First Impressions of Hanoi

I skipped out on Hue because it just seemed like another city full of temples and ruins…which were interesting a few months ago, but have ceased to amaze me. After Angkor, nothing can compare. So I stayed on the bus as it was going to Hanoi, and I wanted to get there to see Halong Bay. I have been told this can sometimes be a three day, two night trip, and I only have a few days left in Vietnam. The people next to me on the bus were a British couple about my age, and they were going the whole way as well. The whole trip had a slight edge of madness to it. We had to switch buses at the last second for reasons unknown, and Hannah, the British girl, left her bag on the first bus, but a guy on a motor bike brought it back just as the second bus was pulling up. We got onto the nicest bus I have been on yet this trip. It was a full sleeper bus, two stories of leather reclining bed seats with leather pillows and aircon. It even had a bathroom. I put in my ear plugs and my sleeping mask and passed out until around 5:30 this morning.

We got in to Hanoi at about 6:30am, and were told that there was a free taxi waiting to take us into the old town because the bus was too big for the small streets. We asked if we had to stay somewhere, as that is how these things are usually free, and were told no. While we were driving in, I noticed that a little guy from the place we got in was following on a motor bike. When we got out, he led us to a hotel that was drastically overcharging. We said no, and began to walk out. When we got outside, they went crazy and told us we had to pay for the taxi. We said no, we didn’t, but they were insistent. When we flat refused, they started grabbing us to keep us from leaving, then one guy pulled out a knife and held it to Harry’s throat. We kind of froze, then saw that it was a butter knife, and shook him off. The little guy was on me at this point and grabbed the knife from his friend, pressing it into my stomach. I was nervous, but not afraid because a butter knife was the biggest weapon they had pulled, and I knew I had a bigger knife I could get to if I needed it. I was a little concerned that he may know kung fu or something, which would mean my size advantage would be nullified. (He only came up to my shoulder.) They were even reaching for Hannah, who kept slapping their hands away. It was looking like this would not end well when they got on the phone, and I knew that if they called their friends, we were screwed, so I handed over a dollar, and so did Hannah and we took off.

A great introduction to the city of Hanoi. We walked around, fuming for a while and plotting revenge that will never happen before we found a different guest where the owner is a kind older man who made us feel welcome right away. A hot shower and some tea and I am ready to go again. The three of us are sharing a room at $3 each. Now I am starving and am going to try to find breakfast. I may even pocket the butter knife.