The disclaimer of this story is that sometimes backpacking is really hard.
So we arrive at the airport in Vientiane in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday
And our destination is Vietnam but Annie has yet to receive her visa approval letter she applied for two days prior. Something I had been reminding her to do for weeks. Just saying.
But the flight was booked and we get our shit and head to the counter to check in and immediately the man is like “visa letter?” And I pull mine out and Annie is like…O.O
So she pulls out her phone, uses the emergency data and miracles of miracles the letter gets delivered right to her inbox that second. I swear that girl.
They take her somewhere so she can print it which leaves me waiting around for long enough to start worrying that I’m going to have to leave her or something. And then we’re jogging through security to the gates. Which at the Vientiane airport is just one ting room with three gates. But there’s nothing for Hanoi yet.
And we’re confused but we keep thinking okay well it has to be somewhere in this room. And hen boarding time passes. And then take off passes. And we’re like “Kay if it was delayed wouldn’t they say?” So finally we find someone to ask and he’s like “yes here. But not now” very helpful. And about 10 minutes later they let us know we’re delayed.
We had completely gotten rid of all kip so we’re broke and I’m eating the rest of this big bag of granola I bought days earlier. But finally we board.
And an hour later we land in Hanoi completely discombobulated.
Not to mention the fact that this is the first time I’ve been on a plane since arriving in Thailand in October. (Okay one ting Bangkok to Phrae flight that hardly counts) but we arrive, have to wait for the visa to be processed, go through customs, and then we are immediately assaulted by people trying to get us in their taxis. And sell us SIM cards. And exchange our money. And we’re stressed out. And the conversion rate is insane. It’s like 22,000 dong to 1 USD. but we’re not even think in dollars we have to convert to baht.
And we lose this really aggressive taxi driver and hop in a van. He said it was 100,000 dong. And we’re like…okay? And then we’re like…wait shit should we take a public bus? And I’m like I don’t know!
So we get off the van. He’s like yelling “wait you pay 150,000?” And we’re like no bye! And then we go back inside. And we can’t get wifi or anything. Annie gets info about the public bus. We’re like…ugggg. So finally we are like “wait how much was the van?” And we’re like “150?” And like “well he said 150 as we were leaving it must be 200?” And we’re like “okay let’s go back as ask if he’ll do 100”
So we walk out and the can guy immediately flags us and we’re like “100?” And he immediately is like “yes yes. Get in” and we’re like “oh we fucked up” cause he agreed so quickly. And the we’re in the van and we realize that’s cause he originally said 100! And like he was trying to make us pay more as we were leaving not less. And we felt like idiots but we were already in the van and exhausted.
And I’m exhausted just writing about it.
We get to hostel and are luckily told that it is happy hour and we get free beer! Oh joy! After a few glasses we go to eat some dinner and are just assaulted by the city of Hanoi.
Firstly, the traffic is insane. The intersections are basically a free-for-all. Secondly, the sidewalks are basically unwalkable considering they simultaneously function as scooter parking, food stand seat area, and hangout place for local Vietnamese people. And there is so much going on.
We’re in the old quarter so it’s these tiny thin streets with a ton of shops, restaurants, stores, and travel agencies. That night Annie and I managed to find our way to the big lake which sort of marks the central part of the old quarter and managed to get ourselves some dinner.
After dinner we sought out a jazz bar that I had found on the internet which turned out to be a huge success. Jazz bars seem to be right up our alley at the moment because we want to go out and have some drinks but not on the crazy bar streets so many backpackers like to frequent.
We did turn in early that night because we were freaking exhausted.
The next day started more or less the same way. At breakfast we were informed that the hostel we booked for one night had no more available rooms for the coming night. So we had to pack up and move to another hostel. And then we got coffee and at the coffee place I ran into a group of 5 girls who were teachers with me! What a small world!
The rest of the day we just waited around for AJ basically. I took a nap. Annie did work. We took advantage of the hostels happy hour. And finally AJ got in at like 7pm.
We met the other OEG girls for a dinner of pho. Typical. And then they went home and Annie and AJ and I got another drink. And we were pretty much being grumpy about the whole backpackin experience. And how it was tiring and we were spending so much. And we’re bitching and we’re paying for our bill and we didn’t even notice until the bill comes back that someone put in a 200,000 instead of a 20,000. And we’re looking around at eahother like….fuck.
And we’re like “of course we are here bitching about all the money and now one of us is out 200,000 and we don’t know who”…well it turned out to be me. Of course. After some adding and comparing what we had left in our wallets we concluded it must have been me.
And I went home and did some meditations and things because Jesus woman I must have been so out of it.
The next day was better.
Though we didn’t really do much.
Brenna was coming to terms with her budget and cutting herself some slack on the spending. So I bought myself a new jacket (it was so cold!) and some new yoga pants which I desperately needed. And we booked a one night Ha Long Bay cruise which I think we all desperately needed.
We saw the “famous” water puppet show. Which was…kind of cool? Like it was pretty cool but for the talk about it…I’d say it was a bit over-hyped. Though they did have this cool sparkler fire dragon puppets going around on the fire. So it definitely wasn’t a waste of time.
And the next day we were onto our Ha Long Bay tour!
Annie had had a bad experience with the previous boat she had taken 3 years ago. And in an attempt to avoid making the same mistake we got a super nice cruise. So we were picked up in like super nice bus. And then chilled for like the 4 hour bus ride. And we arrived at the dock. And then did the weirdest maneuver of getting on a small boat and driving like 30 seconds away to the big boat and getting off there. Like…couldn’t we have walked?
Anyway. We ended up with the biggest and nicest room on the boat. It had a private balcony and was on the second floor with the best view. We were in heaven. And then we took a nap.
We woke up as our boat was arriving at the first stop of the cruise…this big ass cave.
Which actually was way cooler than I had expected. I was like…cave? And despite here being a bunch of tourists, it was still really cool. And it went around and around for a while. We kind of wandered away from our guide who-bless him is very sweet-but spoke English with a really strong accent I had a hard time understanding. And he was basically only good for pointing out what different things in the cave look like. A fact Annie pointed out and we all found very amusing the whole tour. “This is a dragon! This one is a rooster!”
After the kayaking we had happy hour (which we didn’t participate in because we were too poor to pay for drinks) and dinner. I forgot to mention that the meals were insane. With like plates and plates of food being put down for us. And it was really nice.
And then we just went to sleep. Like the tired grandmas we are. Thought actually AJ and I did karaoke with the Vietnamese boat workers. And we sang dancing queen and the hit it out of the park with our note-perfect version of a Wannabe by the Spice Girls. Including all the rap parts. Mic dropped.
Then we went to sleep.
The next day they were offering tai chi in the morning on the roof. And j was excited about that. But it felt an bit like some random crew member put on a white outfit and then kind of moved around in weird ways we were expected to follow. Dunno how legit the tai chi was. But anyway then we had breakfast. And our stop for the day was to visit an oyster farm?
Which was pretty much an excuse to try to sell up pearls. Which we were less then interested in. We check out of our beautiful room. (*crying*) and then the rain (which had been holding off the last few days) just all dropped at once and suddenly we were in a downpour. At least it made the ride back more exciting.
More on Vietnam later but I have to post this because I’ve been in the process of writing for days and I HAVE to post something.