Northern Vietnam Day One

Hanoi22 sunny0km
Vietnam Airone-way450.00
Mini Busshared ride to city5.00
Bicycle AlleySundown Raindrop80.00
Bicycle Alleyrack, bottle, tubes6.66
Asean Foodcurry, rice, beer3.60
Jazz ClubJazz Club cocktail3.20
Green Park Hoteldeluxe room24.00
All prices in USD. As of Dec 03 1USD=16,000VND.

After giving Merry and Scott a one-day tour of Tokyo, we were already off on our adventure to Vietnam. I stayed up a bit last night trying to repack my bag which looked bigger than all of their luggage combined. I didn't really find anything to throw out except a couple pair of underwear and some sunscreen, which I later realized I really needed. We made the train to the airport with no trouble, but got off at the wrong terminal.

We were departing from terminal two, but their tandem was at the baggage storage in terminal one. So, first, we had to take the bus over to the other terminal, go up the elevator and grab the bike. Next we had to take the bike down the escalator, load it on the bus and go back to terminal two. From here things were smooth and I slept most of the flight due to the stresses of the morning.

The guidebooks say that Noi Bai Airport is disorganized and the money changers are a wrip-off, but I found neither statements to be true. We were even approached by a mini bus driver who offered us a price for us and our oversized luggage which was better than the book suggests. The ride to town was entertaining. We made random observations about the houses (3 storeys even in the countryside), crops (corn?) and light traffic (bike path halfway to town). Spirits were running pretty high until just before we got to the bridge when traffic slowed to a stop. There was a scooter lying against the dividing barricade and a body lying on the ground. By the time we got up to the accident, the bottom had been loaded into a pickup truck, but there was still a pretty good pool of blood on the road. Nobody picked up the helmet that had been thrown into the other lane. We tried not to pay much attention, but this was definitely not the scene for a group of people preparing for a ten-day trip along the highways of Vietnam.

In town we had a bit of a drive around while the minibus dropped other passengers. The driver tried to sell us on some random hotel before finally delivering us to the Green Park. The hotel was great. The bellman delivered the tandem up to the room and we soon headed out to look for a bike for me.

Not far up the street, just where the hotel people had suggested, there was a strip of bike vendors. The first woman showed me her selection, hidden back along an alley: one-speed city bikes, one with a seven speed internal sprocket. She wanted 95USD for the most likely candidate. Woman number two had a semi-touring style bike with eighteen speeds, skinny tires, and Shimano written down the frame (note that no Shimano parts were attached). This one looked okay, but maybe a little bit weak and lacking a rack and water bottle. However, after looking at the remaining stalls, it seemed that generally only cheap mountain bikes or one-speed city bikes were available. I went back to the Shimano Sundown Raindrop and negotiated in a rack and bottle for only about 86USD.

We headed down the street for a bite to eat while they fixed-up the bike. Just next-door there was a restaurant owned by a Malaysian guy which was offering a variety of foods on an English menu. The only other customer in the joint was a guy from Singapore who does regional hiring for Komatsu. We listened to a couple of his stories about traveling Asia while eating a hearty meal of curries and beer. Back to pick up the bike and the night was complete.

Scott and I went out later for a walk and a drink. We passed up one dance club and eventually settled on the Jazz Bar. When we sat down, I realized that there were actually no Vietnamese customers in the place. The band was comprised of Asians, and the waitress (who was pushing Carlsberg beer) was Vietnamese, but otherwise it seems that Jazz has absolutely no appeal for Vietnamese, or they don't like hanging out in smoke-filled bars with a bunch of foreigners.

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