Hanoi - oh how Hanoi'd we were to be here.
Ok so warning to fellow travellers before reading this post, I am fully aware that any one experience of a place can be completely bias and sometimes unusual and therefore can completely tar a destination for those that may plan to visit thereafter.
We had before our visit to Hanoi had fellow world travellers recommend it and enjoy their time there immensely.
There were however 2 pivotal factors we did not consider when booking our visit, and a third which was out of our control, which ultimately made are short stay here pretty terrible.
These 3 factors were:
1. Season - winter is cold in Hanoi and after Florida, Hong Kong, and Malaysia seriously cold to us.
2. Date - we arrived on the eve of Chinese New Year.
3. Covid19 - had just been reported and was heading our way.
So, excluding a visit around the lunar new year and another global pandemic, please visit Hanoi and make up your own mind....
We left Hoi An airport bound for Hanoi, again by the skin of our teeth.
Hoi An airport was in complete disarray with none of the boards working, and our flight delayed by a few hours.
To make matters worse, they decided to relocate our gate, with the only notification being verbally of over the loud speaker (along with every other flights info) to cut a long story short we returned to our gate at the time told to us by the rep standing there, only for the same rep to tell us that we had missed the flight.
Some gentle arguing later we were put in a car a speeding to the waiting plane (with passengers still shuffling to their seats I might add)
We finally left Hoi An in a cool 25C and sunshine only to arrive a short time later in driving rain and a blistery sub 15C at Hanoi.
Arriving on New Year's eve, meant that the taxi price had doubled, it also meant that when we finally found our accommodation the driver refused to enter via the gates and instead dropped us off with sleeping babies and luggage at the side of the road in the pouring rain.
When we finally got into our apartment, for the first time in months we were shivering with cold.
So far it was not a great start or welcome to Hanoi.
Next day being Chinese New Year meant that everything would be closed.
This is something to keep in mind, if travelling Asia this time of year however we were not prepared for how far that extended.
For the whole of our 10 days in Hanoi, it was like a ghost town; we even had a surreal visit to a nearby mall, which was open but with all shops closed, and people just taking a walk through it.
We hoped to buy some warm clothes to combat the cold, as layering up our tropical weather clothing was not having the impact desired, but with nowhere open we were stuck with what we had.
What we were not aware of at the time was that Covid19 had just hit the news, and Hanoi of course borders China, this created an extension of the usual CNY shutdown, with the fairly common masks now being worn by 99 percent of the people we came in to contact with.
We spent one day celebrating CNY with traditional games and shows at the Hanoi Heritage Museum, which was a lovely place to spend the day and chill out at again however we were just totally unprepared for the cold and as the weather turned in the afternoon were forced to retreat back to our apartment.
Other than the park directly below our building we unfortunately ventured out little and were so pleased to be heading back to Malaysia when the time came.
This is where the most interesting part of our visit occurred!
Due to the lack of flights at the time we had managed to find ourselves on a 3am journey to the airport - something I personally hate, and on reaching the airport by taxi we realised that we were a suitcase short.
In the dark (and rain of course) I had managed to simply leave a bag in the curb, outside our accommodation.
In a mad dash I sent Emma and the kids in to check in (which they cannot do without me) and tried to explain to a very startled taxi driver that he needed to go very fast.
About 10 minutes down the road I realised that I would never make it there and back in time and that it was probably more important I be on the plane than the luggage.
We tried repeatedly to get hold of our hosts, the apartment complex reception and even had the taxi driver go back and check (he subsequently messaged me to say it was nowhere to be seen)
Possessions are not that important to us, and in fact the clothes that it contained we didn't care much about, it did have all our paper work in and amongst other things made up 1 quarter of all our possessions we now own - so although it wasn't the worst it was pretty heart breaking.
We arrived in KL, Malaysia a few hours later and border our last plane for the month to take us on to Johor Bahru, somewhere we had been before and would be staying (we thought) for the next 3 months.
At this point after having the host, taxi driver and reception all tell us the bag was lost, we had given up, however on arriving in JB a photo of are bag miraculously appeared on a Hanoi community Facebook page.
We were fortunate that the other world schoolers in Hoi An were due to join us in JB in a couple of weeks’ time, less fortunate of course that our bag was still 800km away from them.
To cut a long story short, through the use of Google translate I arranged for our case to be collected from the Facebook poster by Moto taxi, put on a bus bound for Ho Chi Minh city, and have our friends meet it at a petrol station in Hoi An, fly with it to Singapore then onto a bus across to JB and back to us.
It seems simple enough and worked perfectly, however for anyone planning to send their luggage on a cross country tour of Vietnam in the future just be aware that the Vietnamese are very chatty until they have your money; from that point on the Facebook poster, Moto taxi and bus company stopped replying to my messages to check that either stage had happened successfully - either way through luck, the goodwill of others and blind faith it made its way back to us with even the bag of money still inside 😳 (all different currencies from our travels)
So, for several reasons, but none particularly good, our visit to Hanoi will always be memorable - however not one we plan to repeat.