Thursday, 28 January 2010

To Hanoi we go!

It was another tense journey by tuk tuk to begin with. Mopeds weaving in and out of each other without a care and the richer with cars beeping aggressively to remind everybody that they are the kings of the road. It was at this time where we realised that we really are obsessive back seat drivers! On every frequent occasion where we were just millimetres away from neighbouring vehicles that would fight to push past us, our feet were pushing down helplessly on our imaginary brakes as we sat in fear! But what an adventure! How was it possible to be so excited, scared and exhilarated all at the same time?
We saw more of Phnom Penh as we left in both good and bad lights. We marvelled at extra golden symbolic sculptures nearby the waterfront along with the cheerful people of Cambodia going about their everyday life. On the lower end of the spectrum we viewed the mould-infested slums that stood high above roadside markets. The run down apartments had very little going for them as there were no windows, just dirty-looking clothes that were drying in with the dust that was being thrusted up from the busy road below. In fact, we sometimes had to cover our mouths with our t-shirts to avoid inhaling dust clouds ourselves.
Once we had reached the airport, there was very little waiting around before checking our luggage in. The whole process ran smoothly (apart from realising that we had to pay twenty-five dollars departure tax… no biggie). The rumbles in our stomachs by this point were way above the deadly 8 on the Richter scale so we went to see what we could find. The cheapest thing in the airport was a western McDonald’s kind of meal where we had a hotdog with chilli con carne inside. We didn’t forget dessert either! Simon had an ice cream with Pineapple flavour, whereas Jon needed to kill a chocolate craving thus diving into ice cream with crumbs of Oreos inside. As the lady handed over the ice creams she said, “If they can’t be served upside down, then they’re free.”
That sounded like a great deal! She quickly turned the tubs over and not a single drop of the ice cream fell out! Why couldn’t they have just fallen all over the floor???
Following consumption of our delicious lunch, the tannoy warned us that our plane was getting ready for boarding passengers! With that we picked up and went.
Our flight from Phnom Penh to Hanoi was not a direct one however, which was great because we had an awesome half an hour in Vientiane airport, Laos. We didn’t do much there during the forty-minute wait, but it was a beautiful landscape to see on our descent. Mountains fringed the horizon, whilst plains of luscious green rice paddies, coconut palm trees and woodland stretched for miles and miles. Luckily for us we are planning to go back to Laos later in the trip, but to see more than just the airport.
On the other half of the journey from Vientiane to Hanoi, we were able to watch the night creep up in the east at the same time as watching the warm, red sun roll itself over to you in the west.
The landing in Hanoi was possibly the worst landing we had both experienced! It was nothing major besides a sharp jolt as the wheels touched down onto the tarmac of the runway, accompanied by a loud bang! The most impressive sensation was being released from the plane into a slightly colder climate. These few days in Hanoi are going to be a fantastic break from the fiery heat of the sun, which we have experienced in both Cambodia and Thailand especially.
The minibus to the Old Quarter of Hanoi was an equally thrilling ride as what we have experienced previously. Our driver was having to toot his horn constantly to warn others that he was there and that there was no stopping him coming through. He was a friendly enough guy though and he assisted us in reading signs in Vietnamese after we amused him by trying to read them ourselves. He dropped us in the Old Quarter where we began talking to two Canadian backpackers, Ti and Mark, who were also interested in finding the “lowest of the low” accommodation. We scored ten out of ten on the accommodation we found though as the rooms are spotless, fantastic views, free internet (though there are only two computers for about fifty people) and great service! Oh! And very cheap considering!
The night had to end by going out for a Vietnamese chicken and noodle soup, seasoned with plenty of coriander and pepper! We even added extra chilli just for the extra kick. Dipping the deep fried bread into this dish (Pho) was a thrill to the tastebuds. This was what we had been waiting for and it was a bonus to have our two new friends joining us! From them we learned a lot about Laos and the fantastic activities available for us to do there. We will hopefully be meeting up with them tomorrow after we have handed our passports to the Myanmar embassy in the hope of obtaining a visa.

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