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Hanoi, Vietnam

Day 1

From Hoi An we were set to fly out to Hanoi, leaving bright and early at 8 a.m. The day started out with a small problem with Danny's shoes. He ordered shoes yesterday that were to be dropped off at our hotel by 7 a.m., well before we needed to leave. By 7:55 a.m., the hotel receptionist said they hadn't arrived. We marched down to the shop, where the lady we bought the shoes from argued that they had been delivered as promised. Shoe lady jumped on her scooter to drive 100 metres up to the hotel, and started arguing with the driver who was to take us to the airport (who knows why) and the receptionist. A small time later the receptionist found them behind the counter, where they had been since 6:30 a.m. this morning. 

After that debacle we made it to the airport and flew to Hanoi, where it really was winter: 13°C. It was horrible. Danny had a jacket made in Hoi An, which came in handy. I only ordered summer clothing, so I was freezing. We found somewhere to stay (another room up four flights of stairs, but it had a heater so it was worth it) then wandered around the city. We stayed mostly in the old quarter, which was charming and heavily French-influenced. Most of the buildings were yellow or white, skyscrapers were non-existent and there were trees everywhere. We walked through the temple of literature, which was the first university in Vietnam (around 10th or 11th century), before making our way to the Presidential Palace, where Ho Chi Minh lived. The grounds were beautiful, with houses on stilts and old, expensive cars sitting in the garage. On our way back to the hotel we witnessed the changing of the guard outside Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, which was as boring as it sounds. 

For lunch we grabbed a kebab, or a "kebap" as it was called, from a street vendor. It was just like the kebabs we eat at 2 a.m. after a big night out at home, only this one came in a baguette with pickled cabbage and caramelised onion. It was actually really good and only cost $1. Danny then found the best latte he had tasted in Asia, which kept him happy for the rest of the day.

Later in the day we walked over to the main lake, which had a temple in the middle of it connected by a bridge. The temple was closed but the lights around the lake and on the bridge were cute. We explored this newer, busier, shopping-orientated side of town for a while. There was a whole street dedicated to just shoes, another to clothes and yet another to wedding outfits. If I was into shopping at all I probably would have stayed here for days. We escaped from this madness and grabbed some pho for dinner, but it didn't live up to our expectations after our first pho experience.

We caught a water puppet theatre show (first class ticket: $3), which was alright but I'm not sure that I would do it again. The puppets were smaller than we expected, only about two feet high and manipulated by poles underwater. It must have been an impressive performance though, if the standing ovation was anything to go by.

Traffic here has been the best so far. There is still no safe way to cross the street but I don't feel like I'll be run over as soon as I step off the pavement. The only downside is the horn. The horn is used all over Asia, not so much for aggression, like in Australia, but more to warn people that you're coming through so "don't get in my way". In Hanoi, if you don't beep someone at least every 10 seconds there must be something wrong with you. There are even different  horn noises, some which are highly annoying. On the bus ride from the airport I could swear the bus' horn was louder inside the bus than outside, and he may as well have had his hand on the horn for the whole trip. We're really over the horn.