24hours of hell and more
Riding an aircon bus from Vientiane to Hanoi for 24hours didn't seem too bad an idea at the time. Oh, how I was wrong. No air con, random stops, breaking down at 4am, and then the hilarity of soviet bureaucracy made it the trip to make me swear never to do that trip again. If anyone else is considering it, think long and hard. But then again, it was only 24hours of my life - a measly 1% of my trip so far. And we did make it all the way to Hanoi, something which I really didn't think was going to happen when the bus wasn't able to change gear. At that point, I was wondering if I was going to spend my last minutes in an excruciatingly hot bus plummeting over the edge of a cliff because the driver couldn't switch down to go round a corner.
So Hanoi. Hanoi has always struck images of old colonial French charm in Asia. How wrong was I. The city lacks any form of charm, instead being filled with motorcycles and tiny stores selling the same thing. The Vietnamese are not a people filled with grace, or rather, those living in Hanoi. Tourism seems to be at a point when tourists are no longer seen as a novelty, but they are also not a critical part of the economy, and therefore are pretty much unloved, and seen as cash cows. Buying a bottle of water is a struggle, with touts trying to get as much as 10,000dong for a bottle of water. Yes, that's only $0.60, but its still a rip-off. And that's what the whole city feels like right now. Having said that, I met a Glaswegian in a bar last night who tells me that Saigon is much friendlier.
Ah yes, the bar last night. Well, we managed to find the one bar in the city who was having a birthday - the Spotted Cow. Free Tiger beer was flowing all night, along with the occasional shot of tequila, and birthday cake. Goooood night. We spent it hanging out with some English guys who have been doing the same route as me since Chiang Mai, which is pretty hilarious. Sometimes, Asia just seems very small. Talking of small, Casey also turned up today, and its been a blast to hang out with her again.
Another Hanoi treat has been breakfast. I had the best breakfast I have had in several years - hot chocolate, brioche and pain au chocolat, all with a social conscience. Baguettes and Chocolat is a restaurant a la Fifteen, where disadvantaged kids are given a chance to be trained to work in the service industr. This is an added highlight to the airconditioned respite that it offers from the city. If I don't want to do something, Ori now bribes me with brioche. I am easily bought.