24th of September 2011
We arrived in Hanoi in good timing and were picked up from the bus station by a taxi, which would take us to the hotel we had decided to reserve last minute with a man in Hue, who gave us the hotels flyer and took our names. This turned out to be extremely practical as the bus station was actually pretty far away from the old and central part of town. A couple we had met on the bus came with us. At the hotel, which was called “Elisabeth hotel” we funnily came across the other three French friends we had met in Hoi An (they were however just leaving to go to Halong Bay). Other than that the rooms were not the price that we had been told and did not apparently have breakfast included unless you had a more expensive room. We therefore made a good complaint and finally managed to negotiate breakfast included with one of their cheaper rooms, costing 8dollars.
The rest of our day, concluded in us doing nothing other than wondering around the area. That evening however we decided to go to the cinema. With luck the new Jonny English had just come out so we decided to treat ourselves to a good old (cheap, compared to Europe prices) film. We ended up having to walk a good way there to begin with having not been able to find a motobiker who would take us. After a bit of a walk past one of the towns numerous lakes, we got picked up and taken to the new Megastar cinema at the Vincom Towers, for around 2 dollars. Each ticket cost 75000vnd and a big popcorn and two drinks deal 65000vnd. We really enjoyed our little relaxing evening. We headed back by bicycle tuk-tuk after having a sort of Vietnamese kebab (20000vnd) outside the shopping centre. However our evening did not end there. Back at the old town centre we found one local stand still open, selling beers for the usual 3000vnd. After a little while there, heading back to our hotel we came across a big group of people standing outside what looked like a club. It seemed like good fun, however we were hesitant considering most clubs or bars were usual full of girls or lady boys waiting to get “picked up”. We thought we’d just take a look. The night turned out to be a ball, we met several Spanish guys who had been sitting at a table next to ours in a restaurant in Hoi An and hit it off for a night full of chatting, laughing and dancing.
25th of September 2011
The day before we had taken the time to decide on our next destination; time was running out and we wanted to make sure we would have enough time to discover the wonders of Laos before catching out flight in Bangkok for Sydney. We had finally decided on going to Sapa and from there to Laos, even though the way from Vietnam to Laos this way wasn’t terribly recommended, as no proper roads were yet made. However Sapa looked so beautiful and was highly recommended so we thought we would give it a go (no roads could be much worse than some of which we had taken in India).
We dropped our bags off at the agency from which we had bought our bus tickets and tour package for 55dollars each (we thought it would just be easier as we were only going to have a day or so there). It might seem expensive but we actually were quite impressed in the end. The whole package, included two nights in a hotel (with hot shower, nice and clean room), breakfast, lunch and dinner each day and two days of outings. The first was visiting Cat Cat village, the second was a trek to Ylinhho, Lao Chai and Ta Van Village.
We therefore spent the afternoon chilling out in some of the local café’s whilst we waited for our bus which was to leave that evening at 6pm. When the time came, a taxi picked us up from the agency and drove us quite a few kilometres to where the bus was to leave. A few annoying things then happened; for one the agency apparently hadn’t paid our taxi driver, so we ended up having to pay for it and the bus so called “sleeping bus”, was not at all as usual. All of us tourists, were cramped into the five or so back seats, with no leg room and practically forced to sit straight upright. We had been promised the normal bunk-bed style buses, which were actually great for sleeping. After quite a bit of a rant from all of us tourists at the “Sinh Café” tourist office guy and bus driver, we got reimbursed the taxi and were told all buses were full so we were just going to have to make do. Cramped and quite annoyed we started our long journey up north.