Ha Noi, the home of Uncle Ho
"Chapter 1: All's not well that ends well ;)"
I'm a superstitious girl who believes that all should be well to have a well ending..specially during traveling. My trip to Hanoi happened to break the jinx, you might find a well ending though the start might be rough..
Having been a rather detailed travel planner but due to workload at office, I managed to only book hotel via e-mail. And since various info from internet suggest me to be careful in taking airport taxies, I also asked the hotel to pick us up at the airport..
We arrived from Singapore in Hanoi at 20.00 with the thoughts that the hotel driver was waiting with our names on a piece of paper in the arrival area. Apparently no one was there from our hotel. We waited for half an hour before decided to forget our hotel and get any transport to the old quarter - the tourist area in town-. We decided to take Vietnam airlines shuttle that will go to that direction with an assumption that it should be easy to find any hotels on the way or nearby the old quarter..After a 45-min journey, the driver dropped us somewhere in the city and when we asked direction to the old quarter he just said that we had to take a cab..(note: it turned out that it takes only 5 min walk to the old quarter area, but how on earth we could know that on our first visit to the city???) We took one cab, asked the driver to turn on the meter before asking him to go to Hanoi Phoenix II (though I didn't really want to stay at the same hotel who abandoned us at airport, I couldn't remember any hotel names to give the driver to). He dropped us in front of a shabby looking building and said that it was our hotel. We weren't convinced but decided to pay the taxi first. When I saw the rate on the display: 570. I had no idea, was it 570 VND, 57,000 VND or 570,000 VND. When I gave him 5000 VND, he laughed at me and asked for 570,000 VND(about 35 USD which will be the standard cost for return taxi trip city-airport ). I protested and refused to pay..The hotel guy who had waited in front of the so-called hotel, helped us out and asked us to pay only 50,000 VND (about 3 USD, still too much for a less than 5 min-drive). That settled..
Inside the what-so-called hotel, we weren't convinced that it was where we booked our room but the hotel staff insisted that it was. There was no reception area as any common hotel would have, and there was no hotel signboard in the building facade either. We then decided to leave and to find nearby internet cafe to look for any decent hotel. It was almost 10 pm, 18 degree C weather, no clue where we were and where to stay, plus with empty stomach, we strolled along the road only with our instincts to guide us (we couldn't even stop taxi, considering our recent experience, to drop us to any 5 star hotels in town). Finally, I saw "internet" sign in one of the building and decided to enter it after seeing a lot of western tourists inside. We then realized that it was a hotel (Little Hanoi Hotel in Hang Ga street, more info in the hotel tips) and the PCs for browsing internet were for the hotel guests. But the lady in the receptionist said we could use it for free though we said we would pay the cost. Moved by her generosity after the trauma being tricked by the locals, we asked for a room. After checking out the room and managed to bargain for a small discount, we decided to stay for a night. It turned out we paid the same as our originally- booked hotel ;)
"Chapter 2 There's rainbow after the rain"
After a good night sleep, in the morning we finally arranged our ha long bay tour in our hotel (instead of 85 usd/pax offered by tour operator in the web, we paid 65 usd/pax for more or less the same itinerary). We also extended our stay there as we didn't want to spend more time for searching hotel. The hotel service was excellent. There's no external window (we only have a window facing a void inside the building) in our room. It wasn't such a big deal for us. You don't really need to open the window because the weather was cold and the pollution from the hectic traffic. You don't also need to see the view, as the hotel is located in one of crowded street and we spent time in the room only for sleeping. Other than the window thing, we don't have major complaints.