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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 9: Am I in France?!

Today, we bid farewell to Nha Trang, and checked out of our $20.00 a night hostel! 

Surrounded by hanging purple orchids...

I had my usual banana pancakes and sipped on some of Aaron's dessert coffee!

We had looked on our iphone maps to see how far the airport was from where we were, and it looked like it was literally just around the corner, so we relaxed in the coffeee shop until 1 hour before our flight was scheduled to depart, and jumped in a taxi.  We said "airport," but the driver started driving the opposite direction!  Aaron showed him the map and said "airport" about 5 times, and the guy, who didn't speak English nodded his head in agreement!  So, why were we going the wrong way?!  After about 30 minutes in the taxi, it was close to 11:15am, and our flight was leaving at 11:45am, so we were getting a really worried!  Where the heck is this secret airport he's taking us to?  Luckily, he knew better than us, and we ended up at the right place, just in time to make it on the flight!  Whew!  

Lost are the days of going to the airport and buying a magazine in my own language!

We made it!  Thank goodness, considering this was our most expensive means of transport for the whoel trip... not to mention our most expensive expense!

Our first glimpse of Hanoi, from the clouds!

The flight was about an hour and a half and went by really quickly, because once again, I had The Biggest Loser to watch! :)  The Vietnamese girl next to me kept looking over my shoulder to see what I was watching!  I can't imagine what she was thinking about the show!

When we got to Hanoi, we were surprised to find that the actual city was over 45 minutes away, and a $15.00 taxi was the only way to get there!  So, once again, we forked over the money and headed to the Old Quarter!

 We weren't sure where to go, so when we saw a neighborhood we liked, we asked him to stop! :)  We were starving at this point, so Aaron walked into this restaurant to check the menu... and to his surprise, the Vietnamese woman could only speak FRENCH!  How cool is that?  Unfrotunately though, they didn't have anything to eat, so we kept walking down the tree lined street...

 ... past this gorgeous church...

... across intersections filled with scooters carrying things like baskets, magazines, and flowers...

... and past more beautiful churches... (Did you know the majority of people in this area are either Catholic or Christian?!)

... and then literally stumbled across this stunning 50 year old French home, turned restaurant!

The staff was fantastic and friendly... and the food was delicious!   Our first glimpse of Hanoi was turning out to be quite a positive experience!

While we were eating lunch, we researched how to take the night train to Sapa, and found out that the train there is a public train, but then nicer, private companies, tack on their own train cars for a more comfortable ride!  We were definitely up for that!  So, our server at the restaurant used our skype to call a company called ET Pumpkin that we had found online, to ask where they were located, and put us in a taxi to their office!  Thank goodness for helpful people!  It makes life so much easier! :) 

After booking our roundtrip overnight train tickets to Lao-Cai, in route to Sapa (1st class sleeper - $35.00 per person per ride), we went in search of a travel agency to book our Halong Bay Trip!  We went to quite a few places before we found one we felt wasn't ripping us off and booked our 3 days/2 nights trip!  For $95.00 each, they covered the 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Halong Bay, 1 day/night on the boat, 1 night in a hotel on Cat Ba Island, 5 meals, kayaking, and transportation back to Hanoi!  You can pay as little as $65.00 for a similar trip, but like they say, "You get what you pay for!"

After all the bookings were done, we were free to roam around the old quarter before heading ET Pumpkin to catch the van to the train station!  The following pictures were taken during our little escapae through the city!

Yes, that's a frog... and yes, it was actually alive!  When she cut it, it's little legs trembled.  Sorry, graphic, but true!

Regardless of these fish being cut into pieces, their gills were still moving!  How crazy is that?! 

Because the French once occupied Northern Vietnam, their influence can be seen throughout!  For example, warm baguettes are sold on nearly every street corner!  I actually bought two for a whopping 30 cents, TOTAL!

This moment was the first of many grifting schemes that we fell into!  This lady, literally came up behind Aaron and set this thing on his shoulders, and threw her hat on his head!  Since my camera was in my hand, I swung around and snapped a picture.  She immediately took it off Aaron's shoulder, set it on the ground and demanded that Aaron and I buy some of her overly priced fruit, "because picture!"  Uuuggghhh.  So, we bought some pinapple from her that we never even ate! 

A bootleg-movie-lovers paradise!

By this point, we were exhausted and frustrated with people trying to get us to buy something on every corner!  So, we snuck into this little coffee shop across from ET Pumpkin, to watch for our van to come!   It was so nice and relaxing in here, and my banana muffin wasn't too bad either!

At 7:45pm, we got picked up from the tour office and shuttled to the train station, where we caught the 9:10pm train to Lao-Cai... in route to Spa

We had read horror stories about the sleeper car trains to Sapa, so we were so happy to find that our little room was so nice!  Don't be decieved though... we shared this tiny room with another couple, a darling couple, actually, from Spain!  We had the right side bunks, they had the left!

I slept like a baby, almost the whole night... while Aaron on the other hand, was up almost the whole ride!  The train definitely rocked back and forth, like a violent earthquake, the entire 8 hours!  But, as long as I'm cuddled in a blanket, I'm out!  The worst part about the whole thing was when the attendant banged on our door, at 5:30am, to wake us all up!

Good news was, we had made it safely to Lao-Cai, and were an hour's bus ride from beautiful Sapa!

1 comment:

  1. I am super jealous. I also wanna travel like you do.