Friday. Had a early flight from KL to Hanoi with Air Asia at 6.30am Arrived in Hanoi 8.50am
Had arranged for the hotel to pick us up as reading about all the scamming with taxi drivers, did not want the hassle.
I think it was close to an hour from airport to hotel. We had booked into the Jasmine hotel. As soon as we got there, they had a room ready for us, which was fantastic for a quick rest. They even offered us breakfast. This hotel is wonderful. I can honestly say the staff were wonderful, friendly, helpful and nothing was too much trouble for them. They made us feel so welcome. Location was brilliant. I had been emailing them for a while and their response was always that day later on.
We had a fresh plate of fruit daily in our rooms. This is how we discovered Mango stine. We both fell in love with them and ate them every day.
They arranged our visa letter for us and just added it onto the hotel bill.
Will do separate review about hotel.
They booked our Halong Bay Junk for us, as its cheaper to book from Vietnam than here in Australia.
We had no problems with our “Visa on Arrival”. Just paid the US$25 each at airport. Whole process took maybe 20 mins. Another couple on the plane had problems with their US$ and they would not accept it. Think it was pre 2006 notes.
We had an appointment with Hanoi Kids at 1pm that afternoon. We had one experienced girl “Kaze” and a young guy on his first tour “Hoang”. They were wonderful. We learnt so much about life in Vietnam from them. I would recommend everyone to enjoy spending time with young Vietnamese students.
We went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum & Presidential Palace first. We knew the mausoleum would be closed, but the Hanoi Kids thought the beautiful gardens (which is what we wanted to see) would be open. Its closed Friday & Mondays all parts including the gardens.
From here we had a short walk to West Lake. We didn’t walk around it, as it was just too hot.
Hanoi is supposed to be milder weather this time of the year. Today was not. Hanoi Kids told us it was 40 degrees and very humid. We felt every degree of the heat & humidity today.
Next stop was to Temple of Literature – entrance fee 20,000 dong each. Now this place was interesting. Our novice “Hoang” had just completed his studying of this place and he was full of information.
Next stop was Hoa Lo Prison – entrance fee 20,000 dong each. It was interesting, but very sad.
Hanoi Kids then took us to a restaurant. We enjoyed a meal with them, and a short walk back to the hotel. We gave them a block of Cadbury chocolate, a packet of Tim Tams, a pen with West Aust pictures on it and a koala key ring. They were very happy with this. Naturally we paid for the taxis and their entrance fees, also their meal and drinks.
We taxied between places. Most fares were under 40,000 dong ($2). Some fares were only 20,000 dong.
Taxis are cheap, but you have to use either Mai Linh or Taxi Group and hope you get a decent honest driver. The good thing about touring with the Hanoi Kids straight away, is that they explain so much about the taxis and other scams in Hanoi.
Saturday. After the stinker of a day on Friday the heavens opened up today. Very heavy all morning.
Hotel suggested we go on an electric car tour around the Old quarter and French quarter, as it was still drizzling. They booked and arranged one to pick us up from hotel. Cost 250,000 dong ($13) for one hour. It was a great way to orientate ourselves. Saw some interesting places that we mananged to walk back to on another day.
We went to the markets later on. But the indoor markets were crowded. Not so much with people as you cant walk down any ailes as there just isn’t room. It was very hot & humid inside. We walked in and out. Prices there were so over the top. We bought things cheaper on the streets than what we could bargain inside Don Xuan Market.
Spent the rest of the day just walking around Old quarter. A lot of streets are grouped, so there is a shoe street, a clothes area, a kids toy street etc etc.
We went looking for Gekko Cafe / Restaurant as it had been mentioned on the forum a few times, for dinner that night. Discovered there are two “Gekkos” not far from each other. One required you to walk down a corridor and one faced the street. We went to the one that faced the street.
Had cheese garlic bread 35,000 dong, farmhouse chicken 99,000 dong, pork cordon bleu 115,000 dong, lemon juice (always ask for no sugar and add some if you need it, as they serve it so sweet normally) 28,000 dong and a coke 25,000 dong. Under $15 for the both of us. Food was excellent and huge portions.
Thankfully, I had watched a link that someone posted on the forum about how to cross the streets in Vietnam and the Hanoi Kids had helped us with some lessons. It is chaos. Motor bikes everywhere. They dont take any notice of cross walks or road rules. But this system seems to work. Its just very scarey the first few times on your own. Side streets are ok, but the main streets are terror. We had one older lady help us across a major street one evening. She took us across to the lake side and walked back to where we had been waiting to continue on. Nice lady.
We then learnt to wait till some locals where crossing the road and walk with them. No body ever objected and smiled when we thanked them. Many stood and talked to us and gave us good ideas.