! It was a huge long narrow room, with tables all the way down the middle, and just a small food preparation area right near the entrance which was open to the street. We wandered in, with no clue how to order food, and no one spoke English. A woman just pointed us to some seats next to some other people, so we sat down and waited. There was no menu we could see, and no one asked us what we wanted, but after a minute or two, big bowls of noodles with vegetables and meat were placed in front of us. We didn't really know what it was, but just tucked in! It was good! At some point I must have asked for water, as we were given bottles of water.

Our fellow diners!
There were no knives or forks, so we got on with chopsticks. We were the only Westerners in the place, and enjoyed the novelty of everything!

We paid the lady holding the massive wad of notes, on the way out of the restaurant. I think it came to about £3 or £4 each.
We then made our way to the Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword), and walked over the bridge to Ngoc Son Temple - a pagoda on a small island. We couldn't be bothered to visit the temple - too tired after last night - so went and found a spot to sit in the shade by the lake.

Walking back to the hotel - more crazy architecture!

An interesting tree on our street - it's sort of growing out of the buildings.

We found a baguette stall across the street from the hotel, and stocked up on water, baguettes and ice creams for tea. I think by this point I was feeling a bit distrustful of food, and didn't really enjoy my baguette, wondering if it would make me sick. I was starting to look forwards to food from home.
Back at the hotel I booked us onto a Halong Bay tour leaving the next morning.
We stayed in our rooms for the rest of the evening. I edited photos etc, and Lucy watched TV in Jack's room.

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