We arrived in Hanoi on Thursday 8th May at 8.15am after an overnight trip from Guilin in China by train. We got the “Fast train” from Guilin to Nanning leaving at 2pm Wed. It was not really fast traveling at only 200klm per hour. We changed trains at Nanning and we only had one hour to swap trains which without the help of a guy working for China rail and sign language we would have had great difficulty doing.
Leaving the Guilin – Nanning part of the station and after seeking help from young well built guys to carry our cases up and down dozens of stairs. (Nothing is easy in China). I flashed our tickets under this station attendant guys eyes. He indicated 6.20pm and I gave thumbs up but waved my arm around to say “Where”??. He immediately indicated follow me and we set off on a route march tour of the huge station. He took us to the line up for the train and we were told to “Sit on a chair under the big picture” which we dutifully did and waited. Sure enough our train number came up and the ticket girl gestured .. GO!!!. So we did.
After again seeking help from strapping young guys we got the bags up and down a hundred stairs onto the platform and train. We had booked two lower beds in a four berth compartment and as the time got close to leaving we crossed our fingers and it worked….. We had the compartment to ourselves !!.
The train left at precisely 6.20pm. Once on the move we made our noodle soup using the carriage hot water boiler, and ate cakes and went to bed to the clickity clack of the old train. Then at 10..30pm we got a knock on the door and were told “Get up, get off”. So everybody had to take all their bags, clamber off (no platform) and were shepherded into a railway waiting hall where we were again scanned, bags checked, passports checked and 45 mins later allowed back on the train. Sleep at last… But, not to be. At 12.30 am another knock. “Get up get off”. This time we were at the Vietnam border so we got the same treatment and eventually got to sleep at 2.00am. The train was supposed to arrived at Hanoi at 5.15am so it was to be a short sleep. But luck was on our side as the train broke down sometime in the night and we did not arrive at Hanoi until 8.15am. Suited us fine, really did not want to be lost in Hanoi at 5.15 in the morning 🙁
From daybreak until arrival we had watched the scenery go by. The hills, vegetables fields and rice paddies are beautiful, but the houses, villages, towns … well I am glad I don’t live there!! Squalor and drab comes to mind.
Hanoi station was a shock.. see picture below.
A guy on the train wrote out hotel name on a piece of paper in Vietnamese so we grabbed a cab and after a bit of searching we found the hotel. Was not easy to find, see picture below. And when someone said to me re motor bikes in China. “You ain’t seen nothing yet” You were absolutely right. See video below. Shower and freshen up time at our Hostel The Little Hanoi Hostel 48 Hang Ga Street Hoan Kiem District. (Ga means Chicken). The hostel along with almost every other building in the area is only about 4mt wide, so is very narrow. See picture below. We wondered why Vietnamese hotels always looked so narrow but this is the housing style throughout the country.
Our hostess there took great care of us and settled us into a large room with two huge beds, aircon, TV shower and bath. Now we are settled in it’s time to go and try out the local foods.
We wandered (As wombats do) around the Old Quarter that night and found a decent street restaurant selling noodles (see video). A plate of noodles and a couple of beers later we headed home to bed.
The hostel is FANTASTIC. Clean (the staff are constantly polishing) and friendly. Always free coffee and tea in the urns, fresh pineapple and dragon fruit on the table, and free breakfast with a good choice. We choose ‘English” which is two fried eggs, a couple of bacon rashers and a HUGE beautiful French style baguette, crusty on the outside and soft bread in the middle. Cut in half and filled with the eggs and bacon it makes a decent breakfast. Even the $6 per night dorms get free breakfast. Good value!!
We had a back room in the hostel until we checked out to go to Halong Bay (See Halong Bay post) which was very quiet. On our return we got the second floor front room overlooking the street. Good room but a bit noisy with damn bikes and horns. BUT at 5.30 in the morning the “Public” radio starts. On the electricity and other poles in the streets are speakers and they broadcast news and such (in Vietnamese) all over the district. Talk about a racket. Car and bike horns, people, and this noisy radio broadcast which lasts till they are sure every body is awake and up. Also at different times during the day they broadcast news etc.
Click on video to view. Click the [ ] icon bottom right to view full screen.
The first day in Hanoi Old Quarter. getting used to the mad hectic pace of life dodging thousands of motor bikes