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We made it! We’re finally here in Hanoi! I’m writing on our first morning in Vietnam, just before breakfast, in a beautiful room at the JM Marvellous hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

After a long and boring succession of planes – Nelson to Auckland, then a 3 hour wait outside of check in because we were changing to Singapore Airlines and couldn’t get all our boarding passes in Nelson, another 3 hours in the lounge at Auckland, then 11 hours to Singapore, then 3 or so hours to Hanoi – we arrived yesterday in the early afternoon and met our driver from the hotel. The drive into the city was much like that in any big city – highways – but things started to get interesting as ramshackle businesses began to appear in their hundreds by the roadside, swarms of motorbikes and scooters weaved around the taxi, and finally we entered the claustrophobic streets of the Old Quarter. Accompanied by the constant beeping of horns, countless people, packed sidewalks, and chaos! We were dropped off at the hotel and instantly treated like royalty by a young woman called Anna, given a welcome drink (coconut juice), and had all the details of the hotel explained to us. There are two other hotels in the same group, both within walking distance, one of which has a rooftop bar and a top floor restaurant.

We’ve been upgraded for free and our room is absolutely lovely – spacious and comfortable with a king-size bed (and another single) and a big window onto the street.

We settled in and had a nap. Later I went for a brief reconnoitre, finding a nearby ATM and getting some money, and practicing my first attempts at crossing the insanely busy streets. The trick is to walk slowly and steadily across and let the bikes and scooters weave around you, and, at least to start with, it certainly takes a certain amount of confidence!

Eventually we both left the hotel room and walked to the other nearby hotel and the rooftop bar. The pop music was too loud, but the bar had an amazing view up above all the chaos. We had a couple of drinks and soaked up the ambience as the sun fell below the horizon and the city lights came on. It’s muggy (though not too bad) and the air is thick with pollution, but it’s amazing to be back in a truly different city.

After our drinks we descended to the restaurant and had a small but delicious meal of pork spring rolls, pork belly with a delicious dressing, shredded sticky rice, chilli and garlic, and vegetables and rice. Very friendly young staff, with whom we practiced our first words of Vietnamese.

Back to the room for an early night and a very comfortable bed.

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