Flying Solo in SE Asia

Vietnam-Travelogue  |  Travel time: January - May 2010  |  by Kelly House

Hanoi, Vietnam

Arriving in Hanoi was an eye opening experience in and of itself. I opted to take the Bangkok public bus to the airport, rather than the shuttle tourists usually use. I'm glad I did it, but at the time, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. After taking the Sky Train to the main bus hub, I waited at the stop with hundreds of Thais who were on their way home from work or school. I was literally the only white person at the bus stop and I drew plenty of stares and snickers--now I know what it must feel like for minorities in America. After waiting about 45 minutes for my bus, I grew worried that it didn't exist, but no one around me spoke enough English to tell me. Luckily, it came through a few minutes later and I was quick enough to get a seat while the others packed in around me in the standing-room-only vehicle. Spent the night at the airport before catching a 6:30 flight to Hanoi, where English is even less widely spoken and tourists are far rarer.

I also took the public bus from the airport to my hotel, which was just as unnerving but far cooler. The bus first weaved through the outskirts of Hanoi before veering into the city, so I got to see some awesome sights. Literally miles upon miles of rice paddies with farmers up to their knees in water, harvesting the rice or directing bull-driven plows through the mud. Unfortunately, the windows were too clouded with dust to get any decent photos, but sights were well worth the hassle of the longer, more cramped ride and the difficulty of finding my way from the bus stop to my hostel.

After arriving and getting myself set up in my room, I accompanied my Swiss roommate, Peter, on a walk of Hanoi's old city. The traffic here is even more crazy than in Bangkok, with pretty much everyone driving a motorbike. There's no concept of staying on one side of the road, so oncoming traffic is everywhere. Walking across the street is a really cool experience, much like playing the game Frogger in the hardest level. You just have to take a deep breath and plunge. Usually, drivers will adeptly weave around you.

The roads are so crowded here that a garbage truck couldn't get through, so street cleaners here push carts through the streets and then transfer the trash to a truck waiting on the outskirts of the inner city. Cars are rare, and the people instead pile ridiculous amounts of cargo on the backs of their bikes. We saw one with two adults, two children, and a small passion fruit tree on the back.

After a quick beer at the hostel, Peter, Pablo (a fellow hotel patron and Greek mythology professor from Argentina) and I took another walk to take in the sights to the North. After no sleep at the airport and with lingering jet lag, I passed out by 9:30.

Today I hope to see some more of the sights of Hanoi and possibly arrange travel to Sa Pa. I'm ready to get out of the city and into the mountains.

Reppin' TSN halfway across the globe. Maybe recruiting some new readers?

Reppin' TSN halfway across the globe. Maybe recruiting some new readers?

Hanoi's insane street traffic. This isn't even the worst of it.

Hanoi's insane street traffic. This isn't even the worst of it.

Peter enjoys his first bowl of Pho, Vietnam's most famous dish.

Peter enjoys his first bowl of Pho, Vietnam's most famous dish.

Peter and Pablo take in Hanoi's night scene.

Peter and Pablo take in Hanoi's night scene.

Hoan Kiem Lake, epicenter of Hanoi.

Hoan Kiem Lake, epicenter of Hanoi.

© Kelly House, 2010
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The trip
 
Description:
A post-graduate's experience traveling without companions through mainland Southeast Asia.
Details:
Start of journey: Jan 27, 2010
Duration: 4 months
End of journey: May 2010
Travelled countries: Thailand
Vietnam
The Author
 
Kelly House is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 10 years.
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