I’ve been hinting that I might start a series of posts on our tour of Vietnam, which was in March 2010. Well, here we go.
Of course, preparation started before we booked the trip. Firstly we looked up the Vietnamese climate and decided that March would be a good time to go, after the worst weather in the north of the country had passed and before it became too hot and humid in the south. We obviously had to be prepared for uncertain weather, a bit like at home really. As it turned out, I think we got it about right.
Next, I started searching out people who had prior experience of the country. Everyone who did have, told us that it was going to be an amazing holiday. A few people who had never been there, made some sarcastic comments, and asked why on earth we were going. I wasn’t worried about this, my only mild concern being about the population density in the cities, because my wife and I are not really city people, preferring more rural settings. Also, we are not too good at large time zone differences, but we survived the overnight flight to Hanoi, so this story starts there.
For this series of posts, I’m not going to make any of them too long, at least I hope not to. I’ll try to break the trip down into ‘bite sized’ posts.
When we arrived at Hanoi Airport, we were met by out Vietnamese tour manager and guide Tuan. He spoke excellent english and, as we were to find out, also had an amazing knowledge of Vietnamese history. Clearly parts of that history were going to have to be the ‘official version’. In a communist country that was inevitable.
We were immediately taken to our hotel, the Hotel Sofitel Plaza Hanoi. After the usual check in procedure and unpacking, we decided to take a quick local walk and see whether we could master ‘crossing the road’ Vietnam style. We were not too ambitious on our first outing.
For anyone who doesn’t already know this, the roads in the cities of Vietnam are packed with mainly motorcycles and motor scooters and the odd car or two. Nobody ever stops at pedestrian crossings, and rarely and completely unpredictably, at traffic junctions with lights. The rule for pedestrians wanting to cross the road is to take a deep breath, unsure as to whether it might be your last, and keeping your eyes ahead, walk slowly and steadily across the road until hopefully arriving safely on the other side. Whatever you do, do not stop or make eye contact with any of the bike riders. They will miss you as long as you keep going. On our first outing we only did a couple of minor junctions and lived to tell the tale.
Here are just a few photos from our first afternoon and evening in Hanoi.
For our walk, we headed for Thanh Nien Street, which divides West Lake from Ho Truc Bach. We went this way as it involved a minimum of traffic survival and also looked quite a pleasant walk. This fisherman is fishing in Ho Truc Bach. A couple of swan shaped pedalos can be seen in the distance. These are used a lot by courting couples, particularly as evening approaches.
On the other side of the street, we are looking out over West Lake and our hotel can be seen opposite us, with another swan in front of it.
After dinner, and an excursion that I will cover in the next post, we went up onto the rooftop bar’s terrace, and here are a couple of long exposures taken across the lake.
The ghosts on the water in the second shot are the swans with their courting couples on board (this was a 15 second exposure). In the UK, these pedalos would be locked up after 5:00pm because the attendant had gone home for supper. In Vietnam we were to discover that the big cities never sleep.
That’s it for this post. There will be many more to come. Please come back to check them out.