We woke up the next day well rested and far too early. Being the first up, my morning punishment was traipsing up and down the 3 flights of stairs between our room and reception until I could enquire about SIM cards for our mobile phones.
Having acquired SIM cards, we were then provided breakfast by our hosts, where I proceeded to break the rules about eating in Asia by eating fresh/uncooked fruit with skin (tomato), and drinking fruit juice. Luckily, I have yet to fall ill.
We took an opportunity when organising our trip when there were cheap flights for Vietnam, and so we thought coming from the south that it only made sense for us to fly to Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon (here, the “we” doing the organising was really just Margaret). Events transpired that we opted to do a tour with intrepid travel, which naturally started in Hanoi.
So back to the airport we went. Sadly, much of the reputation of Jetstar came out on this trip, as the flight was delayed by almost 5 hours. During this time, I wrote the Day 1 log, then was treated to hours of screeching announcements, in both Vietnamese and English. I should note that the voices were not especially screechy, but rather the volume of the announcement system.
Once again aboard our flight, I got the impression that there was a lawnmower in the vicinity. I was getting hungry by the time we boarded, and apparently so were my travel partners. Looking at the menu my jaw almost hit the ground as saw the meal prices… 60,000 get Vietnamese dong, with a drink!
I should note that Vietnamese dong values sounds large, but in fact their value is very low. 10,000 VND comes to $0.51 AUD ($0.55 NZD), so this meal was coming in at about $3.
After landing, 5 hours later than originally expected, we were finally in our last hotel transfer for the next 20-odd days. Hanoi airport is actually about 30km out of the airport, so we (or at least I) got in a decent about amount of rubber-necking as I took in my surroundings.
Arriving at our accommodation, we got presented with one of the oddities of Vietnam: all the streets may be dirty, cramped or busy (or all of the above), but there are some beautiful places along them, and this hotel was no exception. Marble floors and bell hops taking bags and opening doors for us. Not that we could appreciate it all right away, as we were rushed upstairs to meet our guide for the Vietnam leg of our trip, then after finding our rooms we were immediately back out again, down the street to a restaurant where we meet the rest of the group.
Dinner for us was a set menu of very nice foods, all Vietnamese specialties. in terms of experience, my favourite part of the art would be the Cia Ca, which is something like a roll-your-own spring roll, but for flavour I’d say (and everybody there would also attest) that my favourite was the pork with done kind of sweet sesame sauce. Old tastes die hard.
Over dinner we met our travel group, and shared backgrounds and stories. Surprisingly for me, there are a lot of Australians on this trip - 6 out of 14 (not counting ourselves, because we are proudly New Zealanders!)
After dinner we made our way up to our rooms for a good night’s rest before Day 3, which is when everything was really just about to get started.