Day 1 – Hanoi to Bac Ha

 Our first day's plan was to arrive at Hanoi, freshen up and have dinner followed by taking the 10-hour train ride in a sleeping cabin to Lao Cai. Lao Cai is the end of the line in northern Vietnam and is the border town between Vietnam and China.

We boarded the plane from KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) on May 30th morning and had an easy 3+ hour flight. We were met on arrival at Hanoi airport by our guide Tsien Loong. Everything went as planned i.e we were taken to the hotel to freshen up. We then converted our currency into Vietnamese Dong after which we felt very rich - we were instant multimillionaires! 'Loaded' with cash we, or rather the girls, then went on a shopping spree. It was then that we experienced the traffic flow of Hanoi. I would describe the traffic situation in Hanoi as organised chaos where, though chaotic, traffic somehow flowed quite smoothly very much like water flowing through a path of least resistance. If you want to cross a busy street you just walk and traffic will somehow avoid you. If you wait for traffic to slow down for you like what we do back home, you will be standing there till eternity.

Street of old quarters, Hanoi. Notice how the motorcyclist avoided the street vendor.



We eventually walked to the town centre of Hanoi where we had tea or rather Vietnamese coffee while the kids had something to fill their stomachs. The coffee house was on the 4th floor and had a semi-circular balcony with a great panoramic view of the city.

To the left was the view of this lake.


At the centre is this square. Can you imagine the traffic flow here?


Food in general was relatively expensive in Vietnam. Our first meal at this coffee house cost us VDG1.5 million!

While the girls did their never-ending shopping I took the opportunity to grab some shots.

This boy is the son of one of the shop owners where the girls bought something. He was very cooperative and playful... and very curious too.


Gambling seems to be a favourite past-time.


A popular means of transport.


Talk about patriotism.


We then stocked up with some lychees for the 10-hour train ride that night. If it had not been the train ride I would have tried the durians.


 We walked back to our hotel and freshened up again for the night train ride. We had an interesting evening while waiting for the guide to turn up. We were told earlier to get ready by a certain time and to meet at the hotel lobby. Fifteen minutes soon passed the meeting time, then 45 minutes and the guide was still nowhere to be found! Pete Wong who followed us on this trip and who arranged this tour for us was beginning to get worried. He tried frantically to contact the guide but to no avail, He was incommunicado. Pete even walked to the guide's office and found it closed. We sensed that we might have been conned and already started to make alternative plans. I send my daughter to walk across the street to a travel agency to enquire about alternative ways to get to Lao Cai. Then out of the blue the guide appeared on his bike. You want to know what was the first sentence he uttered? "Do you all want to go to the station now?" he uttered. We all started to laugh more because of a sense of relieve than anything else.

The railway station was only minutes away. I expected a grand structure like the colonial building we have back home but boy was I in for a surprise.

This was the entrance to the station.


After collecting our tickets we walked towards our designated train.

Crossing the lines.


Boarding the train.


The corridor to the cabins showing Pete and Loong taking some documentary shots.


Inside the cabin with four beds.


The reading light.


My son and his Sony PSP - his favourite past-time for the night trip.


Use toilet when train is starting... can't use thereafter???



To be continued - Lao Cai to Bac Ha Sunday market.





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