Ha Noi before home

Posted in vietnam at 10:28 am by Administrator

Since I last wrote in China we’ve been up to a fair bit. We left our couchsurfing host, William in Kunming with a heavy heart and had a fun time getting our bikes on the bus to the border town of Hekou. The vietnam visa had been super easy to get in Kunming. In fact the hardest part about it was finding the entrance to the consulate. But it was a serious and long argument to get the bikes on the bus as they sell all of the lugguage space to merchants that want to get stuff to the border. In the end I had to lie and say that our visas ran out that day so I couldn’t get a later bus and then I had to buy off 2 guys who had stuf already on the bus. Argh. Well it only cost 7 dollars but its still annoying. The sleeper buses are pretty funny as they are set up like a cheap hostel dorm with bunk beds lining each side of the bus. The driving skills of most chinese bus drivers are really conducive to sleeping and so I just looked out the window on the 12 hour ride. We got in at 6 am and had to wait around for the border to open before crossing. The crossing into vietnam is a lot more relaxed than the tibetan one and they hardly went through our stuff at all. Thats good becasue we’d heard that often they confiscate the DVDs that you buy in China. The only problem was that because we entered china on a group visa (necessary to get into tibet) we didn’t get any stamps in our visa. That meant that after trying several times we had to get one of the senior officers to walk through the whole crossing with us so that each guy understood the reason for our lack of stamps.
Once in vietnam we decided to ride the 35 km from the border to the tourist spot of SaPa. It seemed like a nice 35 km on the map but the map forgot to mention the 1500 m verticle difference in elevation between sapa and the border. DOH! We made it after quite the slog and found a very european looking and quite cute little city surrounded by clouds. It is definitely run for the tourists and its hard to find any of the untainted local culture left but it was a nice side stop after china and we spent 3 days there. We then got the train down to Hanoi. Its an 11 hour ride and it was especially memorable because the people that sat across from us were a couple of doting grandparents looking after their grandkiddy. They spent the first 6 hours of the journey feeding it lollies and fruit and milk drinks and all things and then the half an hour after that dutifully trying to ignore the massive amount of baby spew that had piled on the floor. That was until I went a tad nuts at the grandfather who then went nuts at the grandmother who cleaned up most of the mess while the granddad did his best to keep up the ignoring game.
Ha Noi is a maze of chaos and if I could turn off the horns on all the cars and the (literally) swarming scooters then I think that I’d quite like the place. We have 2 more days here before heading home but in the time here we also rode the 2 days down to Ha Long bay for an awesomely relaxing boat ride around the islands and inlets. I’ll write about that tomorrow as my stomach is calling me towards my first non seafood meal in days and so I must go.