Ah, Hanoi – part 23

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Imagination. Beijing.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Today we left Beijing, not sorry to go. Our flight wasn’t until 1545 but we ordered the taxi for 10am, happy to get going.

We’re flying Vietnam Airlines Beijing to Hanoi. Absolutely amazing – if you’d told me forty years ago I’d be flying between these two cities, I wouldn’t have believed you.

We had a long boring wait to check in but then had to go through the most thorough, intrusive, almost rude bag and body search I’ve ever had. They looked at everything! I had toothpaste – they smelt it. Shampoo? No! And I had to take my cameras out of their bag and put them through the X-ray scanner again. I had coins in my carry on bag – obviously I should have declared them – disapproving look, and so on and on. The guy with the metal detector went over every inch of me, between my legs, everywhere. There was no courtesy. It was cold and rude. Not surprisingly, they didn’t find anything on me, although I’d earlier remembered to move a pair of scissors from carry-on to suitcase, luckily.

Then airside and a loo stop, at last. Then a Starbucks! Maybe I can get a decent coffee and sandwich? Not a chance. The coffee was insipid and the chicken/cheese/tomato sandwich, wrapped in paper, expected to be crisp, was inside wrapped in Glad Wrap and was a soggy mess. It all cost about $8.50. Aaaarrrgh.

When we reached the departure lounge, what a surprise. From our sunny clear morning drive to the airport, it was as if Big Daddy had said, “OK, guys, you can start the factories and power stations up again now. APEC’s over.” The smog had descended and we could hardly see the planes on the tarmac.

So finally onto the near new A330 and I was very pleased to find the seat spacing greater than normal, such that I could nearly get the tray down. But then the guy in front of me, with all his extra space in the exit row, reclined his seat. Bastard. We had a spare seat in the middle so it was OK.

Three and a half hours later and we were going through Hanoi immigration. I’d been warned that Hanoi airport is notorious for being “po faced” but I was delighted when a gorgeous young immigration lady in immaculate green uniform smiled and asked if I was OK. (Obviously, I have been looking quite sick and exhausted.) I said yes, I’m OK, but thanks for asking and got another nice smile. Great introduction.

Our hotel driver was there as promised and we were off on a hairy, scary drive to the city. Wow. Blare your horn. Flash your lights, weave from lane to lane, force the other guy out of the way, never give an inch. This is worse than Jakarta as the speeds are much higher. It became chaotic as we got into the old area and suddenly, surprisingly, we were outside this very narrow white doorway and here we were. The Oriental Central City Hotel, 30 Hang Bac St, Hoah Kiem Old Quarter.

Very modern, but very traditional, with a fabulous greeting and a fruit smoothie, but unfortunately also a long talk about where we were on the map, what to see and do, where to go, what not to do and on and on. Enough, not now.

Then it was up to the room on the top floor, where we got a shock. A Junior Suite with Window included a double bed. We both recoiled. No, no, no, we don’t share a bed. Oh, sir, but that’s what you ordered. Ummm, no.

I’d wanted separate rooms anyway so we asked. Fully booked tonight sir. Have to be a folding bed. OK. Jan is a contortionist so it was no trouble for him, but he got another room for Sunday night. He’s off to Ha Long Bay Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so no problem. I’m too sick to take the trip. Doctor on Monday.

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