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Experiences in Asia

Vietnam: Old Hanoi

VIETNAM | Monday, 28 November 2005 | Views [1048] | Comments [5]

You find me safe and well in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, after a 16 hour journey that included buses, tuk-tuks, mini vans and motor-cyles. I decided not to go the usual route favoured by other travellers (luxury direct bus) and because of this I saved myself 8 hours, getting me back on schedule (just call me Mr. Fogg). Here's how it went.

The 26th found me on my own in Vientiane. The others were still in Viang Veng, so I busied myself seeing some more of the sights, such as the Revolutionary museum. Whilst I was walking back, I heard a call of "Dan"! from a tuk-tuk. By coincidence, two tuk-tuks had just passed me, carrying Kari and the others. It was great to see them again and to spend a last evening with them all for a while.

A heavy drinking session was never on the cards for me, because I was up at 3am the next day to get down to the train station. I had decided against buying a direct ticket from one of the many guesthouses in town, because the Lonely PLanet says that these are not what they make out to be. LP advises that the best and cheapest way was to get the local bus at 4am to Lak Sao, on the border, and then to try and get a mini van to get you to Vinh in Vietnam. This was all rather indefinate to me, but I had my adventurers cap on, so I decided to go ahead and do it.

So I got to the bus station at 3.30am, only to be told that the bus would leave at 5am. Cursing the LP, I bought a ticket and sat on the cold bus with two other foriegners. Once we got stated, I was agonised to find out that I was directly under the speaker. For the entire journey to Lak Sao, my brain was puddled with more Lao pop - loud Lao pop! I was a bit concerned on this bus, not because of the state of it, but because of what fumes it was giving off. I found that there was soot on the inside of my nose, and my throat started to give me some grief. I had noticed that some of the Lao people were wearing face masks, so I decided to use my bandana as the same. After about 1/2 hour, a neadache that I also had ebbed away. And so, after 7 hours on this bus, we arrived at Lak Sao, very weary.

This town was a right dust bowl, but with some great scenery. As soon as I got off the bus, a Vietnamese trader asked me whether he would like him to take me into Vinh, Vietnam. The other foriegners decided against this as they had had enough travelling. After agreeing on $7 for the trip, I boarded his mini van, which was full to the brim with sugar from Thailand, cooking oil from China and god knows what else. Feeling, hot, tired and extremely dirty (I need to do laundry big time) I wedged myself between a ladder and some empty chicken boxes and found solace in Potter.

Our next stop was the Lao exit immigration, closely to be followed by the infamous Vietnamese immigration. Before that though, I saw something that almost made me sick. As the mini van was in a queue to be searched, we were asked to go ahead and get the stamps and to have visas checked. As I was walking up the hill, I kept hearing dogs barking. As I rounded a corner, I saw a big flat- bed truck, full with small cages stacked one on top of the other, in full daylight sun. in the cages were dogs, packed in, some three to a cage. The smell was terrible, and it was obvious that some of the bogs were dead at the bottom. I'm not sure if they were strays or what, but the cruelty was incredible. I quickly hurred on, gagging.

After having my passport checked three times by Vietnamese immigration, my bag opened twice and paying a $1 service fee, which I am sure went straight into the officers pocket, we were ready to set of again. I was the only western foriegner being processed, and some of the Vietnamese were eager to practise English. "Hasselbaink, Hasselbaink"!! one of them shouted at me - thinking I had done something wrong, I looked around for a bit of help. He ran up to me and started mimiking a footballer. "ah, Hasselbaink", I said, realising that he was on about the footballer, and not shouting some Vietnamese swear word at me. I ended up feeling in a bit of a freak show, and so I was glad that we got back on the road again.

So I got to a small town on the outside of Vinh, and agreed to pay $5 for a mini van to Hanoi, wich would leave at 6pm, and get there at 1am. I paid my money, but didn't get a reciept. ALWAYS GET A RECIEPT! This turned out to be a big mistake, because part way through the journey, the driver asked me to pay. "I've already paid", I said. Not understanding a word of English, he told me I had to pay, but not $5, but $10 dollars. I began to argue, but eventually, seething, gave in and paid, because I didn't like the idea of being out in the sticks in Vietnam in the late hours after being thrown off. It's OK though. I'm not a firm believer in Buddha (!) and his ass will get fried if he continues to exploit poor Mr. Whitey like that.

I had an hour to kill before leaving for Vinh, so I ended up playing football with some school kids I'd bumped into. Soon, there were about 30 kids playing, with 20 or so adults looking on! This was an amazing experience, and the feeling of community spirit the small town was palpable. After the game, I spoke to a young girl who was studying English at school. She had never spoken to a westerner before, so she was so eager, and kept babbling all sorts of questions, one after the other.

And so after that, and the bus ride, I got to Hanoi, and paid a lad to drive me on his moped to to the old quarter, and to find a room. This morning I had the luck of meeting Ian, solo-traveller, and we decided to share a nice room for $3 each. Turns out we have a lot in   common - he will start working in Korea in January, and he has signed up to a Hapkido course - I'll let him know that I'm a black belt later!

OK, off to see what Hanoi's all about.............


Tags: On the Road



Hi~ Mr.Fogg.I read your tough trip diary.You are great! I can't belive that you waked up 3am. Where does your passion come out? I'm happy to hear that you met some guy in Hanoi. At last you can say "Hi. I'm dan. I have a blak belt"

  jane Nov 30, 2005 2:01 AM


Keep up the good work blogging. Everyday sounds different. I'll show Liam your blog but miss the bit about the dogs!. He can look up the countries in his atlas. Take care Martin

  Martin Nov 30, 2005 4:03 AM


Hi dan, how about your nose , was there soot on the inside of your nose? You have black belt now, break a leg!I will let our classmates know how you are and you have become "gaoshou",no one can fight with you. Have a good trip!Hope to hearing from you early!

  Scott Nov 30, 2005 1:58 PM


Hi all, thanks for the comments! I know I keep saying it, but I will reply to you all soon........... Take care, Dan

  dan_in_japan Nov 30, 2005 8:31 PM


Hey Dan Your advanture sounds awesome!It's all life learning experience. thanks for sharing, we all live through your stories. Keep it up... Miss travelling, just got back 5 months ago from a 20 months long journey. Enjoy your travels. Take care, Ewa

  Ewa Dec 2, 2005 3:23 PM

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