Another year, another adventure: this time I came to Vietnam!
I took on a direct Vietnam Airlines flight that turned out not to be so direct when, after more than 10h in the air, we received the news that visibility was insufficient in Hanoi. They diverted us to Da Nang (which added an hour on the plane), where we had to wait for Hanoi to clear up (another hour) and then we had to take off and fly there again (another hour). A three hour delay for a total of 14 hours on board! I was bouncing off the walls by the time I got off the plane. It didn’t help that the selection of in-flight movies was awful…
Once in Hanoi, I still had to queue to get my visa. The way it works is, if you live in one of a few countries (including the UK, Spain, France and Japan, but not the US) you don’t need a visa for stays shorter than 15 days. Mine is 16 days, so I had to request a visa via my hotel, which I then had to validate at Noi Bai airport. You fill in a form, attach a picture, and fork over $25… And then you wait and wait and wait.
Sure enough, when I finally left the airport (at 10:15, for a scheduled arrival of 5:30…) it was completely foggy and you could barely see the other side of the road. It was like being sprayed in the face with water, even though the terminal parking lot was covered. I had booked transport to my hotel beforehand, so I didn’t have to stress out over withdrawing VND or choosing a trustworthy cab company or anything. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the drive -I could hardly see anything at all! Lots of empty lots between Noi Bai and Hanoi. Every once in a while I could see an eerie figure outlined in the mist, like a tiny shrine by the road, or a caped figure with a conical hat pruning a bush in the middle of a green field. It was very atmospheric.
I’m staying at the Hanoi La Siesta Hotel, because it’s #1 on TripAdvisor but also because I will never stop finding the name hilarious, and so far it looks like a great choice. No sooner had I walked in that my bags were taken from me, I was seated on a couch while Reception filled my paperwork for me and I was given juice and fruit to nibble on while I waited. Pineapple, very tasty; watermelon, very refeshing; and then dragonfruit, this bizarre thing with white flesh and black seeds. It’s hard to believe that fruit naturally comes in black and white. I tried it, guys! It had no taste! (Not a fan.)
When I was finally shown to my room it was already past 11:30, although check-in time was at 14:00 so kudos to the hotel staff for prepping my room early. My metabolism had absolutely crashed about one hour earlier, and now was on the way up again, so that when I got a chance to rest I found I was too wired to sleep. So I reminded myself that I only have three days in Hanoi… And left the safety of the hotel to explore the Old Quarter!