Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will I ever take a vacation in Hanoi again?

On Nov 8, I went on a 4 days 3 nights company organised trip to Hanoi and these are my experiences.

Risk Management

The 50 plus of us were divided into two teams and sent packing on two different AirAsia flights to Hanoi. The reason for two teams were due to our company risk management policy... that is, in case one plane crashed, at least half of the employees would survive and the company can still go on... LOL. Yeah I know... just so comforting and reassuring to know... LOL.

I told you so!

Anyway, my wife and I were on the early morning flight and we were to assembled at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) at 4:30am. Well, most of us arrived at LCCT at about 5am... LOL. So much for following instructions. In any case, the AirAsia ticketing system was down and this caused a massive jam at the check-in counter. The early-birds were cursing and the late-comers were having a "I told you so" look on their faces... LOL. Surprisingly, the flight was not delayed and we managed to depart on time... :-)

The Sound of Hanoi

The cool and dry weather in Hanoi was fantastic. It was like walking perpetually in an air-conditioned room... lovely... LOL. After checking in to the Trade Union Hotel, everyone went off in their own groups exploring this city of perpetual NOISE!

The noise I am referring to was the sound of vehicle horns. As if the sound of engines and the normal hustling and bustling were not enough, a cacophony of horns of all types filled the air as they assaulted your ear drums.

This unwanted symphony will not play itself out until you leave the streets (if you are lucky enough to have a sound-proof room) or the country itself! After staying in Hanoi for 4 days and 3 nights, I could not understand the Vietnamese language even if my life depended on it... but I have come to understand how the drivers communicate with me using their horns.

The horns, unlike in Malaysia, were not used out of anger or displeasure. They just wanna announced, "Hey, I am here. Get the f**k out of my way dude! I am coming through and I am not going to stop. So move, move, move..." LOL.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

One very important survival skill I have mastered in Hanoi was on how to cross the road. If you have ever been there, you will know exactly why this skill is ranked above the rest in terms of importance. The idea is to just walk across the road in a slow to normal pace. There will be horns blaring at you. It's normal. So just stay calm, wipe the sweat on your forehead (only for extreme cases), take a deep breath and cross. They will somehow manage to swerve around you and before you know it, you are on the other side of the road... EASY... :-)

Take me to...

One way or another, you will have to take a cab in Hanoi. Just make sure that they are using the meter, said the tour guide. "Baloney" I say! There are discrepancies in the calibration of their meters. Some meters just flies... LOL. I could not see any way around this, unless you wanna walk.... so we were at their mercies.

Also, watch out for the change they give back. Count the change and make sure that it is correct before you leave the cab. If not they will just drive off leaving you short-changed... :-)

What do I most enjoy in Hanoi?

There are a number of things I really enjoyed doing in Hanoi.
  • One of them was the many varieties of food! At the top of my list was baguette stuffed with lettuce, pork slices and pate. Ah... I really missed that. Next on my list would be the Snail soup noodles (Bún Ốc), wish I had some right now! Also, I have tried all the food and then some, on my must-try food list... :-)
  • Tour to Halong Bay. Before I made the trip, I was not keen at all to go on the tour. When I heard about the 6 hours bus ride to and fro, and a 4 hours boat ride, I was totally turned off. Thankfully, my wife "convinced" me and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The view was fantastic, but what I most enjoyed was just seating on top of the deck and relaxing in the very cool weather.
  • Walking the streets of Hanoi. Ah... I really liked strolling down the streets on Hanoi, taking in the views and observing the livelihood of the locals.

So... will I ever take a vacation in Hanoi again?

The answer would be a resounding YES... but only if someone pays for my ticket and lodging... :-)

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