30 hours on the Train from Hanoi to Saigon

The first night on the train was not really good. Had booked the lower bed in a 6 bed compartment and there where only 3 of us. But at every stop somebody gets out and new people come in. Some only for one stop and some for a few. And the guy next to me was snoring like a hog. Good that I had a few beer since I was not tired.
In Saigon I booked Zu Coffee – a little home-stay a bit away from the centre. Since my bike does not travel with me in this train I would spend a bit more time there as intended. Still have to finish “The China Study” and another book is waiting. From the pictures at booking.com I know that they have a big garden. Looking forward to sit outside with only a shirt again. Blue sky and upper 20 degrees only 30 hours away!
Finally I managed to sleep – interrupted to many times in the night.

Look out of the train window
The next morning – still Gray and cold outside. Taken at Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park

Look out of the train window
A few hours later – still the same view.

Blue Sky!
Finally – in the afternoon: Blue sky at Tỉnh Thừa Thiên Huế! And the sun is back!

The ocean outside of the train window
The ocean outside of the train window

The ocean outside of the train window
For quite some time the train follows the shore line

The ocean outside of the train window

Lots of green and the ocean outside of the train window

Private Beach
This looks like a perfect place for a Guest House with a “private beach”

Train station in Vietnam
Train station in Quảng Ngãi. I am quite sure Ga comes from the French Gare

Fields somewhere in Vietnam
Fields outside of Quảng Ngãi

Graveyard somewhere in Vietnam
Graveyard outside of Quảng Ngãi

Train station somewhere in Vietnam
Train station in Bình Định, Vietnam

Tiger Beer in the train in Vietnam
They only had Tiger Beer on the train – strange! 20.000 Dong for a can – 0,80 € and ice-cold. The second night was not better than the first.

Train station in Saigon
After 30 hours on the train we reached the train station in Saigon

Taxi to ZU Coffee
I had a fresh Banh Mi and a coffee since it was very early. Than I walked to the main street to get a cab to my hotel

Zu Coffee

Coffee at  ZU Coffee
Coffee at ZU Coffee

Garden at ZU Coffee
Did stay at Zu Coffee for 8,50 € a night. A room with double bed, table, chair, closet, Wi-Fi and air-con. Shared bathroom with hot shower. Since I was the only guest it was more like a private bathroom. The place is a few kilometre from the centre in a quite site street. Their coffee is only open in the morning. Later they close the gate so you have the whole garden for yourself. Nice to chill a bit and read or do nothing.
The family was really nice and helpful – a great place to stay if you do not want to go down town every day.

Original US Fork
Original US Fork

Food at the place next door
About five minutes from the hotel you find a good food place. Go to the main street and turn right – keep walking for a minute. Everything on the pictures was 1,40 €

Food at the place next door
This is the sign outside the restaurant

Finally the bike arrives
On the 16th in the morning I got a call from the train station. My bike is in Saigon and I can pick it up between 14.00 and 17.00. Cool! That nice gentleman took it out of the box and did cut the cardboard for me. Still enough gas inside to get to the next gas station to fill up.

Food at the place next door
Went again for dinner to the place – this was 0,60€ and really good again!

Back to Hanoi

The sky still Gray and temperatures not above 20 – not the best requirements for a trip up north. The forecast: more rain and temperatures from 5 – 15 degrees round Sapa. And I want to go further north than Sapa. Looks like I have to change the plan.
Scott was on the way up from Saigon to Hanoi so I decided to meet him in Hanoi. He was not sure if he comes with me on a bike or flies back to Bankok for some celebration with Tailek on Sunday.

The road to Hanoi
The road to Hanoi – for the first 50 km traffic was like that. As soon as you hit the A1 it gets crazy

Back in Hanoi

With Scott in Hanoi
Scott had a double room and we did meet round the corner of my old place. The North Hotel was full 🙁
Did circle the lake, had some “we want to improve our English” conversation, watched an action flick in the cinema and tried to find a place that serves Egg Coffee since Scott never had one.

My train ticket to Saigon
Scott decided to fly to Bangkok so I was alone and had to decide – stay in the north of Vietnam? Drive down south? Or take the train all the way down and see some friends on the way up?? The train down it was!

Buddha's hand
Buddha’s hand – guess I was never in season for it over here? Or did I forget them? Strange!

Egg Coffee
Got up early and went to the bakery. Scott does sleep long but finally we could go and we did find that Egg Coffee! Quite expensive and way to sweet but one time you have to try it!

