Hanoi

Hanoi (Vietnam), 02.08.2013
At 06:00 in the morning downtown Hanoi was waking up slowly. Traffic was still light, the heat not too bad, along the streets the first soup and noodles of the day were prepared. I walked the half hour from the central station to the hotel to soak up the first impressions and get a feeling for this city. In the old part of town houses were low rise and narrow, lining up slice after slice. My room wasn’t ready at this time of the morning, so I left my stuff in the hotel, changed and cooled down before heading out for the first discovery of town. It was still early for anything to be open, and I was the only guest at a breakfast place. The early hours of the morning were the most magical ones to discover new places, like the small streets of old Hanoi.

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Hue

Hue (Vietnam), 01.08.2013

Happy to have survived the train ride, yesterday afternoon I dropped my bags in the Green Hotel and chilled for a while. It was terribly hot outside. Later in the early evening I walked for a first reconnaissance trip through the southern town over the central bridge into the northern part. A massive gate behind a bridge appeared in front of me and I entered the old citadel, surrounded by thick walls. I couldn’t find any restaurants, just roadside eateries and none appealed to me. It was dark by now and there was very little light on the streets, I couldn’t spot any monuments or noteworthy buildings, but I knew they must have been somewhere around me. I had left all technology in the hotel and had no map, so I just walked through the night, crossing shopping streets, a painter’s workshop in a courtyard and a residential area along the old city walls. Out of the citadel, I finally found a simple restaurant on a corner run by deaf and dumb people and ate some cuttlefish, vegetables and rice. I was starving. A ricksha drove me back to the hotel, video here. Continue reading “Hue”

Hoi An

Hoi An (Vietnam), 31.07.2013

Highly recommended by the LP guide and a Unesco listed site, Hoi An seemed to be worth a visit to see an old Vietnamese town with few scooters and plenty of charm. It was just a 30 minutes drive in another snail speed cab from Da Nang, including the attempt of the driver to get me into a tour of a workshop selling stone statues. Driving out of Da Nang I had the chance to see something of this town on a beautiful bay. The hills opposite my hotel were still covered in clouds in the morning. In town there are many French colonial buildings in good shape, side by side with newly built high rises. Several huge new bridges span the Song Han river, one bigger then the next. As I drove through this town I wondered how the generations might get along with all the change, this place must have looked so completely different just a few decades ago.

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Vietnam by Train

Da Nang (Vietnam), 30.07.2013

After two days in a chic hotel and a big city it was time again to see something else. So this morning at 06:25 I took a train north. The cab driver that drove me to the station was probably the slowest one I’ve ever seen. It took him ages to get to 30km/h after every red light, and we stopped at several ones. But I made it on time to the train, that left Saigon shortly after I boarded. I had booked what was supposedly the most expensive class of seats, a first class berth in a compartment of 4. As I got to my seat there was a mother with her two small children already seated. I admit I’m no fan of trains, to put it mildly. Apart from some high speed trains in Europe the only other trains I took in the last 15 years were a sleeping car in France and a Swedish-donated, pretty rotten train in Bosnia. I find trains dirty, slow, disgusting, and a product of statist run companies that seem to have other priorities then serving their customers well. And this one in Vietnam confirmed my worst expectations, exceeding even the horrors of travelling on Italian state run trains of the eighties that I remember from my childhood. Continue reading “Vietnam by Train”

Saigon

Saigon (Vietnam), 29.07.2013

From Phnom Penh a bus took me to Vietnam in six hours. The ride was nothing spectacular, the Cambodian landscape flat, poorer then what I had seen before, and dirtier. The Mekong bus was also not as nice as the Giant Ibis from Siem Reap. And there was the boring and bureaucratic border crossing, the first one on this trip since the Pakistani-Indian one at Wagah. It felt strange to not have the car here.

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