It’s been so hard for me to write something. I had never succeeded, either not sufficient time, difficulties of putting the idea into words, or something that was half-done lost its soul and direction in the middle of nowhere. At that moment, I thought that a writer is a genius. Writing book, column or news is not an easy job. Putting and string up ideas, notion, illustration, occurrence in the precise word, to perform an interesting, smooth flow narration may need a profound thought. Which is somewhere helps us to understand the thinking process itself.
That is why, when Mr. Photographer asked us of who’s gonna write the journal of our journey, I volunteered myself without any hesitant. I like to mention a quote: “A picture is worth a thousand words. An interface is worth a thousand pictures.” So hopefully, with all my limitedness to author, and the helps of some beautiful picture, I can borne you away along with the rise and fall of my every thought during the amazing trip in Vietnam.
It was not an easy trip for me anyway, not because the place is far away, hard to be reached, or unfriendly weather (although I admit, those are things I complained from this trip), but some precedent events I should took before taking the “journey” itself. Started from 2 days stressful meeting, 10 days of tight retreat practice in Puncak, West Java, and a quite intense family reunion in Semarang for 2 days. But I won’t take you to each precedent, since it will take another blog to start. I’ll take you to the heart of the journey…….Vietnam.
Before I start, let me introduce you to my buddy Trip: Mr. Shopper (a.k.a Mr. Ronny. let’s call him Mr. S), Mr. Photographer (a.k.a Mr. Henri, let’s call him Mr.P, along with his camera, Sean and Shane), and the holy bible (The Lonely Planet of Vietnam) and of course the Robert Harris’s Imperium (faithfully revealed its story during waiting time in airport, and many other places).
Getting to Vietnam from Indonesia is not that easy, especially if you want to go by north to south. It means we have to get an airplane from Jakarta to Hanoi, while options are limited with no direct flight to Hanoi from any city in Indonesia. The least we can do was departing from Singapore to Hanoi by Tiger airways with quite reasonable price and it was cheaper than my ticket from Semarang to Singapore . If you’d like to go to the Ho Chi Minh on the first place, air asia and lion star would be very pleased to have you on board 🙂 . You can depart from Jakarta.
We depart from Singapore at 16:50 Singapore time by Tiger airways. The terminal was in the budget terminal. It’s not that sumptuous compared to other terminal. But I felt cozy out there. The thing is when you are already go inside the boarding room, there were not many seats available, so make sure you go there only when it’s boarding time. Although it’s a budget flight, the stewardess is very strict on safety regulation, not to mention their hospitality and smiley face!! One thing you can’t get *sometime, perhaps* on fancy flight. Got another story on this later on ^^
It took 3, 5 hours to reach Hanoi. We arrived at 19:20 and shocked *perhaps only me* by the refrigerating winds. I had no idea that the weather would be that cold. I stroked by mom face saying “don’t you wanna bring another socks, gloves, and trousers?” right before I finished my pack. I said: “no way, including this * I pointed my scarves, 2 jeans, soap & shampoo* I already reached my 8 kilos, I’m afraid the official won’t let me in”. The ticket was only included 7 kg hand-carried luggage. That is why I reached my longest time packing, choosing & tricking my clothes to reach 7 kilos. And yes, I used scales to measure my hand-carried luggage. Thanks to Mr. P for his kindness lugged my bag for most of the way, and thanks to Mr. S as well :).
Anyway… it was so breezy winter time, I even forget when the last time I felt that cold (and I didn’t mean the time I spent in my office freezing). I didn’t know exactly the temperature, but perhaps it reached 16 degree, and sometime a very light, fine grain drizzle touched my unwrapped skin. I wasn’t even sure it was drizzling until I stopped for a while to really realize it was the drizzle sputtered on my skin. Welcome to December Hanoi!!!