Golden Ducati
How ugly is that?

Ugly Range Rover
And look what the guy did to his Range Rover 🙁 Must be the owner of the King Massage

Streets of Hanoi
Random street shoots

Streets of Hanoi

Banh Mi 25
The famous Banh Mi 25. I had better but they give you free tea and bananas! Cool. And we did come late so the bread was not really fresh anymore – should try that in the morning again.

Sugar cane juice seller
Sugar cane juice seller with her BBQ friend

Shop on wheels
Shop on wheels

Bike in the Hotel
In most of the Hotels in the cities they do park your bike inside at night. Even inside the breakfast room!

Ice cream in the Dessert Street
Ice cream in the Dessert Street – that was Scotts ice – I do not dig the sweets that much. But I did try and it was good!

Expensive coffee
Expensive coffee – nice done but in the end it was cold 🙁 Every time Scott does treat me to coffee it is cold?

My picture with the shop owner in Hanoi
Did get that picture – Scott did the hard bargain part and in the end I gave him 1000 Thai Bath for it. Will pick it up at the end of the trip.

Bike at the train station in Hanoi
The girl who sold me the train ticket told me it would be no problem to take the bike on the train. So we went 2 hours before departure to the station. Well well – I was on the Express! No the bike can not go on that train. We ship it with the next train – tomorrow. WTF! Did book a place about 12 km outside of the centre – that will be not nice without the bike. This picture was taken in the place where you go and arrange the transport at the train station in Hanoi. And that is a nice story all together: You arrive at the station – of course on the wrong side. So one guy runs and starts to take out the gasoline since the bike has to be empty. Not a lot left so he was too to. Than he did send me to the gate and Scott did stay with the bag. I find a woman who told me I am at the wrong station. Than she phones somebody and tells me to come with her. Did get Scott and the bag and we moved over all the tracks to the other side of the station and to the place you see at the picture above. You have to fill out 2 forms, they tell me the bike is very old so I have to put that on the form. Scratches here and there – put on the form. Very dirty your bike – put that on the form as well. Quite funny. Than you go to the “office” next door and pay at the counter. While Scott and the guy that works there compare their weight on a big scale. And their height and age. Somehow they do count different here – as far as we understood they get born and are 1-year-old since there is nothing like 0 years. Does make sense somehow…
Finally everything was done – more forms to fill and the money was handed over. Time to go and get some water and beer for the night.

Bike transport boxes at the train station in Hanoi
Bike transport boxes at the train station in Hanoi – No clue why you need such a stupid box round the bike but it is Vietnam and what can you do? Handling, box building and transportation: 25€ for the bike

Last beer with Scott at the train station in Hanoi
Turns out that all the doors were shut so we could see the passengers in the waiting room but we could not get out to look for a shop. There was a little shop open on our side of the station and we did take a seat over there. She wanted way to much for the beer so I had to talk her down. To celebrate even Scott had a beer with me. Than more bargaining for the nights bottles and the water.

My bed for the next 30 hours
My bed for the next 30 hours and my seat as well. Boy – I do not really look forward for this trip!

Hanoi Winter 2016 – The first 2 Days in the City

The Air Asia plane from Bangkok to Hanoi was on time and at 8:20 local we touched Vietnamese tarmac at Hanoi International. There was not a lot going on so I had not to wait a long time for my visa. Arranged my visa on arrival with Vietnam Visa Pro. Great service! Less than 24 hours after filling out the online form and send the money I had the documents to print out. Than you fill out everything and give the papers, 25 US $ and 2 passport photos to the immigration officer – wait 15 minutes and off you are to immigration and to your bag.

Airport Bus

Airport Bus to Hanoi downtown

Exit the airport and turn right. Walk for 30 seconds and you see the big bus. It is only 2 US $ and it will bring you downtown to the Vietnam Air office. There are also public busses for about 0,30 $ but they take about 1.50 hours or longer and can become quite crowded.

St Joseph Cathedral
On the way to the hotel I did pass St. Josep Cathedral. It was one of the first buildings the French finished in Hanoi. The church opened in 1886 – that makes it the oldest in Hanoi.

