The flight from Bangkok to Hanoi was a breeze, as was getting through customs and out into the concourse of Noi Bai Airport. "You want taxi" is the usual refrain and they were cuteous enough to point me the way of the bus station once I indicated my intentions. All good so far.
Getting into town by public transport is actually pretty easy: bus no 7 to Cuay Giay then bus no 9 to Bo Ho. Friendly fellow passengers made sure I got off at the right spot and only had one slimeball try and pick my pocket at the interchange - he got a punch in the back for his troubles.
Walking up the streets of the Old Quarter it was a shock to see the transformation from 6 years ago. There is no space to walk along the footpaths as they are now lined with parked motorbikes. So it's a weave in and out of the traffic, with the usual haranguing of shop traders, pedal rickshaw men and xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers. I found a hotel with a pleasant outlook on the fourth floor of a building which wouldn't pass a fire safety inspection, then headed out into the morass.
Now I'd been warned. I knew Hanoi was full of shysters and the most persistent merchants in SE Asia, but perhaps I was lulled by my previous very pleasant experiences of interactions with Hanoi locals six years ago. Within two hours I was sick of it! I'd said no, I'd shaken my head, I'd ignored people, I'd laughed good humouredly and walked away. I'd done all the things that had worked well everywhere else. But they were like a fly stuck in honey, they just got in your face and wouldn't let you be. So I told em to Fuck Off, and it worked.
I hated myself for doing so, and was determined to keep my cool next time. And I don't know what happened, but within 24 hours I didn't seem to be hassled as much.
I made a visit to the ethnology museum in preparation for my trip to the northwest and northeast, just so I could get re-acquainted with some of the ethnic minority tribes. There are over 20 different tribes and then there are variations within them. My head was reeling so I bought a reference book for the trip which will hopefully help.
From Hanoi I head to the northwest for a week, then climb Fansipan (yeah I'm a glutton for punishment) before more adventures in the northeast.
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