Must say, it's been one of those weeks. Realising that I only had ten days left on my visa, I decided to push on from Hoi An, a place I really liked, and headed for Hue. The intention was to see some of the sights, particularly those pertaining to the War. Another five hour bus trip, which took us along the Vietnamese equivalent of the Pacific Highway. You can see where this country is headed: large hotel complexes going up on every available beachfront.
Vietnam has a lot of coast.
Got there and decided to treat myself to an expensive hotel. Had to pay 9$, but got a very comfortable room with some interesting house rules:
You might need a magnifying glass.
Hue was ridiculously hot and apart from the DMZ, which was yet another bus ride away was just the usual traffic and pollution and people honking their horns. Had a really good Indian meal, (Butter Chicken), and decided to go straight to Hanoi. This entailed another overnight bus trip and I arrived at 6am yesterday in the pouring rain. Booked into a back-packer place which, let's say, is for a younger crowd. Most people here are in their early 20s and are intent on partying. The place is a modernized French building of eight stories, with a bar at the top offering free beer from 7-8 in the evening and free shots every hour. Surprisingly, no-one seemed to be very drunk, although this was just the prelude to a pub crawl, organized by the hostel.
I had an early night having slept about three hours.
The old city is an interesting place, although very easy to get lost in. All the roads look similar, like the Medina in Marrakesh. Obviously, I got hopelessly lost and missed out on the free beer. Won't make the same mistake today.
Small people sitting on small chairs. I'm size large here.
Can't resist the weasely stuff.
Businessman in action.
Took a stroll around town this morning, armed with a map, which admittedly, in my case, might as well be a treatise on quantum mechanics. Managed to find my way to the pretty lake, which is the frontier between the old and new cities. Decided to go to the Vietnam History Museum and found it quite easily. It was closed. Was planning on going to see Ho Chi Minh, whose mausoleum is across town. Looked up the directions and found that normally, you have to queue in plein soleil for up to two hours. As by this time, I was drenched in sweat, decided to give Uncle Ho a miss and had lunch in a restaurant where I ate yesterday. This time I was treated like a long lost relation.
Did come across a great photo exhibition though. Images from the Vietnam war. The most famous shots were all there: the girl burned by napalm, South Vietnamese officer shooting suspect in the head etc. In all, there were four Pulitzer Prize winning images, plus a picture of, not by Larry Burroughs, who is my favourite, (if that's the right word), war photographer.
The difference between the two parts of Hanoi is immense. The new bit reminded me somewhat of the 16th arrondissement in Paris, with Longchamp, Prada and other famous fashion houses displaying their wares, not to mention the Hanoi Stock Exchange, opposite the Opera house.
Opera House. Doubt if the graffiti is a compliment.
Popped into a tourist booking place to ask how to get a visa extension, as advertised everywhere. It seems that they've recently changed the law, so it's very complicated. Being in one of the most corrupt countries in the World, it can be done, but it takes time and is more expensive than the original visa. I booked a ticket for Sapa, where I'll stay a couple of days and then up to the far North, on the Chinese border. Another six hour trip tomorrow, starting at 6.30.
After that, I'll have a look at the land of 'tubing' and mushroom milk-shakes: Laos.
After a brief siesta, went up to the bar for an iced coffee. The sky was looking very threatening indeed. Suddenly the storm started. The whole building shook. Some people even screamed.
Before the storm.
The free beer starts in exactly one hour, so that's my evening sorted.