23.01.2013 - 23.02.2013
View Great Escape to the East! on Tam-Jo's travel map.
We got back into Hanoi today at 5.30am. We were both pretty tired and so we jumped into a taxi, the driver of which said that he ran on the meter. We had heard rumours about dodgy cab firms in the city, but we were too tired to wander the streets looking for the trust worthy green taxis. Big mistake! Before even leaving the train station car park we had supposedly done 5km and we watched in horror during the 3km journey to our hostel at the meter skipping rapidly higher and higher, reaching 16km by the end of our journey! Tam and I had already agreed how much we would pay for the journey, the driver was asking for more than three times that price. Tammy got very angry! Even in my zombiefied state it was hard not to find the situation amusing! Especially when Tam was stood on the pavement yelling at the driver that he was a crook and she would report him to the police, as he had my bag held hostage in the front seat of the car with him, with the doors locked! I managed to subtly unlock the door as he was yelling back at Tammy and she threw it open. We both managed to wrestle the bag out of his hands before I threw some money at him and jumped out of the car! We ran for the hostel! Not a great start to the day!
Following this, no one was awake at the hostel so it took a while to actually get in! Then our room wasn't ready so we curled up on some seats to wait for breakfast at 7am. After breakfast we were informed that there was no longer any room available at the hosel and we were being moved elsewhere, which involved another taxi across town (thankfully in a green cab!). When we got to our new digs we were thrilled to discover that it was a plush (well plush for us!) hotel! We were less thrilled that our room was on the sixth floor and there was no elevator!
Anyway, after a quick freshen up, we headed out for a jam packed day of sight seeing. First stop Temple of Literature, basically a very, very old university. We liked the Chinese influence to its architecture. Next, the Ho Chi Minh complex. The first issue was trying to get in! We were turned away from several entrances and told the place was closed at the last one we tried. We managed to sneak in and found that the museum was open, so we had a wander around. But the mausoleum was closed. We were not too disappointed, as we didn't really want to see the dead Ho Chi Minh, especially not as he had wanted to be cremated and not put on show like that. On the way to West Lake we walked past the site of the mausoleum and the palace. And finally we hit the big lake. It was big, but that was about it! We found a bunch of very scary swan boats and a number of restaurants serving everything from tortoise to otter! We settled down at the one that looked the fullest and ordered the most boring thing we could find on the menu!
Post lunch we went to the Ethnology Museum, which was very, very interesting! Lots of good exhibits and we learnt a lot about the different ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. We particularly liked the fertility carvings around the burial houses (see pictures above!)!
Tomorrow is another early start as we head out to Halong Bay! Back to the sea! Whoop!