Monday, June 30, 2014

Good Morning, Vietnam-6/24

After my last buffet breakfast of noodle soup and other delectables at the Happy Meet Monastery, I caught an early morning bus that quickly got filled by about three farmers who were hauling their two baskets each of vegetables and yellow flower blossom. By the time I got off, it was wall to wall people and vegetable baskets.

Again I used the Chinese script that says Friendship Pass to have people show me when to get off the bus.
After getting off, I again got on a moto taxi to make my final 3 kms to the Friendship Pass.
This time at the Friendship Pass, I am with my backpack as I get ready to go through China Customs and Immigration Building I showed you in my earlier blog. It was the easiest border crossing from China and Vietnam. After clearing the Vietnam Immigration and Customs building which was just a few hundred yards down from the China building, there was a shuttle bus that would take us to where the bus station was. This is where I would figure out how to get onward to Hanoi.
To my relief there were two minibuses that were competing for customers bound for Hanoi and places on the way. I usually try to pick the one that is fuller which means we leave as soon as the bus is full. The cost was 40 RMB---less than $6USD---for the 4 to 6 hour ride.
 
 
 

For the first time in three days, I was able to speak to some people that understood and spoke English. Among the riders in my bus were Sharon sitting beside me and Wendy now in the front seat after suffering a bout of car sickness despite wearing a travel patch. They were studying Chinese and were returning home for the summer holiday period. Sharon had indicated that much of their English studies involved studing grammar and not speaking English so she was glad to spend time talking with me.

 
 

About halfway there, we stopped for some lunch at a rest stop. We all had pho gau--chicken noodle soup. After that we continued on until Wendy got off on a town outside Hanoi and a bit later Sharon too got off along side the highway where her parents were waiting for her in their SUV.

Thay had instructed the driver where to drop me off in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, and sure enough, they dropped me off just a block away from the Rising Dragon Hotel.

When I entered the hotel and told the staff who I was, they warmly welcomed me and sat me down with some wonderful Vietnamese coffee---beats Starbucks by a mile---and went through the registration process. Mai, the receptionist, said that Glory had informed them of my difficulities. One of the things many of the hotel staff do with you in this sit down is to hear about your travel plans and then proceed to offer you tour and ticketing options for onward travel.

Since it was about 100 degrees with high humidity outside, I jumped at her offer to get my train ticket to Danang on the 25th with a little commission for them. Because it was a Vietnamese holiday period, she told me that my ticket choices were limited to the top bed in the hard sleepers---the third bunk up. At least I saved having to travel to the train station and waiting in line for the ticket which cost about 408000 dong--about $20.

After a shower, I decided to just walk about the Old Quarter area of Hanoi since I had been here just last year. I enjoy sitting at this corner sipping a street beer at 5000 dong per glass and watching the weaving traffic.

 
 

I then headed down to the Lake Hoan Kiem where Senator John McCain bailed out and spent the rest of the "American War" as a prisoner at the nearby Hanoi "Hilton"/

I had a lunch of pho gau on one of the rooftop restaurants overlooking the lake.
 
 
It was then just some more walking around the Old Quarter until dinnertime got me to the Tamerind Restaurant across the street from my Rising Dragon Hotel. What a great setting for a gourmet feast and splurge.

 

After walking about until dark, I returned to my hotel to wash out a few things before going to bed.

 

 

 

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