Well... where do I begin. I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam last night. I had arranged a ride to my hotel as I had heard that the taxi's here are either not reliable or will try to rip you off. Got my luggage and found my driver. A really nice kid. Had a nice conversation with him on the way to the hotel, well as much as I could with me knowing absolutely no Vietnamese, and his somewhat o.k. English. He asked how old I was, and I told him 40. He laughed, and told me "You so old...I only 25". Yeah, thanks kid. After nearly killing a few people on the way, made it to the hotel and checked in. You should know, there seem to be absolutely no rules to driving in this city. And, crossing the street. Well, that's an adventure in itself. Anyway, got to the hotel and checked in. The people at this hotel are AMAZING! They couldn't be nicer. They all met me at the street saying they have been waiting for me. Oh, a side note, every time I go past the desk or out the door, they ALL know my name and are so friendly. They have been the best part of Vietnam so far. To continue, got up this morning and decided I just better throw myself into the Hanoi situation and ventured out. There are three things I learned about myself today. Number one, I have absolutely NO sense of direction. Maybe people are born with it. I'm not. I could get lost in an empty room. Number two, I still sweat a lot. Maybe it's because of the weight I've put on and I'm out of shape. But it was only 78 here today and I was sweating. Not as bad as Bangkok or Laos, but still. I think I may have a sweat problem. FInally, number three, I can't be an asshole to people even when I'm being ripped off.
So, I started the day by going to the Museum of Literature. I had a map and the lady at the front desk highlighted my route on the map. Well, I got lost within 5 minutes. Finally made it to a park and was looking at my map still puzzled by my horrible sense of direction, when this kid came up to me and asked if I needed help. I told him yes and he offered to take me where I needed to go, on his scooter. I thought that was so nice and jumped at the chance to stop walking for a while. Well, nothing in this world is free. After about a 5 minute ride he wanted $5. I gave it to him, a little in protest, but he did get me to where I needed to go. The Museum of Literature is pretty cool. There are some pics here.
Then, I got out my trusty map and saw the the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was close, so I would go there. Got lost again, but actually found it on my own. It is pretty amazing. The people LOVE Uncle Ho. I went to the Museum after the Mausoleum and hired a guide. She was really sweet and told me it was her pleasure to take me around, just pay what I thought at the end, but it wasn't necessary. I gave her $10. Ho Chi Mihn was President until 1969 when he died. The people love him as he liberated Vietnam from the French and was a very important leader in Vietnam. He had no family, so people all call him Uncle Ho, so he will always be part of their family.
After the Ho Chi Mihn experience, I had to go to the market for a smaller bag to take with me to Ha Long Bay and Sapa. Again, lost for an hour. But FINALLY made it there and bought a "cheap, cheap" bag from a really nice lady. Got a good deal. Only $6. The market was near my hotel and I actually found the street it is on. I was walking and it was another 3-4 blocks to my hotel. A cycle rickshaw driver was hassling me to ride. It was a really hard sell. So I finally said yes and agreed that since I was so close only $25,000 Dong. Which is just over $1. Well, he turned the wrong way, got lost, had to stop for directions twice. Finally got me to my hotel and DEMANDED $100,000 Dong. About $5. I said no, you got lost and we agreed on $1. He got really angry with me and started yelling. Maybe it's just me, but I guess it wasn't worth the hassle over $4. So I reluctantly paid the guy and he was off. I still don't like him. Seems like they see the tourist coming and prices go up. But, whatever it's still cheap. I guess I should embrace Hanoi and love it for what it is. It's not a bad City, but maybe it's not my favorite so far.
So, that's my travels in Vietnam so far. Here are some photos of the Museum of Literature, the Ho Chi Mihn experience, and some traffic photos. Oh, and the cycle rickshaw guy stopped to take my photo. You can see how happy I am with him.... Off to Halong Bay tomorrow on an overnight cruise. Post again soon...