14.03.2007 25 °C
From the beaches of Nha Trang, I took another overnight bus to Hai An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its ancient Chinese history and architecture in this small Vietnamese town. A short walk from my 3-star hotel, An Phu, is the old town, where all the local markets and tourist stores are located within a number of old Chinese temples. I feel like walking in a TV or movie set, only missing is the film crew and my traditional Chinese costume, replacing these is the motor bikes and 'farangs'.
Overnight buses can be very tiring, yet for budget travellers like myself, it is also the best and most economic way to go from one town to another. The night bus from Hoi An to Hanoi proved to be a test to my patience. Vietnam drivers love to honk for anything in their way, more so than in Cambodia. Because of the large number of modern cars as well as motorcycles on the streets, sleeping under constant honking is virtually impossible. Not only did my inconsiderable driver play loud Cheesy English club songs to wake up his passengers, he stopped at a local canteen with sanitary standard so low that if I had lunch earlier that day, I would not submit myself to a bowl of nasty noodle soup and then got overcharged without the ability to talk myself out with the rude waiters. Little did I know that this is only the beginning.
By the time we pulled into the humidity of Hanoi, local people already crowded the streets on their motorcycles to work. The gloomy town looked and felt miserable compared to the rest of Vietnam. Once we got off the bus, taxi drivers started to hassle us and offered to take us to the 'Old Town' area for free. Of course, he dropped us off at an old guesthouse/travel agency outside of the area and asked us to pay. Together with two other women from Hong Kong, we managed to struggle off the rude driver and took another taxi with meter to find our own guesthouse.
Courtesy is applied with prejudice here. If you are asian tourist not in a group tour, most cold Hanoiese will just ignore you to a point you actually feel unwelcome. Otherwise, you will be treated as an ATM machine. The first guesthouse receptionist made it pretty clear that we are disturbing his work whe we asked for rooms. After couple trials, we managed to find a decent guesthouse but then I found out everything in my backpack is damp and smells. Finally, I sit on my bed, can't wait to start planning for my departure date.
The area surrounding the lake is full of tourist shops selling everything from T-shirts to silk clothing to flags to grave stone. The famous tourist attraction near Hanoi, Halong Bay, was the main reason I went there. But at this point, I was so tired of being treated with bad courtesy and as ATM machine that I decided to skip the tourist-infested Halong Bay area. On the morning of my third day, after another crazy taxi ride to the airport, I flew to Bangkok, again.