A short hop across the border and we arrived in Hanoi. On the bus from the airport we got talking to a Chinese girl called Shwa, Shwa is 26, not married (much to her mums disappointment), lives in Guangzhou, works as a manager for a cooking utensils company, loves rice, and doesn’t want to visit England because she’s heard we only eat sandwiches. We arranged to meet up for lunch after we’d all checked in to our hotels.
The streets in Hanoi are still as busy as China but it’s a touristy busy rather than a billion people live here busy! Much more relaxing! And even though there’s just as many motorbikes at least they stick to the roads so we can now walk on the pavements without fearing for our lives. We spent the afternoon exploring the city with Shwa, the streets are lined with restaurants and street food vendors and the coffee is the best I’ve ever tasted, seriously! Considering Shwa is a good half a foot shorter than us she sure could put away some food, she ordered twice as much as us in the restaurants and then stopped at every street vendor in between, no idea where she was putting it! We finished off our day in one of the many bars with a couple of pints for 10,000 Vietnamese dong, around 30p, not bad eh.
The next day me and Rod hired a motorbike to do a little exploring. It surprised me but I found that I actually trusted Rob to keep us safe (we did a practice ride in the Lakes on his scooter and didn’t die) but it still didn’t stop me from being an extremely nervous passenger. I had to bear hug Rob tightly, make the occasionally arrgh sound and close my eyes until we left the city. Honestly there are so many bikes on the road and the rules seem to be, if it’s a green light go, if it’s an orange light go, if it’s a red light go but go really fast! We drove a couple of hours out of Hanoi to Ba Vi National park; nice place with some nice views but not much else. I had another cup of coffee, my fifth of the day, but seriously the coffee here is the best I’ve ever tasted, and then we headed home. Following our Google maps closely as well as a load of other bikers we ended up on a highway and next thing we know policemen are running into the road and flagging us to the side. As it was our first day here we were a bit clueless as to what was going on, the policeman took the keys out of the bike and then ushered Rob over to a quiet corner. Vietnamese bikers were being pulled over too, filling out some forms and handing over some money and then heading on their way. Rob was told that we shouldn’t be on this road and that his license wasn’t an international one so we had to pay 1.2 million dong! I wasn’t allowed to go over to Rob, the policeman kept telling me to go away and then he would drag Rob back into the truck and whisper the offence and fines. In hindsight we should have realised that it was a massive scam and we were being targeted because we were westerners but he dropped the fine to half a million dong and we agreed to pay, it as probably about 10 times as much as what everyone else paid, but we settled up and got the hell out of there and vowed to keep on driving next time a policeman ran into the road!