Monday, January 30, 2006

Hanoi and a sideways picture

I'm in Hanoi, sports fans. For those of you with maps of China/Vietnam on hand, follow this sequence:
Chengdu (Sichuan) to Kunming (Yunnan) by plane (1 hour)
Kunming to Hekou by sleeper bus (12 hours, overnight)
Hekou to LaoCai by 10-minute shuttle (10 minutes)
LaoCai to Hanoi by hard-seat train (10-11 hours)

Despite several annoyances, small and large, I made it to Hanoi by the seat of my pants and the skin of my teeth (eww, teeth-skin) quicker than I expected.

I missed my plane on Thursday night. Cons: I slept on the cold airport floor that night. Pros: I paid nothing for the ticket change and I learned a valuable lesson about how hard it is to find a taxi to the airport during Chinese Spring Festival.

I arrived in Kunming hours before the Vietnamese consulate was about to close for a week (Spring Festival stikes again) but convinced them to give me visa that same day. In 5 minutes. And I only had to pay double! Oh wait... that's a lot. Note to self: "next time try not to pay double."

After consulate-party-time I took an overnight sleeper bus to the sleepy border town of HeKou. that trip can be summed up as "violent". A regular bus has passengers sitting near the floor. A sleeper bus has them stacked lengthwise on rickety bunks up to the ceiling. So as we lurched violently (there's that word again) on the dirt road with dim headlights in the dark, let's just say I was scared like a little scaredy-baby contemplating his crib rolling over into a rocky ravine.

Then came the border crossing, no sweat, then came the train to Hanoi. Trains where you can stick your head out thewindow are the best. I met some Chinese travellers and some German travellers on the bus. Everybody spoke a little English, but more often stuck to either Chinese or German, so I was stuck in the middle a little.

Hanoi is beautiful. I don't know whether I've exceeded my self-imposed 300-word limit yet, but I probably have, so I'll just say: I'm going to Ho Chi Minh city tonight. And: Vietnamese is harder to learn than Chinese. Totally. Or I'm an idiot. And "Hello, picture of the catholic church in Hanoi? Could you not be sideways?"

Ciao to my players and haters (I love you all)

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Hey Matt - I recognized the church before I saw your title (and thought "wait a minute - that's in ...." We stayed in hotel a few blocks from that church (near the lake in the center of Old Hanoi - sorry, I'd have to check my journal for names).

I didn't learn any Vietnamese - but at least it isn't tonal.

I agree - Vietnam is beautiful. And you've probably already discovered this, but Hanoi has quite a bit more charm than Ho Chi Minh City. Oh, you're bringing back memories!

Speaking of bringing back memories, Discovery Channel has been showing all these programs on China lately. This weekend I watched all or parts of: "Emperor Chin: the First Emperor of China," "Engineering Marvels: The Three Gorges Dam," "Engineering Marvels: the Great Wall," and a program on the olympic structures in Beijing. Hooray for the Discovery Channel!

Ok, so I've written more than Matt usually does ... but has anyone else seen the plans for the stadium and the natatorium for the 2008 Games? Absolutely incredible - "The Bird's Nest" and "The Water Cube." Those Chinese have gumption.

Lots of Love and travel safe!