South East Asia 2017 - Day 24: Vientiane to Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Monday 28 August, fine, 32°

I had another early morning and got up at 5:30am to walk down to the river to shoot some sunrise / morning activity shots.  The night market had been completely cleaned up and there was no sign that it had even been there ( this is a nightly night market so there is a lot of work involved in setting up and packing away everyday ).  There were the usual runners and cyclists out this morning as well as the pumping beats of the exercise groups.

I wandered back to the hotel at 7am, and we grabbed some breakfast and headed out at 8:30am for a walk along the river front and then stopped for some fresh lemonade on the way back to the hotel.  We caught up with some admin and checked out at 11am.

Today was to be a bit of an admin day, so we walked to Toh Lao ( which is a 'co working space' where you can rent internet access in an office environment ) and we grabbed 5 hours worth of internet ( and air-conditioning ) for K30,000 ea / NZ$5 ), after we had woken up the 2 staff working there ( yes, we were the only ones there ).

We spent the next few hours catching up on things like these blogs, sorting photos etc.  We grabbed lunch at the cafe on the corner ( more french food in SE Asia ) and then back to the admin.  We left about 3:30pm and walked back to the hotel ( where we had left our bags ) after a quick stop at Black Canyon Coffee for a drink.  Our car for the airport arrived at 4:50pm so we jumped in and headed through the rush hour traffic to the airport which only took 30 minutes.  

We had to wait for the check in desk to open in this quite small international terminal then we checked in, headed through immigration and security and into the waiting lounge.  There are only 3 gates at Wattay International Airport, but ( like most airports ) there are construction works underway so presumably it is about to get bigger.   After a while the other plane due out this evening left for China so the waiting lounge emptied out to a few dozen people, but then our plane arrived and people disembarked into the lounge and waited to reboard; we think the flight had come from Phnom Penh so these were transiting through Vientiane  So what looked like being an empty flight now looked quite full.

So we boarded at 7:15pm, and took off at 7:45pm ( again an early departure for our 8pm flight ).  After a good flight over the mountains we landed in Hanoi at 8:45pm ( 1/2 hour early ).  

As I mentioned in an earlier blog we had arranged our Visa documentation already, so as part of the US$85 package we were met in the immigration are by a man who took our passports, US$25ea visa fee etc and took them over to the lodgement desk.  After a short wait he returned with our passports with the visa inside and we went through the immigration desks.  We had heard of some people spending an hour or so getting this visa processed so we were happy to have paid the US$84 to get help with it, and have it done in about 10 minutes.

We grabbed our bags, drew some Dong ( D16,000 = NZ$1 ) , changed our remaining Kip to Dong, and headed for the door.  We went to the taxi stand and grabbed the next taxi.  This is where the fun began.

After the driver confirmed we were happy to use the meter we headed off on the expressway towards Hanoi.  I often use Googlemaps while we are travelling by bus or taxi to get an idea of where we are, and tonight in the taxi was no exception, I was curious to get an idea of the layout of the city as we travelled through it.  This proved to be a good decision.

Our route was to take us from the airport, which is north of the main part of the city, to our hotel in the Old Quarter which is in the east of the city.  In simple terms we had to travel south on the expressway until we hit the main modern part of the city then turn east to the area where our hotel was located.  It should have been a 45 minute trip at this time of night.

So we trundled down the expressway and then exited at the CBD, and then we headed west ( not east ), I wasn't too bothered as I thought there must be a reason why the direct route to the hotel couldn't be used.  After a few hundred metres we turned south ( we were still north of our hotel so this was still fine) and then after a while we headed east towards the hotel.  At this stage we were probably twice as far from our hotal as we had been when we left the expressway.  I started to think we were being given the "dumb tourist" route.  

While we were heading in the direction of the hotel now we had been driving for an hour and were still a fair way from where we needed to be.  When we turned south again and started to head away from the hotel I had had enough and told our driver ( who was on the phone again at the time ) to take us to our hotel now, he waved his hand in the direction we were traveling and said ' yes, yes, this way', I said 'no, it is this way' and pointed in the actual direction of the hotel.  He turned towards the hotel and slowly made his way in the right direction.  He then turned on Googlemaps on his phone to get directions to our hotel ( which he obviously couldn't have used earlier as it would have shown he was heading the wrong way ).  After fighting our way through the busy streets of the Old Quarter we pulled up at our hotel.  

The trip had taken 1 1/2 hours from the airport and the meter read D490,000 ( he had stopped the meter about a kilometre from the hotel to stop the cost getting any higher ). Liz jumped out and grabbed the bags from the boot, while I told the driver that I wasn't paying the metered fare as he had taken us all over the place.  He quickly said "350" meaning D350,000, meanwhile Liz went in and grabbed the concierge from our hotel to help us sort the right price.  I explained to him where we had been and he said D350,000 was about the right price normally, so I paid that and went into the hotel.  It was now 10:45pm, instead of the 10pm that we should have arrived so it wasn't a great end to a long day.  In fairness D490,000 is NZ$29 and the proper fare was NZ$21, but there was a principle involved.

Anyway we checked in and went up to our room, dropped our bags and then headed out for a drink and some food ( we had not been given a meal on the flight, so we were a little peckish ). We hit the nearest Circle K convenience store got some water and chocolate and went back to our hotel at 12am.