During my long ride to Vietnam I listened to the entire discography of Talking Heads. It sucked. Not the Talking Heads albums: those were amazing. The bus ride sucked.
They cramped six of us into a crawl space big enough for three. That's where we slept. I had to share a blanket with a Vietnamese man, which would have been fine, except that the air conditioning was kept on full blast. I never understand why tourist buses are so damn cold; I mean, it's like they are trying to prove that they have air conditioning.
At about 2 in the morning, the bus stopped so we could eat. The meal was watery rice soup - not too terrible, actually. However, I was kind of upset that they charged us $4 for it. In Thailand, the rest stops usually served a free (and deservedly mediocre) meal.
The next morning we had to sit by the border for four hours to wait for it to open. Another couple hours later, we acquired departure and arrival stamps, then were back on the bus. The rest of the journey was uneventful, and at 9 P.M. the bus finally arrived in Vinh. I found accommodation for the night, and the next day, took a bus to Hanoi, the capital city.
I wish I could say the trip to Hanoi was all smooth sailing, but that would be a lie. It took twice as long to get there than I'd expected, but ok, no biggie. The crazy part happened during the taxi drive into the city center. After ripping me off (the 20-minute taxi ride cost the same as my 8 hour bus journey to Hanoi), the driver stopped by an ATM so I could withdraw some money to pay him. Well, just as luck may have it, my debit card wasn't working. Three ATMs later, the driver was starting to get pissed off, and I was more than a little bit nervous. So I ran to a local hotel, used their Wi-fi to call my bank via Skype (I don't have a working phone), and had the issue resolved in ten minutes. I paid the driver, slammed the door shut, and he was on his way. Here I am, writing this late-night blog post from a random hotel in Hanoi (or maybe near Hanoi, who knows?), instead of the "Old City" area where I had intended to go.
Misfortune aside, how is Vietnam? The first word I'd use to describe the country is "LOUD!" Maybe it's just because I came here from a nice, quiet country (Laos), but it sure is noisy here. It's a heavily populated country, so there is no shortage of honking horns, shouting, and rumbling traffic. Like Thailand, there is an incessant barrage of taxi drivers trying to get your attention.
I have yet to visit a Southeast Asian country with bad food, Vietnam being no exception. My first two meals here consisted of the ever omnipresent "Pho" (noodle soup). It comes in "Bo" (beef) and "Ga" (chicken) varieties. It's the national dish of the country, and is available practically everywhere. It's also super cheap and delicious.
Over the upcoming week I plan on exploring Hanoi, and visiting Halong Bay. The Bay is one of Vietnam's premier tourist attractions; we shall see if it lives up to its fame.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.