Hanoi – again!

We walked down the road to have breakfast in a boulangerie which supports a local charity. The pastries were excellent and just right for a starting meal. We panicked a little as it got close to the time when our bus was meant to pick us up, so flagged down a taxi to take us to the office with our luggage. Actually, at first we thought the taxi was there to pick us up, but we rapidly realised he was just cruising and looking for a fare!

Fair do’s though, the driver was polite and helpful and despite a language barrier between us we got where we needed to go in good time to jump on the coach… and watch as it rounded the block to stop in front of our hotel and wait for us. Oh dear. So for those of you who book a Vietnam Airlines bus in Hué with pickup – it will come for you. If you’re patient.

We chatted to a French couple on the bus who had been visiting their daughter, a medical student based down in Hoi An. They were on the same flight as us and seemed remarkably unphased by the whole Vietnam thing. Hué airport isn’t huge, but here’s a hint – if you don’t like people smoking round you then go through the security check as soon as you have your boarding card. It’s not obvious from outside, but there’s a waiting lounge on the other end with seating, a TV, food and a no smoking policy. I wish I’d known this before I came close to vomiting on the guy next to us.

Our flight was called and we piled down stairs and were shoehorned onto the little shuttle bus. Which then – and I kid you not – did a U-turn then let us out at the plane doors. I do not exaggerate one bit. The bus travelled more distance doing the turn than we would have covered walking directly to the steps in a fraction of the time. The bus engine was running the whole time. Madness.

The actual flight was probably more ecological as it was fairly full and we got into Hanoi pretty much on time. I feel like I know this place backwards now, and we walked outside and straight onto one of the Vietnam Airline minibuses which took us into the Old Quarter for 30,000 Dong each. Apologies to the French couple as we got the last two seats on the bus, meaning they had to wait for the next one to fill up!

At the hostel I got my usual “What the hell are you doing back here?” from Mike and Max, as well as a welcoming beer and a hearty handshake. Luggage dumped, we made the most of happy hour (believe me… I really made the most of it) loading up on beer and cocktails before attacking the burger bar for dinner. This is three nights a week, and on the balcony bar of the main building.

Ah, main building. Yes. The Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel is now in three buildings along the same street, such is the popularity of the place. There’s the original place (now with a new bar on the ground floor), The Annexe and The Other Side across the street. 179 beds and almost always full to the brim. They even had two camp beds down in our dorm at one point to accommodate overflow.

We met a girl called Kat who was in much the same state I was 2 years ago – sat waiting for a new bank card to arrive after hers had been stolen. Also in the hostel was Hanno, a German guy on holiday from working on his thesis at the Primate Centre in Ninh Binh. As we settled down to eat, Mike announced a second happy hour in my honour as I’ve been at the hostel so often!

Along with a bunch of other people we headed out to the Bia Hoi, which was a lot quieter than I remember. I have a feeling the police have clamped down on the way the chairs used to spill onto the roadside. Bunch of killjoys. The beer’s also now 3000D, up 1000D from my last visit but still cheap enough!. Leah and Kat headed back to the hostel, but I stayed out with a couple of other guys for a few more beers in the Buddha Bar. Apparently it was around 4am when I got back to the hostel. All I know is I spent around eight quid and had a great night out!

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