It was an eleven hour journey in a train with quaint wooden seats circa 1930. The "air conditioning" was from the same era- antiquated metal fans that kept breaking down and provided little or no respite from the heat. But the seats were so cool! I felt all I needed was some long beads and a wee hat, a constricting brazier and a fluttering fan to totally fit the 30's feel about the place. Wonderful!
We made the acquaintance of an Irish couple and passed the time playing cards and bargaining with the hawkers. One wee thing (hawker) was named Nga. She looked all of 14 or 15 years old and did her best to rid us of our money. We did end up with a whole lot of water and a whole lot of laughs. It was a great introduction to Vietnamese people. Lots of laughing and haggling. We ended up selling them (Nga and company) boxes of Pringles and fake Pringles. They thought it was great! They were buying things off us and the Irish. And the buggers had the cheek to try and haggle us! By gum!
We bade farewell to Nga and company halfway to Hanoi. Unfortunately with them left the laughing hawkers aswell. The next lot were by comparison quite a surly bunch.
So arriving in Hanoi at 2130 (ish) with no where to stay and no idea where to go was quite an adventure. Me being a stingy bugger, made our company take a moto (motobike taxi) to the hotel the Irish were staying in. We were overcharged (big surprise) but the Irish were extorted. What should have cost them 20,000 dong (USD1.50 approx) and taken 5 minutes, cost them 70,000 dong and took 15 minutes. Beware, beware, beware!
You will always find a bed in Hanoi though. There are hotels EVERYWHERE. So we stayed in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Pretty cool place. Loads of shops, loads of traffic, loads of people. Good cheap food and beer.
Starting to need a swum though...