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To Infinity and Beyond. "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In transit to Hanoi.

VIETNAM | Sunday, 20 December 2009 | Views [1545]

According to the Lonely Planet guide on Vietnam, one could take a bus from Noi Bai airport in Hanoi to the Old Quarter; it's even the cheapest airport run probably in the world, it said. So when I was planning my trip I decided to give it a try when I set foot at Hanoi. Poring over maps of Hanoi and a copy of Xe Buyt Hanoi that I found online, from the airport I had to go down at Long Bien bus station which was situated north of the Old Quarter and was also the nearest station to my hotel. From there I could take a city bus plying the road a few blocks to my hotel.

When I landed, I went looking for a bus stop outside the airport where buses picked up passengers. I encountered several touts for various transport services, but I just replied 'No, thanks,' or 'Hanoi Old Quarter' if they asked where I was going. At the plane, the flight attendant announced that JetStar also provided bus transport from the airport to town for 25000d, I think. I considered taking it but decided against it eventually so I could try out commuting as planned. 

After waiting for about what seemed like half an hour and encountering a few more taxi touts, a Hanoi bus finally showed up, a sign in front indicated Long Bien. I asked the bus attendant too just to be sure that the bus was indeed going to Long Bien station, and upon getting confirmation I got in. The trip, which cost just 5000d, took almost an hour from the airport. The bus wasn't full when I got in so it picked up passengers along the way. I wondered if people easily recognized if I was a foreigner even if my features were Asian; the backpacks gave me away most probably. People wore coats, scarves, and warm garments since the weather in Hanoi at this time of year was pretty cold (~10 deg C, maybe).

Outside, the landscape reminded me of the rural provinces back home: dusty roads, rice fields. Apartments had narrow width, but were made of three stories on average. 

I kept looking out for landmarks that I noted mentally from orienting myself with maps. Then I remembered the bus crossing a bridge over a river split by a small flat islet. That meant I was almost at the station. Shortly, the attendant called out to me and signaled that it was my stop. At Long Bien station, I waited for city bus #01 but I couldn't recognize the numbers that marked the buses. I went to the end of the station where there weren't much people so I could get my bearings straight. Fortunately a street map was posted on a stand which I consulted. 

Then a motorbike driver approached me, asked where I was going and if I wanted to rent a bike. I told him I was waiting for the bus to get to my hotel. Seeing that I was looking at the street map he assisted me in looking for my street. After some exchanges on where my street was, a Vietnamese student came to us to translate since he spoke some conversational English. The student told me that the nearest bus stop to my hotel was several blocks away and recommended I take a bike going there instead. Conceding, and wanting to get some sleep time, I thanked him for his assistance and hopped on the motorbike behind the driver with my two backpacks on.

If I thought crossing the streets of Saigon with all the speeding motorbikes was challenging and crazy, riding a motorbike was even crazier. My driver unbelievably maneuvered well, crisscrossing with other vehicles. I can be sure I flinched at seeing our several near collisions, and held on to the handle at the rear end of the bike like I'd never let it go. It was like I was in a video game, dodging other motorists to get to my destination. I got to my hotel in one piece; and grateful, I paid the driver 30000d for an unforgettable ride. The experience was truly hair-raising. 

I slept until late afternoon since lunchtime, exhausted from an entire day in transit from Manila to Hanoi.

Tags: backpacking, hanoi, in transit, transport, travel, vietnam



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