Hanging in Hanoi

Just a quick catchup. I’ve made some plans, seen some friends and realised once again how much I like Hanoi. Not a lot has happened, but… who cares?

I’ve spent a couple of nights out at the Bia Hoi, as ever, and taken new arrivals to the Pho place around the corner. I’ve discovered that Pepperonis do the best beefburgers in Hanoi (d55,000 for a double cheeseburger plus a huge amount of chips and a Coke). I’ve met a gazillion new people, all of whom I hope stay in touch.

You know. The usual.

There’s one tale that sticks out. At first it was funny. Then a bit less so. A german guy was staying here a couple of nights ago and he went out with some of the guys from the hostel for a few sherbets (or whatever German for sherbet is). He was about 18-19 years old and had just spent a year in Singapore, I think at university.

I was sat on my laptop in the kitchen doing my “part of the furniture even though it’s 3am” impression when he staggered in, utterly wasted and looking a bit roughed up. It turns out he’d hired himself a couple of young Vietnames ladies to spend some intimate time with. Afterwards, they (or their pimp, I’m not sure) had roughed him up a bit and taken all the cash from his wallet, his camera, his mobile…

He was sat at the table in front of me, slowly counting this off. “$160 isn’t too much to lose. And it was an old camera.” His eyes lost focus for a few moments. Then he nodded. “I went all the way with one of them. Yes. It was worth it.”

Beggars belief.

Until the morning, when he was in tears and scared witless as he’d slept with a prostitute, hadn’t used protection and – worse – had sobered up and realised this. After a phone call to his father, he headed for the airport with his brother who’d just arrived from Bangkok. Two tickets on the first plane back to Frankfurt from Hanoi – $2000 each. Ouch. That’s one expensive night out.

In other news, I recommend Quán Bia Minh at 7A Đinh Liệt (near Hoan Kiem Lake). I actually ate there some months ago when a couple of lovely girls from the UK fed me when I’d lost my ATM card. I was nearby today so stopped in and thoroughly enjoyed a fresh fruit salad topped with muesli, honey and yoghurt. Scrumptious!

In other other news, I will be off to Laos tomorrow night on the bus. I did the maths – bus = $21. Flight = $103+tax. OK, so the bus is a 24-hour trip but it’s all part of the experience. I should arrive in Vientiane sometime around 6pm on Tuesday, though don’t expect an update until I get to Vang Vieng where I know I have wireless in the hostel I’ve booked.

So – 2 nights in Vientiane, 3 in Vang Vieng and 3 in Luang Prabang after that. The next step is to book a flight to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh in Cambodia from Luang Prabang. Which is tricky as the only real way to do it is from a Lao Airways office and they’re all in Laos (surprise). And they book up 3 weeks in advance. Well, guess I’ll see. My backup is to get a bus back to Vientiane and over the Friendship Bridge to Udon Thani in Thailand. I could get a flight from there or just skip Cambodia and spend 2 days in Bangkok catching up on the big summer cinema releases!

Regarding Europe, I have flights and buses books around Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt and Wroclaw so far. And a free ride from Poland to Prage sorted.

*chews fake cigar* I love it when a plan comes together.

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