Arriving in Vietnam

Leaving Singapore at the last minute meant a bit of organisation and quick thinking but it was worth – Vietnam impressed with it’s craziness within the first minutes

A last minute Visa for Vietnam

Vietnam insists you have a Visa before arrival and this usually takes five working days – given I’d made a last minute decision to spend Christmas in Hanoi, I left myself only one working day to sort it out. Doh! Quickly ruling out the embassy approach as even their “express” option would be too I looked around and found a multitude of websites offering something they called “Visa On Arrival”.

It seems too good to be true what the websites offer as how can they get a Visa sorted within 24 hours whereas I can’t at the embassy? Since I didn’t have any option I looked around for what appeared to be the most reputable option and chose My Vietnam Visa (http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/). The site looked reasonable, was secure and had plenty of information so following it’s forms and paying was a doddle. A quick email to confirm that I could arrive in Hanoi ok and the next morning they emailed a letter stating my arrival day and that I had a Visa. Score.

At the airport I was lucky to be the first off the plane (that itself is a first) so got to the counter at the front of the queue and was glad – there was a huge queue forming behind me. Handing across the two forms, one picture and my passport I went to the other end of the office, waited 10minutes or so until my passport was held up. I passed across my $25 for the Visa itself, another picture and walked through Customs.

Scepticism 0, My Vietnam Visa 1

Getting to the hostel

Arriving in a foreign country used to be scary, now, it’s so passé. Walking out of the airport to be bombarded by taxi drivers yelling and people trying to get you into their cab is annoying not scary. I know this because I’d met two Scottish women who were staying in a hotel in the Old Quarter so we were going to share transport – they were antsy and started shouting at all the botherers. Me, I was quite calm and just going with the flow. It’s the first time I’ve seen that I’ve a lot more experience than holiday makers in such an obvious way!

We first tried a taxi who wanted 600,000 Dong ($30) which is way too high for the trip according to the website (160,000 or $8) so we argued and got out of the taxi and took the minibus for 100,000 each ($5) which still high was ok. The mini bus turned out to be same as any of those in Central America where as many people as possible are crammed into the seats, much to the indignation of the Scottish ladies and an American man who hated it with a passion – me, I was glad to more space than I was used to!

After the bus dropped us off, I started walking in the rough direction turning right as often as possible to get onto the right street and to be honest it was luck more than anything that got me into the foyer, but I’ll take it as a victory! The walk though was extraordinary! Coming from the organisation of Singapore to the chaos of Hanoi was amazing.

People line the streets sitting on little seats eating or drinking beer. Scooters are parked on the pavement meaning you have to walk on the road but then that is full of Scooters and Cars vying for space. Horns blast away constantly and the Scooters brush past their wake whipping your face with the acrid smell of exhaust gases. Scooters carrying impossible objects (Plasma TV’s, sheets of glass, pigs, 4 people…) all come past in a noisy exhibition of chaos. Shop keepers jump out of their stores to entice you in. It’s an assault on the senses and I loved it.

Hanoi had already made an impression!

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