my favorite place so far
(Hoan Kiem Lake, just a stroll round the "Central Park" of Hanoi)
Arrived in Hanoi on Thurs from Hue and had a little mixup at the airport. I was to be met by a driver from Hanoi Guesthouse, but no one held up my name on the many hotel namecards. I kept looking, finally started asking about other transportation options into Hanoi (quoted as much as 500,000 VND by one group, so I kept looking around), and finally saw a card held up by Hanoi Guesthouse, but my name was not on it. The guy took me anyway, and we drove through the Hanoi smog on quite a modern expressway to the Old Quarter. Arrived at the Guesthouse, but the gracious Ms. Thin had no room for me, but took me round the corner to another (sister) hotel. Ms. Thin was all apologies, etc., but I was pissed (I hade made the reservation at least 6 wks previously). She said she might have something the following day, but I decided to look elsewhere, and found the Kangaroo Hotel for $16.
Hanoi is interesting to say the least, and reminds me a little of New York - classier and very different. I believe it's more expensive here as one tends to eat more in established restaurants. I contacted my free guide service, Hanoikids, immediately about the hotel change, and met them as scheduled in the lobby of Hanoi Guesthouse yesterday at 9am sharp. Duc and Thuong were 2 youngsters under 30 who were keen to improve their English skills, and showed me a great time yesterday. In the afternoon, they were relieved by 2 younger sisters. Thuong is coming round again today to take me around to a museum or 2, and I invited all 4 guides to dinner tonight. There is no way I would have enjoyed my stay in Hanoi as much without them.
I bought a one-way train ticket to Lao Cai for my Sapa mini-trek, and leave Tues on the overnight King Express sleeper. Depends how I like Sapa on how long I'll be there (will be a nice break from Hanoi smog), and then back to the city for the last few days of my trip.
Time for my pho and coffee breakfast. Last night I had great fun with an upscale Vietnamese hotpot buffet dinner (almost set the place afire as some napkins went up on the sterno!)