Saturday, 18 January 2014

Hanoi



Bullet Points

-On January 9th we flew from Barcelona to Hanoi.
-After an awesome week with my sister Monica in Hanoi we have departed to cycle around Northern Vietnam and in 2-3 weeks plan to cross the border into Northern Laos.

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In a bizarre change of direction and continent we touched down in Hanoi, Vietnam, a long way and a far cry from Barcelona. We felt victorious after nearly 48 hours of connecting metros, trains, buses and flights, and must say a huge thank you to Adela, our friend in Spain, for helping us through the logistical challenge of carrying our boxed up bikes to the airport.

Within five minutes of arriving at our hostel in the old quarter of Hanoi my sister Monica appeared outside the front door, our rendezvous a highly anticipated occasion. Anna and I had seen no family, in fact nobody at all that we knew previously, since leaving NZ on April 8th. Monica’s been living and working in Hanoi since early November, being a ‘local’ she has come to know her way around pretty darn well. She’s also a little bundle of energy and enthusiasm and the three of us have had an amazing week together. We’re feeling very lucky!

With a population of around 7-8 million Hanoi is a lively place to visit and has a cheerful vibe about it. The air is undeniably heavily polluted, but on the flip side the city is blessed with a myriad of cute little lakes and parks, and in a great piece of town planning many of it’s streets are lined with rows of great leafy trees growing over to form long archways of greenery. The streets that we experienced were kept surprisingly clean and amazingly free of the funky smells you might expect with such a density of population!

Our week has consisted of buzzing through the crowded streets, following Mon on our bikes, amidst the sea of motorbikes, moving from one great eatery to another, sampling a great range of delicious Vietnamese foods, and chatting over a great range of topics. We’ve also loved just watching life go on by, so many curious and entertaining things I’ve not seen before. Things like enmasse exercises, aerobics and dancing in the park, young boys trying to repair Anna’s jandals as she walks, babies squeezed between parents on motorbikes, crashed U.S. war planes in stagnant lakes, a whole city curfew at 11pm, and themed streets where all shops sell identical products. Space feels like it’s in short supply in Hanoi, for the first time ever we were regularly charge a small fee to park our bikes, most restaurants had chairs and tables the size of pre-school kids furniture, footpaths were so filled with eateries and vendors that anybody walking is forced to brave the road. Road traffic spills over onto the footpaths and foot traffic spills onto the road! We’ve loved it. The week has been an extremely precious time and Mon has given us a very good initiation to the country. Massive thanks Mons!! After seven days of fun today it was time load up the bikes again, to leave the nest and venture forth! To North Vietnam we have embarked and by the sounds of it some very hilly adventures await us.






Ollie

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