Haze of Hanoi


Smoky. No, not smokin’. Smoky. That was my first impression of Hanoi. The first smell which greeted me as I stepped from the plane onto the aero-bridge. At first I thought there was a fire somewhere in the airport terminal, but since everyone appeared to be calm, I decided perhaps it was nothing worth fretting about.

As we exited the arrival hall, we tried to find the airport shuttle bus to take us into the city centre. According to the guidebooks, they should be around and only costing US$2 per person. We spotted a large red and white bus with HANOI –> NOI BAI AIRPORT painted on its sides so walked briskly toward it, avoiding eye contact with the touts hanging about.

We approached a bleary-eyed teenage girl who had climbed off the bus and rubbed her eyes like she’d just gotten out of bed. She was the bus conductor. We tried to ask her if the bus was going into town and she nodded yes while yawning. So we climbed on board and waited.  After minutes had past, there were still only the two of us on board.

The driver began to listen to some Vietnamese folk songs on his mobile phone and laid down on the seats at the back of the bus. That, we didn’t think was a good sign, and we gave it another five minutes before using gestures to ask him what time the bus was leaving. He took his time to get down the bus and returned with a girl who spoke enough English to help us.

She said the bus would wait here for half an hour and directed us take the min-buses at the back which cost the same price. Finally, after 30 minutes of doing nothing on a stationary bus, we seemed to have started making some progress. The journey on the mini-bus into town was uneventful, until the driver turned into a dark lane and a group of men rushed toward our bus and opened our doors.

We were told this was where all the passengers had to get off. The men were taxi-drivers who were keen to see if they could take us to somewhere else. It was pretty scary to see all these strange men rushing up and badgering us to take us somewhere, but we managed to persuade the mini-bus driver to take us to our hotel as we paid an extra dollar.

The mini-bus driver eventually agreed and we were the only ones whom he took. But after turning into a few streets, he stopped next to a travel agent and a guy promptly came out to ask if we, at 1030pm, wanted to book a tour to go anywhere. I lost my cool and told them we were very tired after the flight and we just wanted to go to the hotel and nowhere else. So we once again continued our journey and eventually got to the hotel.

The room was alright. There was a computer which was supposed to have internet connection but it didn’t. After the staff had fixed it, we realised Yahoo! Mail had prompted us that it wasn’t a secure enough connection to log in to our accounts so we didn’t.

Fed up, I decided to take a shower. But because they didn’t have a shower curtain, the water splashed everywhere in the toilet and I spent 15 minutes mopping up the drenched floor with a bath mat. Exhausted and frustrated, I decided to call it a night. I decided I’d better restore my energy to prepare for more challenges to come.

Even through the air-conditioned building, the smoke permeated.

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2 Comments on “Haze of Hanoi”

  1. hazel Says:

    Goodness! I feel so sorry to hear this. I took the big bus before and didn’t have any problem. Bus won’t leave until it’s full…. that’s how they earn while saving on petrol. Have never taken a mini-bus before and the bus conductor shouldn’t have recommended you that. Never mind, I’m sure you enjoyed your Halong Bay tour at least 🙂

  2. tintedglasses Says:

    Hello Hazel! Yes I love Halong Bay! I will definitely go again! 🙂

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