An Alien in Spain - Visits Vietnam (Hanoi)

I left London Heathrow on Singapore Airlines bound for Singapore and after a short stop-over on to Hanoi, North Vietnam.

The flight was perfect and for a man that wants to lose some weight it was not going to happen on this airline food plentiful and excellent, in flight entertainment and lots of leg room and after a easy switch of planes (same airline) I arrived in Hanoi.

For anyone following in my footsteps be prepared to be assaulted as soon as you leave departures by an army of touts trying to get you into their very cheap taxi to the town if you go with them expect to pay $25 US and up to $35 US if very early in the morning.

Fight your way past them turn right out of the terminal and walk towards the end of the ranks here you will find mini buses waiting to collect enough passengers to take into town and you may have to wait for 15 - 20 minutes for a full load but at a cost of $3 US (Tourist Rate) a considerable saving to your budget and anyway whats the rush it's a holiday after all and you want to meet the locals.

Nothing prepares the first time traveller to Asia for the traffic in Hanoi - There are 13 million inhabitants of this city and I think every one has a motor scooter and is definitely on the streets most of the time so crossing the road becomes an art you better master or see none of the city.

You could always try the motor scooter drivers to be found lounging at every junction as well as cruising the streets looking for customers and woe betide the unwary traveller who stops to look at the road signs or consult a map as you will immediately be urged to use them or a taxi will stop and try to get you inside don't worry too much a ride right across town is unlikely to set you back more than $3 US

Jet lag heading West to East is a killer so if you are planning a busy schedule try and leave the first couple of days to catch up on sleep and get used to the climate which is Hot and Humid at this time of year.

The first couple of days can be daunting but once you familiarise yourself with and embrace the different life style it is a fun city.

Hire a moped and driver for the day $50 US or half day $25 US or if you have a few days walk and enjoy the sights.

Some must see places are Temple of Literature entry $1 US set up for students to learn teachings of Confucius and more like a temple with grounds of plants and Lily ponds.

The Infamous Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) Prison - entry $1 US used to keep the american GI's shot down in the war.

History Museum entry $1 US that gives a full history of the struggles of the people and a balanced view on the American war as they call it.

Other must see sights are surrounding Hanoi Lake, on a Sunday prospective Brides and their Grooms congregate to have wedding pictures taken weeks before the wedding as it is such a beautiful setting with a Temple on the lake accessed across a bridge.

Hotel accommodation is plentiful and can start as low as $5 US a night but be prepared to pay a little more for a bit of comfort like hot water - mine was a hefty $12 US a night but was a triple room and comfortable with a hearty breakfast thrown in - The Hanoi View and set in the Old Quarter which is great place to wander around any time of day.

I should mention that I have quoted all prices in US dollars as this is what is quoted most of the time in Vietnam and the shops / locals are all happy to trade in dollars and it is less confusing that their own money you try working out how much your paying for a meal of noodles with beef and vegetables and two beers when the bill is 124,000 dong.

You will also need to have dollars for paying for visas if crossing from one country to another so be prepared.

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