Today we were to be saying goodbye to the Philippines which had been our home for the past two months or so. A large part of us was sad to be leaving the country but we were also happy to be moving on once again – more exploring to be done. We had no idea what to expect from our next destination – Vietnam – but for some reason I myself expected a difficult entry into our next port of call. Maybe it was because Vietnam has its communist links but I had this worry in my mind that sometime during the course of today I was to get a good grilling and possibly one or more of my toe or finger nails being pulled out by our inscrutable hosts to be.
However, the day started off with very little fanfare as we ordered our taxi to get us from the hotel to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino airport. The drive was another one of those that tests both the nerves and the patience but we had set off in good time so arrived with plenty to spare. Our plane was to be a brand new one and the paint job on the side of it was of one Manny Paquaio, the people’s champion of the Philippines and to be fair from what we had seen of him, an all round nice guy.
Due to an earlier mix up in our itinerary, rather than having a direct flight to Hanoi we were in fact due to be first flying to Ho Chi Minh City then would get a connecting flight to Hanoi – a right pain in the proverbial but a necessary evil if we were to get on track with the route by which I wanted to explore Vietnam – i.e. top down.
The flight to HCMC was not a bad one or for that matter, a particularly long one but in-between we had a bit of a wait before we were due to go to Hanoi and this would be the one where we thought we would be allowed into the country as it were and undergo zee formal interrogations – should zey be necessary! That was how we thought it would happen anyhow but being as our next destination was Hanoi via an internal flight we had to produce our papers etc at HCMC.
How long did all the red (Communist Red?) tape and questioning take and just how many nails did we have removed – well the answer is a five minutes interrogation (What is your name Sir?) and no nails removed and no other questions required answering – how is that for communism folks! To be sure we had completed our entry forms beforehand and shelled out some money to smooth the wheels but as we understood it this was par for the course. Once completed, we were now here in Vietnam, easy peasy! All the worry though had made us work up quite an appetite so after grabbing some currency and a sim card and (most important) our luggage, we booked in for our next flight and then hot footed it to grab a bite to eat. The food at the airport noodle bar, after having weeks of white rice, was white … noodles. How differently delicious and the accompanying soup was excellent if a little more spicy than we had been used to. It had with it a side dish of fresh vegetable matter, herbs and stuff that you could use to change the flavour of the soup according to how you wanted it to taste – excellent idea. The soup was not only really tasty but also very satisfying and filling and it took quite a bit of time to eat which was good as we had time to spare.
The flight to the capital was a night one but again this was easy enough and although it was late at night we reached Hanoi in fine spirits that is, until we were waiting for taxis and this was simply a case of survival of the fittest. We had a couple of goes at playing it the English way and being ‘ever so’ polite and letting everyone else go first but they obviously played the game a different way and anyone just jumped ahead of whoever was waiting. So after a short while – as I was a bit past myself so as my tiredness increased, my level of patience moved in the opposite direction – I simply jumped in front of those waiting and almost literally grabbed the next taxi. This was not to be the end of the night as Hanoi airport is quite a distance from the city but although it took a while we did finally get there, to the Riverside Hotel which had not a river in sight! Along the way we had seen a number of people sat out on really short chairs socialising. Our hotel was okay if a little rough around the edges ad the welcome we received warm enough but our room was nice and big and that was a good thing in itself as it was great to spread out before hitting the sack.