Our last stop: Hanoi. For C and I, three nights at a very swanky boutique hotel with a fab breakfast. How much? £29 a night. Perfect.
And what, you may ask, do we think of Hanoi? Well, it’s a proper city with boulevards, important houses, a couple of lakes, parks, a big river (imaginatively named ‘Red’), some skyscrapers, at least one, new, two-tone Rolls Royce and a couple of Lambos, Starbucks, high-end shops and a bus service. Pretty much like any normal city?
It’s batpoop crazy. Nine million people and five million scooters. I think we’ve seen all of them, most of the riders on their mobiles. Strolling, loud karaoke men, pushing a speaker on a trolly. Pavements, but not pavements … instead they’re scooter parks, street vendors and street food, shops that have barfed their wares onto them, old women with stereotypical paddy field hats selling cabbage … and strange doughnuts. Every type of restaurant and many you’ve never thought of. Shops selling a single item. Want a padlock? How big? What colour? How about a safe?
Tourists and touts. Visitors and Vietnamese. Life like you’ve never experienced it. A lava flow – it’s blooming hot here – of people and bikes and cars (and small dogs?). It’s super mad … and I love it. Easily my fave city we’ve visited so far.
We arrived on the final day of the Vietnamese holiday and they’d taken over the centre. It was one helluva party with stages and karaoke, street games and lots of tiny children in electric toys cars driving wantonly at people’s ankles. We did Ho Chi Minh’s tomb (he was absent, apparently getting a makeover in China), a bit of shopping, the train street (there are many – and maybe the best experience of the trip?), a walking tour, the Hanoi Hilton (the prison where Senator John McCain was held during the war) and lots of air-conditioning rest stops.
We ate out an an Indian and a French-themed but v Vietnamese restaurant, and got used to #HighlandsCoffee, the Vietnamese version of #Starbucks, but so much better. I ran around one of the lakes in a new, not-Nike baseball cap and we generally slowed our pace to the weather.
And then it ended. Bex and Steven caught an early flight home and, as I write this, we are waiting for a chain of flights from Hanoi to Seoul to Hong Kong to London. I shall put together a summary in the next couple if days. But, in short, we are definitely Vietnam vets!