We stopped by the exit door of the airport to read the recommended taxi in Lonely Planet (thanks to the traveler’s bible, and thanks to Mr. S for getting it ), and exchanged some dollars to Vietnam Dong (VND). We used taxi with fixed price to our Hotel: Hanoi Mike’s Hotel which is located on bustling old quarter, so they say.
For every trip, there’s something new and interesting. I would like to quote & modify of one’s say in an article: in every visit to a new place, all of our sense are revealed because we are adjusting to a new surrounding, therefore we are easily grasp the atmosphere& ambient. Along the way up to our hotel *Still breezing* some of the road, as I grasp the atmosphere, where the condition reminded me a lot of my birth place. Main road that higher than the houses stood along the way; fancy up to modest& rickety houses, low light, combines with plane landscape, and sometimes not to far-reaching farm land -with advertisement board stood on them. The closer to the old quarter, buildings are tied up, and I don’t have to wait that long to be amazed that the more we got closer to the old quarter, the buildings were more adhered that it had no space left among them. Most of them are only 4 meters wide, with 3 up to 5 or more stories building. Amazing!
Old quarter, like the name, are full with old buildings, yet few modern buildings are interpolated among them. Together with meticulous & complicated electrical & telephone wire hanging from one mast to another, thousand motorcyclist trafficking the street, and frenzy tourist & local people flooding the street forming a dense, disarray, gratify urban area, I couldn’t be more happier.
It took almost an hour to get to our hotel, another surprise in Hanoi. We were welcome by a local bell boy (later on in the website, I found out that his name was Khuyen :P), opening our taxi and offering a hand for 3 luggage with a big friendly smile said: “ welcome to Hanoi Mike’s Hotel”. Not just that, the receptionist welcomed us with every hospitality of Vietnam. He wave us to a small table of four, sitting in front of us, welcoming us, and brief us a moment for the hotel location (he handed us with a map), explaining objects that can be visited in Hanoi, it’s location, and how to get there. Again, a surprising thing, of hospitality. He also allowed us to choose some welcome drink provided for the guests. All at once, I felt like pulled inside to the trip, especially to the city.
Although it was already 10 pm, the street was still full of vitality. Another interesting thing was the group of people sitting in a low chair (20 cm high) around the table of 4 to 6, eating something. They were everywhere in the sidewalk. At a glance it was like a noodle, with slices of pork or fish, or even beef, we never had a chance to try that or look closer, something me now regretting. Some of them were just sit to have some beer, to warm their body (remember? It’s freezing out there).
Just by 10 minutes walk we reached the Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s like the old quarter magnet for every tourist. Surrounded by the paved sidewalk, Hoan Kiem Lake offers a beautiful color, radiated from its green and yellow light, decorated along its bridge and its tree. The lake offers nothing but a perfect mirror to reflect the light, performed a perfect background for a perfect picture in a perfect night.
We stopped by in the KFC (yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken) to have a supper. Some big building were also stood across the street from sidewalk, serve so many options of restaurant, bar, coffee shop or even tourist information centre. Our lovely KFC was one of the shopping center. We rushed ourselves for the dinner, since the perfect background were waiting for us to take the picture on (Voila!).
The combination of the city and the lake belting out the rhythm that wove my body to keep walking to discover more. However, nights and weariness were much stronger. We went back to our hotel after channeling our narcissism, took some picture near the lake.
And before I forget, another amazing thing was the harmony *if you know what I mean* between the pedestrian and the motorcyclist. Catch this! Hanoi is the best place for you to train your skill of walking across the street. No traffic lights are prevailing. Each motorcyclists rush their way as well as pedestrians rush their feet. Don’t wait until the street is clear to cross over. Coz it won’t be. If you want to get by, you have to be brave, walk forward a little bit, step by step (don’t bother by the motorcyclist, let them noticed by your presence) and keep walking, until you get by.
Day one, 29 December 2009, Hanoi City
Note: Tiw is the Anglo-Saxon name for Mars (the God of War in Ancient Rome History), used as the name of day : Tuesday.