Arrived in Hanoi in the morning around 9am after the overnight layover at Bangkok airport. It was the second overnight layover at the same airport. Lounge closed at 1am and then reopened at 5:30am so the whole experience was not very relaxing. After the lounge closed I joined the other travelers sleeping on the seats and found a quiet corner spot. In the morning I met this person who was traveling back to India and had issues with his return flight so I spoke with the airlines agents about his situation and it took forever, I was not able to go back to the lounge for shower or breakfast as the flight for hanoi left early morning.
Surprisingly immigration and visa was pretty quick than I anticipated, took less than 20 minutes. I spent the next couple of hours at one of the café’s at the airport. It was a good start to the day as I was able to guess the café’s wifi password in first attempt.
I took a shared van to city center and waited at least one hour before it left the airport. After every fifteen minutes when I said to the van driver ‘let’s go’, he raised his hand to wait, there were about 4-5 seats still empty and he was trying hard to fill them up. As soon as he saw any foreigners coming out of the terminal he will run towards them and ask old quarter? then point to the van.
I was hungry and tired by the time I reached old quarter which is also the name for city center. I walked around and noticed that the traffic is crazy like India with lots of two wheelers. My host(N) was free later in the evening so I decided to check out the city center and tried the vietnamese cafe and it had good lunch variety. I was sold when I saw lassi on the menu. I still had hours to kill before I could go to N’s house. I tried eating slowly but I know that it does not work when I am hungry. After the happy meal and couple of glasses of banana lassi all I was dreaming about was bed.
Outside the cafe there was a lake so after sipping the empty lassi glass for some time I asked for check and sat on a bench near the lake. I got funny looks from the locals and guess they were wondering where I am from, then one homeless guy came and sat next to me started talking in Vietnamese and I was just smiling and nodding. After some time he started asking for money in sign language and realized that I am also like him so he left. Another man joined me after a while and he spoke English, he told me he works in IT and I think he was on a break from work. It was nice chatting with a local and I asked him about his family and life in Vietnam in general. After couple of hours I decided to find Starbucks for coffee and WiFi. I love Starbucks for WiFi and you can spend an eternity there and no pressure to buy another drink. I can’t do that in a local cafe but that’s just me. Well it didn’t go as planned and WiFi voucher was valid for one hour but password guessing luck was high that day and was able to guess the password of the next door hotel and no more time restriction. I saw enjoyed my chai latte in peace and as slowly as possible.
I googled about direction to N’s from the Starbucks via local bus and it was about 15km and one hour ride with 1km walk. I managed to find the bus stop and took the screenshot of the directions and bus stop name and showed it to the lady waiting at the stop and she pointed to the bus number on the LCD screen. Bus stop had LCD screen where it displayed estimate time of arrival of the buses and it updated real time with distance of the bus from the stop, it was impressive. My bus number was 40 I think and I could see the time and distance decreasing as the bus was approaching closer.
Local people are nice everywhere and very helpful. When I walked towards the place and was nearby I didn’t know the exact building and I asked the local vendor lady on the street and showed her the address on the phone and she pointed in the direction and said something in Vietnamese, then she signed three with her fingers and pointed towards the center finger and she was talking in Vietnamese. I figured my building is the center one out of the three building. It’s amazing how sign language just works all the time. I didn’t know thank you in local language so I said thank you with folded hands and she understood.
N was lovely and her family as well. They were waiting for me for dinner and I was little late. We quickly settled for dinner after quick introductions. It was her son’s birthday the next day so her in laws were visiting. I was already full so ate very little and N’s mother in law said I eat very little. N’s son 2 years old was super cute and shy. We exchanged travel stories post dinner and it was great. I was surprised to see that they have indian soap operas dubbed in vietnamese and are popular. We slept around 11pm and I was looking forward to it.
I woke up when I heard somebody is knocking on the main door and shouting. I checked my phone and it was around 4am and thought I am hallucinating and tried going back to sleep. Suddenly everyone in house woke up and I got up as well and realized that the house was flooded. Neighbor next door woke up and traced the trail of water to N’s house and he was trying to wake them up. What happened was one of the plastic inlet pipe in the bathroom cracked and it leaked and flooded the whole apartment and neighbors. Next hour we all were draining the water out and whole family was doing it and I joined in well, it was fun. N felt bad for me for my first day in Vietnam, I told her it was all part of the fun. I was again fed a lot for breakfast and again her mother in law was putting too much food on plate and complaining that I hardly eat.