Our original direct Vietnam Airlines flight from Kunming, China to Hanoi, Vietnam was cancelled. We transferred to a China Southern flight from Kunming to Guangzhou, with a connecting flight from Guangzhou to Hanoi. It was nearly four hours in the air, plus a two-hour stopover.
On the first flight, we were sitting next to Chinese botanist who spoke excellent English – he was on his way to a World Bank conference in Istanbul. We learned quite a bit from him. Firstly, he convinced us that there was no Malaria in Yunnan Province, contrary to our medical advice in the U.K. We talked a lot about the diversity of the Yunnan Province, including, geography, ethnicity, and climate, depending if one was visiting the tropical south or the high mountains. Our first trip to China was focused largely on classical sites, and a few special interests, like hiking on the Great Wall and volunteering to work with the pandas. We longed to spend more time in China’s great open spaces, and Yunnan Province certainly seems the type of place to which we would like to return and explore further.
Although our bags were booked through to Hanoi, we had to check in again in Guangzhou, with more security checks, plus passport control and customs, so our two-hour layover seemed to disappear quite quickly. The second leg of the journey was a late night flight to Hanoi, on a largely empty plane.
We had opted for the Visa on Arrival process in Vietnam, which was astonishing quick once we had parted with the requested fifty US Dollars for two tourist visas. We had a car organized from our hotel, so we were whisked off to Hanoi’s downtime area, in the early hours of the morning. Even at half past midnight, we were able to see that life in Vietnam was very different to China. We soon saw the famous motor bikes and scooters, with traders carrying large amounts of fresh produce on the rear of their bikes, either going to or coming from market.
We arrived at our hotel in Hanoi, which we later learned was in the French Quarter. It was right next to the beautiful Art Nouveau style opera house, with many up market and expensive shops in the other direction and just a short walk to the lake.
Anyway, we had a few hours sleep, and wandered out on to the Hanoi streets before breakfast, looking for an ATM machine. We had our first encounter trying to cross the road in Hanoi with hundreds of bikes converging on us at the same time, coming from every direction, and any side of the road seems o.k. too. As you probably guessed, Marilyn and Alf had very different views as to when it was safe to cross the road and in Marilyn’s opinion there was never a safe time and didn’t dare go it alone!