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vrijdag 20 maart 2009

Ha Noi - Day 1 & 2

In a way arriving in Hanoi was a relief after the busy streets of HCMC. More importantly, I got to see my little sister again. She's been living there since the beginning of last year, and I hadn't seen her since september. We're staying at her (small but comfy) apartment near the Westlake in the north of the city. This is in the Ho Tay district, which roughly translates to "­where the foreigners live".

The plane trip from HCMC to Hanoi was with a lowcost company called Jetstar. The flight was OK, but unfortunately the plane was constructed for Asian people, meaning no legroom for the big westerner. Anyway, we arrived in Hanoi and naturally we needed a cab. This has given us the opporunity to jack a local, instead of getting ripped off ourselves. A normal cab ride costs 230 000 vietnamese dong (roughly 10 euros). A minivan will take you to the centre (to a fixed spot) for 30 to 40 000 dong. There was a minivan outside who wanted to take us for 170 000 dong. For this price the driver would take us to the exact address. That seemed like a fair price, but only if the time he needed to drive us was reasonable as well. They tried to get us in the van quickly. Now, when people are telling me to "hurry up" to take a deal, I'm suspicious. I asked how long it would take. They told us 35 minutes, which is how long a normal taxi would take too. Eventually we got in. First everybody else was dropped off, then the driver didn't know where he had to go, thus taking a total time of 1h30. So, there was no way in hell we were paying 170K. The driver did not know this. My sister explained it to him in Vietnamese. Eventually we gave him 100K. Driver not very happy. After being rippee all the time, it felt good to be the ripper for once.

We've had a lovely two days in Hanoi, with my sis and her boyfriend, and visiting the city (the temple of literature, the ethnology museum, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Hoan Kiem). As for the people, I liked HCMC better I have to admit. HCMC is assailed by motorbikes, you have rivers of the them, making the city a very noisy and crowded place. In comparison Hanoi has hardly any traffic at all. But, the people in HCMC are more relaxed than in Hanoi, less "communist" I'd say. It doesn't really matter of course, since we're here mainly to see my sister.

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