Heating up in Hanoi

Hanoi & HCMC seem to be similiar in size, Hanoi is perhaps a little smaller. They are both very busy with traffic, motorcycles, etc, but there is a character in the buildings here that I like. Walking through the Old Quarter is amazing. Shops are generally arranged in areas, each street specializing in a certain product. There is shoe shop street, ‘bunnings’ street, buttons & fabric street, paper lantern street and much to the kids delight toy street! This dates back to age of the craft guilds in the 13th century. As in HCMC, the sidewalks are alive with activities, eating, motorcycle parking, barbers cutting hair, merchants selling fruit. Walking the sidewalks is a real challenge, dodging and weaving through the dining areas, residents all sitting on little stools about a foot off the ground, and motorcycle parking…it doesn’t seem to end. It’s fascinating and amazing. You could walk for hours if it wasn’t for the oppressive heat. Unlike summer at home, no southerly comes through to offer relief – even the locals are sweating and complaining about it!

This afternoon saw the most massive storm hit, with a torrential downpour lasting about 2 hrs. We managed to get thoroughly soaked as we were out exploring the little laneways at the time. Mind you everyone was happily slushing through it as it was a welcome relief…..for a little while at least.

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Tonight we are off on the overnight train to Sapa. It lies in the very north west of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Hanoi could be mistaken for being the town renowned for schiesters. Luckily the manager associated with Hmong Village who organized our train tickets for us, had warned us of the scams and had arranged someone to take us directly to the train. We had to wait on the tracks for 5 mins while he collected the tickets. In that time we were approached by 6 different guys telling us the train wasn’t running, they would take us to a better cabin or the best one yet I will carry your valuables for $5 USD – yeh sure! It would be laughable if it wasn’t dark and everyone didn’t look a bit sleazy. Our helper was lovely and managed to get us on the train safely. Sometimes it’s best to have someone who speaks Vietnamese!

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