When it comes to Vietnam, we have learned you need to be extremely relaxed and flexible, and forget about your original plans. But in the end everything will work out fine anyway.
1st trick: Getting into Vietnam
Getting into Vietnam was an adventure itself. Wanting to change flights in Bangkok (original plan: Krabi-Bangkok-Hanoi) we were informed that our Vietnam visa is not valid yet for another 2 days. Therefore immigration will not let us enter, so we cannot get on the plane.
BUT oooops, we have already officially exited Thailand in Krabi… So it took 5 immigration officers, 4 stewardesses and the 2 of us two and a half hours in the Thai Immigration Office to sort this issue out. On top of it all we were sitting in the “Women’s Retention Room” for this time period :D . Finally we got a “CANCELLED” stamp into our passports, and were free to spend 2 unplanned days in Bangkok – which actually turned out to be a great experience.
2nd trick: Saving neighbors
But in the end we finally made it to Hanoi, no more issues with Thai or Vietnamese officers. We were also very lucky with our hotel. Here we landed with 2 days delay and they made no fuss about it at all.
However, first morning at 7 AM there was desperate knocking on our door: 2 guys from reception wanted to come into our room. As we are not really early birds, we were quite annoyed in the first moments, until they have explained us that our upstairs neighbors are stuck in their room and they need to climb up through our balcony to rescue them… It was so surreal, that our grumpiness was gone in a moment. And after trying to fix the door in vain for about half an hour, they came again with a ladder and a young couple (our age :) ) climbed down to our balcony with their suitcases to reach their bus to Ha Long Bay.
Well, we learned that flexibility must go in both directions in this country…
3rd trick: Boat into dry-dock
After a wonderful day strolling through the Old Quarters and some other sights of Hanoi, we started our 3 day (2 nights) cruise trip in Ha Long Bay. The Bay is amazing, although in this time of the year the weather is rather foggy, as you will see on the pictures. Still, the small islands and cliffs – gems, dropped there by dragons, to protect Vietnam against invaders, as the legend tells – provide unique scenery, the fog making it mystical, magical, but not that photogene.
The crew of our small ship was friendly and funny, we had a great time. Then before dinner they informed us, that our 3-day stay has to be reduced to 2 days, as the boat has to go for inspection to the dry docks… But we “should not worry, most probably our hotel will reimburse the missing day”. Some other passengers were told some different stories, like there is an issue with the captains’ license (?!?!), and they have to board another boat in the middle of the night, or they can stay, but the program and route will be identical to the first day, blablabla… Interesting.
Here we realized that we are already in a fully relaxed state of mind: we took it as it came, made some arrangements to change our stay in Hanoi and enjoyed the evening on deck exchanging experiences with some very nice long term travelers we have met on the boat.
Despite change of plans it was an unforgettable trip and a destination to visit again someday.
4th trick: Traffic in Hanoi
Traffic in Southeast Asia is in general a special experience, but Hanoi is topping it by far. A constant wall of motorbikes (allegedly 6 million only in this city) is flowing in the streets, mixed with thousands of taxis and some busses, following no visible rules or regulations, not stopping or slowing down for any reason (least for pedestrians). In the beginning we had the feeling, only those are on the other side of the road, who were born there. But, as usual, the sweetest sights are always on the other side of the road, so we had to learn to overcome this obstacle: we selected the “close your eyes and pass through without stopping” method. And somehow it worked every time.
So this was our first intake into Vietnam. Hopefully you did not misunderstand, we are extremely happy to be here, it is an exciting country, where we will certainly stay for some time.