North Hotel No 2

Did stay at the North Hotel No 2 at 5B Ngo Tam Thuong Street. Great little hotel with a super friendly manager. The room was small but clean with a super comfy bed and a hot shower with good water pressure. The fridge and TV I did not need but in the summer you can have cold drinks. The street outside is to small for cars so it is really quite compared the rest of the old quarter. They have a web site and you can find them on booking.com. I really do recommend the place. Some other people pay more for a dorm bed – keep that in mind!

The temple from my window
The street from my window with the temple

Temple next to my hotel
Temple next to my hotel

To the right of my hotel door
To the right of the hotel door

Vietnamese coffee - not a bad way to start a day
Only 10 steps from the Hotel is a little coffee and fruit juice place. Vietnamese coffee – not a bad way to start a day

Than a Baguette with Pineapple juice
Went a bit further since they only have toast to get a Vegetarian Baguette (no eggs) with Pineapple juice

Time to start working!

First stop Ha Trung to change money. Only 10 minutes walk from the hotel is that short street with gold shops, bag makers and motorbike seat refurbish shops. Did ask in 5 gold shops and changed my € into Dong. In seconds you become a millionaire – great feeling but not to easy to get used to. It was 24250 Dong for 1 €. The biggest note is 500.000 the smallest you usually get is 1000. Somewhere I have some 10 and 50 from my first trip to Vietnam in 1989. But nobody uses them anymore. No clue why they do not kill the last three digits – would make everything so much easy for all the tourists.

New haircut
New haircut

German Beer
Just before Ha Trung – German Beer! What a nice shop!

The streets of Hanoi
The streets of Hanoi

The hunt for the Motorbike

After I had cash it was time to look for a motorbike. Did some research before and found a few bikes under 180 US from other travellers that where on the way out of Vietnam. You can tell when they just get into town then they think they can get 350 for the bike because that is what they have paid a few 1000 km before. So all of them asked to much. A few others did not replay to my mails.
Did meet one guy at the shop that had to sell the last day and he got only 120 from the shop. Should have sold it a day before to another guy for 180 but though he can get more.
I did not want to waste too much time since I only have 7 weeks here. Two days – that is it!
Walked to one place that quoted me 30€ for a month to rent. Was not easy to find it in the maze but finally I reached the shop. Only to get a 6 $ a day quote? WTF? 6 weeks times 6 $? And I can own one for 180$. What a wast of time.

Archway in Hanoi
Back to the Old Quarter

Dwarf in the streets of Hanoi
Dwarf in the streets of Hanoi

Another hairdresser
Another hairdresser

Dinner - Fresh Spring rolls
Time for Dinner – Fresh sprin rolls – 1,20 €

Yellow Curry
And some Yellow Curry 1,80 €

Back to the hotel it was – tired from getting up early to get to the airport and all that walking in Hanoi.

Day 2

Nice hot shower, coffee and baguette and then check out more bike rental places.

Dog meat
Dog meat anyone? You can see from the face that they did not have a nice death. Guess that is why they put the head there – so you can see the pain.

Fish seller
Fish seller

This pig is for sale!
This pig is for sale!

Apart from loads of Mercedes from C to S and the SUV that was the only BMW so far
Apart from loads of Mercedes from C to S and the SUV’s that was the only BMW so far

Another Temple
Another Temple

Found a good bakery
Found a good bakery

Bike Rental Part 2

After breakfast I walked to the bike place. Did drive a semi automatic wave but both brakes where really bad. The other shop had 4 different Yamaha Nouvo 125 that he could rent me and one of them was OK. 61€ for 6 weeks – a good deal. He will give a helmet, lock and a construction for the bag as well as elastic cord to fasten it. Great – did fill out the rental form and paid 1.500.000 Dong and 200€ deposit. He told me I can get the bike tomorrow at 10.00. All set – time to go back to the Old Quarter and meet Toma for dinner.

Yamaha Nuovo
This is the bike I rented for 6 weeks. The bike that would not be the one for my trip.

Balloon Girl
Balloon Girl on the way to the lake

Toma and Marc
Toma does like his Indian Food and since it was his last evening in Hanoi he wanted to go for it again. Like the last 4 night as well.

Indian Food
The food was really good – I had North Indian and remembered the taste well. But it was way to expensive! Almost 10€ with one beer – not my usual budget for food.
Then we had a beer next to Toma’s hostel. He showed me his drawings and we talked for a while. He had to get up early to get to the airport the next morning. He will join “The Band” on Sri Lanka for some sun and fun. I went home as well back to get back into my soft bed for some zzzzzzzzzz’s.

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