Booking two consecutive nights at the Hanoi Posh Hotel (that's what it's called), made me eligible for a free airport transfer. That certainly took the pain out of the usual international arrival shenanigans of orientating and fixing transfers whilst fighting off taxi touts and luggage thieves.
First impressions of Vietnam after ten days in China? Well, ostensibly very similar to the south of China.
The people seem slightly quieter, more softly spoken, definitely not as much hawking and phlegming going on thankfully. I certainly won't miss the pictographic mandarin road signs that's for sure, it's nice to be back in a place where I have a hope of pronouncing a name, even if I still don't know what it means. It doesn't seem any more or less affluent than the smaller Chinese cities so far.
I spend the remains of arrival day and the following day wandering around the Old Quarter of the city. This took a little longer than anticipated because of the traffic. Scooters here flow like flood swollen rivers through the narrow sodium lit streets. As a pedestrian one must tread carefully through the torrent. The pavements belong not to side walkers, but to thousands of parked mopeds and small engined bikes, and those trying to repair them, any space remaining is occupied by the little blue plastic stools of eateries and budget bars, while families prepare and eat food under plastic awnings and stretched webs of entangled service cables and wires.
Thus as a pedestrian one is obliged to share the streets with the scooters, either hugging the edge to avoid getting clipped by a passing wing mirror whilst traversing the current; or when a crossing is required, stepping assertively into the road and walking steadily across, not running, not stopping, and definitely not faltering. It's miraculous but you don't get hit. The bikes just flow around you. These people have been riding like this all of there lives and are incredibly adept at it. A foreign tourist like me would be no more likely to get hit if he just closed his eyes and walked blindly out into the road.
I spend a bit of time browsing a couple of book shops and haggling over badly faked Lonely Planets. It's useful information but I really don't want to overspend on the privilege of adding more paper weight to my already overladen backpack.
Laundry day displays the colourful attire of Hanoians
The charming little Juliet of room 202 where I put up my feet and watch the world go by.
This is the French built Opera House. I didn't go, not because the colonialist bourgeoise must renounce the trappings of wealth and elitist culture for the greater benefit of the People, but because there was nothing on for a week. It's ridiculously underused. All those tuxedoed soloists probably met the guillotine or the firing squad. They've got a bit of Faure and Brahms on next week, but I'm not hanging around.
Typical street in the Old Quarter.
Catholicism was introduced by the Dutch, and keenly promoted by the French during their hundred year sojourn. And though there are many adherents, Vietnam remains fairly ambivalent regarding religion.