I miss Vietnam already
18.12.2007 - 27.12.2007 27 °C
Merry Christmas! I guess this is a couple days late, but it doesn't matter.
I arrived in Bangkok late last night, a day later than expected. I wish I was still in Hanoi.
I arrived in Hanoi on the 18th, and my original plan was to go to Sapa in the north for a couple nights before heading to Halong Bay for a couple more, and then back to Hanoi for Christmas. Well, plans change, as they have numerous times on this trip and when I got to Hanoi, I just wasn't really interested in taking another long bus ride to Sapa, so I just stayed put in Hanoi for a few days before heading to Halong Bay on the 22nd. I saw some sights and generally relaxed. I met some Welsh people and we made fun of each other's accents for a few days over ridiculously cheap Bia Hoi, the local brew, which goes for 2000D per glass. The Vietnamese currency is the dong, and the exchange is 15000D for $1. Do the math and a glass of beer goes for about 15 cents. Pretty awesome. It's definitely not the best beer in the world, but come on, 15 cents.
Halong Bay was stunning. Unfortunately the weather didn't completely cooperate, and it was raining the first day and pretty cloudy the second, but no bad weather can corrupt Halong Bay. The bay has hundreds upon hundreds of huge, jagged limestone formations that jut out of the water. My pictures don't justify it; it's so vast and beautiful. I wanted to go on a three day, two night tour, but the tour company forgot to pick me up the first day, so I settled for a discounted two day tour. Not that big of a deal. The one night I spent on the boat was really fun. Besides one Vietnamese family, there was a Brit, a Norwegian, a Swede, a Danish couple, three Americans and me. We played drinking games and sang Vietnamese karaoke until the wee hours and it was one of the funnest nights I've had so far.
After Halong Bay, I went back to Hanoi for Christmas. This being my first Christmas away from home, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the whole thing, but I luckily met a big group of great people, and it was very memorable. I spent Christmas Eve at an Irish pub called Finnegan's. It was packed to the brim and everyone sang Christmas songs the whole night. I spent it with a group of Irish guys, an Aussie and a Kiwi. Most of them were staying at the Hanoi Backpackers' Hostel, which is the only dorm available for travellers. I wasn't staying there, but I was lucky enough to run into them, and I found out that they were having a big turkey dinner the next day on the roof of the hostel. This was plenty good enough for me, and I spent the majority of Christmas Day eating turkey and drinking free beer with all the other transplanted travellers that happened to be in Hanoi.
I was supposed to fly back to Bangkok on Christmas night, but I forgot my passport at the hotel when I went to the airport (hotels in Vietnam require you to leave your passport with them, and I was in a rush), so I missed my flight. Luckily a flight to Bangkok from Hanoi is dirt cheap, and immigration didn't even charge me for overstaying my visa when I left on Boxing Day. So now I'm back in Bangkok, and I miss Hanoi and the rest of Vietnam already. Hanoi has a ton of character, and coming back to Bangkok is a real letdown. I don't think I realized how much I liked Hanoi until I arrived in Bangkok, and I instantly missed the bustle of the streets, the chilly nights, the suicidal nature of crossing the street, and of course, all the wonderful people I met that made Christmas so memorable. I was really enjoying Vietnam and I won't hesitate to go back there in the future; it's been my favourite country.
Here are a few pics:
Hanoi at night. While it only has half the population that Saigon has, the streets are much, much narrower, and it's much more intense. I initially liked Saigon much better than Hanoi, but after spending over a week in Hanoi, it completely grew on me.
Sunrise in Halong Bay.
The Christmas party at the backpackers' hostel.
This will probably be my last entry until after New Years, so Happy New Year! Thank you for all the Christmas wishes!