So last night was fun. After repacking my entire bag to put it in a slightly more logical order, we headed out for dinner. Jason wasn’t a big fan of us going anywhere with ‘real’ seats, but two girls in skirts persuaded him and we ended up in a little place with great food [current Jenny: I completely failed at taking food photos or writing down where I ate for this entire trip so expect some vague descriptions]. And we had a lot of food. No photos because I was too excited but: spring rolls, morning glory with garlic, chicken with cashews, beef with lemongrass and chili. All the food plus beers came to about £4 each.
Later, in an art gallery that opened up to a little bar on the street, we had three beers for 75,000 VND. This is about £2.30. Ridiculous. [Current Jenny: if only I knew it would get cheaper]. We also walked through the night markets and laughed a LOT at Jason’s Vietnamese haggling (which never really worked).
Busy day! Up early to visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Literally his
dead, embalmed body is on display. Kinda creepy. Discovered the Vietnamese really love him. Huge queues and crowds everywhere of tourists and locals. Then we walked a pretty long way around Hồ Tây (West Lake) and blagged our way into a swanky hotel to sunbathe and chill by the pool. Which was lovely until it started to piss it down. Finding cover in a westernised restaurant, I had a Magners (sweet sugary cider heaven) and crab and artichoke ravioli. Then I headed back ready to meet my group.
At 6pm I met Channy, our CEO (Chief Experience Officer) [current Jenny: I LOVE Channy. This will be obvious in the coming posts]. As he started talking through our itinerary, I was worried I was the only one doing my trip. But
instead it turns out I was joining a group of 17 people who had already been travelling together for three weeks. That terrifies me even more. Luckily at dinner, they all welcomed me to the family. Small issue that most of them were hungover so most seemed subdued but nice. Guess I’ll find out more in the next two weeks – although there is another Brightoner on the trip (well, Peacehaven…). Tomorrow we fly to Laos and are joined by a local tour guide as that’s part of their communist law.
God that flight was LONG! Turns out that I get bored on a 10.5 hour flight on my own. But I survived! Hurrah! I was met by my lovely driver who led me to his air-conditioned car (yeh, Hanoi is hot event at 6am) and handed me a bottle of water. Big fan. In the 30 minute journey I learnt two things: 1 – the people of Hanoi take their waterproofing very seriously and 2 – the people of Hanoi don’t take road safety very seriously. Scooters all over the place. Utter chaos. I spent a lot of my ride hoping we weren’t going to kill anyone. Safely arrived at my hotel – Church Boutique Lan Ong – which is very narrow and very warm [current Jenny – the warm thing isn’t going to go away]. Having lost all concept of time, I didn’t realise it is breakfast time and while I sit and write and wait for Jo I am surrounded by a tour group all chattering
away. I have just realised that this could well be my group, although they seem to have a lot of pre-planned activities so I am less sure. All I want to do is shower and sleep, but alas into the rain I must venture. Presuming I can ditch my beast of a backpack somewhere secure. Who knows what I’ll come back to! My bag survived the plane ride, I’m sure it will survive a morning in my hotel.
Wow. Hanoi is a bit crazy isn’t it? After an early start with Jo we walked down to Hoàn Kiếm Lake, home of a giant turtle that we sadly didn’t see. But we did walk all the way around it and have a look at the temple – legend has it a mighty sword is hidden in the depths and guarded by the turtle. After a stroll to the Catholic cathedral and another trip round the lake (we really like that lake) we got a taxi to the Temple of Literature (and gatecrashed some graduation photos oh well).
Dedicated to Confucius, the temples gave out exams in various subjects , and today is a beautiful, peaceful haven – if you ignore the constant beeping from moped and car horns! At this point, my body more or less gave up so I checked into my hotel and badly napped and rehydrated. My long day of travelling and eating funny things at funny times left my body sore and queasy. Plus I’ve started taking my malaria tablets in preparation for Laos and a common side effect is feeling sick. But power on I shall. I have two weeks ahead of me and I refuse to be ill!
I woke up this morning freakishly early thanks to ridiculous dreams of going to the wrong hotel. 5am early to be precise, but due to my 6am taxi it actually worked out alright. Do you know how hard it is to decide what to wear when England is cold and raining, but the forecast for your two week holiday is 33 degrees and sunny?
So, wearing ALL THE LAYERS (not enough, I was still cold), I headed to Heathrow T4. I forgot how dull it is flying on your own. Who do you drink prosecco with? As I write this, I’ve been on the plane for 4 hours, with 7 still to go (delayed flight yay). I’ve had an alright chicken curry, two glasses of prosecco and watched Kingsman: The Secret Service. As we’re forced into Hanoi time (2:40pm London, 9:40pm Hanoi) they’ve turned all the lights off. This is where I should be trying to sleep but it is hard when everyone keeps walking past to go to the toilet. I’d like another drink but feel it’s rude to ask again on Vietnam Airways. On the plus side, I don’t feel scared any more (yay prosecco!). We’ve hit pretty bad turbulence twice and now I feel I can do this.
I’ve felt pretty sick for the last few days with nerves – what was I thinking booking a trip to Asia on my own? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh well, too late to turn back since we’re flying over Eastern Europe now! This feels strange to be writing things down but I don’t trust myself not to break my iPad. Already dreading getting back and having to type this up [current Jenny: at least I identified this early on!]. I also can’t work out how to turn on my overhead light, but luckily Catriona suggested I buy a clip on light for my Kindle which is currently clipped to my tray table.
It’s pretty incredible that in 7.5 more hours I will be on the other side of the world. Now seems like a good time to re-watch Avengers – Age of Ultron. When in doubt, watch two of my favourite Chris’ – Hemsworth and Evans (Pratt makes it in the top three). I still can’t quite believe I’m doing this. This is uncharacteristically brave of me.
[Current Jenny: This seems to be all I was able to write on the flight. I was alternating between being FINE and freaking out. And watching films. Then thanks to time difference we lost a day]