Holy. Hell. We landed in Hanoi and immediately inhaled a smell that made a lasting impression and not in a good way. The humid hot air enveloped us as we climbed into the car for a long ride to the hotel, Calypso Grand, in the Old Quarter. In the darkness, I could make out very rundown French style buildings yet could see big screen TV’s in many apartments. The billboards screamed technology–Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, etc. but the vibe was more like being stuck in the 1950’s. The Vietnamese love karaoke bars and massage parlors just as much as the Chinese do–they are everywhere!
Scooters dominate the streets and here they are family vehicles, accommodating Mom, Dad and the baby. There are no street lights or traffic signals and it’s even more crazy than China. It’s the last day of the Tet Holiday and everyone was on the street squatting on little plastic stools eating their dinners late into the evening. We walked by buildings to peer inside, seeing decay on the outside and a much more renovated interior, many with circular staircases and one with a Porsche parked on the first floor.
At our hotel, we were greeted with a smile and told to sit down emphatically so we could be served a fresh fruit welcome drink. Our room was very charming with a French balcony overlooking the busy street. There are no big chain hotels, only small boutique hotels lining the streets. We immediately stowed our bags and hit the streets, literally in Thom’s case as he fell walking off a rugged curb and sprained his ankle. The streets and sidewalks are all broken and hard to walk on especially at night. He’s sitting here now with a cold Coke can on his ankle trying to stop the swelling. No Walgreen’s on the corner for the needed items–we will learn to pack more medical supplied in the future.
Being a trooper and not wanting to go back to the hotel immediately, Thom hung in there and we sat at the café on the corner where we watched the scooter parade and enjoyed some tea/wine. Tomorrow, we leave early to go to Ha Long Bay to enjoy an overnight cruise on a junk boat. I can’t wait to see Vietnam by daylight!