1. Hanoi

After a month in China, in HUGE dynamic cities with the population of the whole of Australia in a single city,  many days spent on high speed trains and travelling thousands of kilometers it was nice to get to Hanoi and enter the “veg out” part of our trip. From now on we should proceed at a calmer pace.. 🙂

We arrived in Hanoi on Thursday 8th May at 8.15am after an overnight trip from Guilin in China by train. We got the “Fast train” from Guilin to Nanning leaving at 2pm Wed. It was not really fast traveling at only 200klm per hour. We changed trains at Nanning and we only had one hour to swap trains which without the help of a guy working for China rail and sign language we would have had great difficulty doing.

Leaving the Guilin – Nanning part of the station and after seeking help from young well built guys to carry our cases up and down dozens of stairs. (Nothing is easy in China). I flashed our tickets under this station attendant guys eyes. He indicated 6.20pm and I gave thumbs up but waved my arm around to say “Where”??. He immediately indicated follow me and we set off on a route march tour of the huge station. He took us to the line up for the train and we were told to “Sit on a chair under the big picture” which we dutifully did and waited. Sure enough our train number came up and the ticket girl gestured .. GO!!!. So we did.

After again seeking help from strapping young guys we got  the bags up and down a hundred stairs onto the platform and train. We had booked two lower beds in a four berth compartment and as the time got close to leaving we crossed our fingers and it worked….. We had the compartment to ourselves !!.

The train  left at precisely 6.20pm. Once on the move we made our noodle soup using the carriage hot water boiler, and ate cakes and went to bed to the clickity clack of the old train. Then at 10..30pm we got a knock on the door and were told “Get up, get off”. So everybody had to take all their bags, clamber off (no platform) and were shepherded into a railway waiting hall where we were again scanned, bags checked, passports checked and 45 mins later allowed back on the train. Sleep at last… But, not to be. At 12.30 am another knock. “Get up get off”. This time we were at the Vietnam border so we got the same treatment and eventually got to sleep at 2.00am. The train was supposed to arrived at Hanoi at 5.15am so it was to be a short sleep. But luck was on our side as the train broke down sometime in the night and we did not arrive at Hanoi until 8.15am. Suited us fine, really did not want to be lost in Hanoi at 5.15 in the morning 🙁

From daybreak until arrival we had watched the scenery go by. The hills, vegetables fields and rice paddies are beautiful, but the houses, villages, towns … well I am glad I don’t live there!! Squalor and drab comes to mind.

Hanoi station was a shock.. see picture below.

Hanoi Gai Lam Station

A guy on the train wrote out hotel name on a piece of paper in Vietnamese so we grabbed a cab and after a bit of searching we found the hotel. Was not easy to find, see picture below. And when someone said to me re motor bikes in China. “You ain’t seen nothing yet”  You were absolutely right. See video below. Shower and freshen up time at our Hostel The Little Hanoi Hostel 48  Hang Ga Street Hoan Kiem District. (Ga means Chicken). The hostel along with almost every other building in the area is only about 4mt wide, so is very narrow. See picture below. We wondered why Vietnamese hotels always looked so narrow but this is the housing style throughout the country.

We only booked for 4 nights in Hanoi and looked forward to seeing Halong Bay and take a cruise around the beautiful islands.

The hostel we stayed in was great and we rated it 10 out of 10. Clean, well priced, tea & coffee and fruit all day, fantastic breakfast and Kim the hostess went above and beyond to ensure our stay was great.


Wombats comments on Hanoi:
1 = bad 10 =good

Based on a stay in The Old Quarter:

  • Atmosphere: 9 out of 10

  • Accommodation where we stayed: 10 out of 10

  • Ease of using local transport 2 out of 10

  • General area cleanliness: 5 out of 10

  • Locals friendliness: 9 out of 10

  • Ability to be understood by locals: 5 out of 10 (Difficult)

  • Foods varieties: 5 out of 10

  • Restaurants and eateries: 6 out of 10


Comments: Found the streets to be dangerous due to the thousands of motorbikes and that the footpaths were not walkable due to bikes being parked on them and people eating on them. Extremely noisy with bike and car horns all the time.
The area is “Full on” and crowded but is also vibrant and alive. The foods in this area we found to be very disappointing and cooked in extremely unhygienic conditions. Willie got a real bad dose of  the S***s from eating cold Vietnamese spring rolls from a lady carrying them around the bar area on a tray…. should have known better!!!!!  Overall: Would like to look around more if we returned.

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