I booked one night in Hotel Camellia ($13) and I went directly to investigate what trips can be done outside of Hanoi. I saved my days during the entire trip because in a trip like this you never know what may come up and the most important asset is time. Even if I wanted to stay an extra day for leisure or extra visits in one place, I still decided to leave in order to save time. And it was worth it because in this way I had time for trips around Hanoi that were really worth doing. I asked the girl from reception of the hotel, who was a little lost in the landscape, about the available trips and she was able to make a list for me for the trip in the North, in Sapa and Ba Ca plus a little trekking, something that is not easy to arrange because you have to visit some markets open only in some particular days of the week. This was the reason I wanted to arrive here on Thursday because the markets are happening mainly during the weekend but I found also an extra market on Tuesday. The girl said that she will give me a quote for the trip but when I came in the evening she was not up to snuff, and obviously she did not know how to do it. Luckily, I contacted another agency on the way back to the hotel, that had exactly what I wanted to do and in spite of being a customized trip, and implicitly more expensive they arranged it and hopefully I will leave tomorrow at 8:30pm; four days in the North, 3 of them in different markets and one on hiking, with 5 nights, 2 of them with sleeping coach on the train. Beside this trip, I had to arrange two other one-day trips and a two-day trip to Halong Bay, the place that I saw first time in the movie “Indochine” with Catherine Deneuve. Also, I had to make arrangements for going into Laos, the bus being somewhere around 20 hours, so a flight would be advisable. Plus visa for Laos, plus, plus…..So, I spent in the morning and in the evening a lot of time with these arrangements, at least with the research and, finally, in the evening I paid $222 for my Sapa trip, in the North with the minority tribes, the highest amount I spent in Vietnam till now! You cannot spend money here, everything being so inexpensive!
Meanwhile, I visited the main sites in Hanoi, that has some interesting things but less than expected. I will spend another day at the end in Hanoi, probably next Saturday. I went to see “The Temple of Literature”, that is a temple dedicated to Confucius but also the siege of the first University, the school that was producing mandarins, the representatives of a meritocracy imposed and introduced by the Chinese for administering their country and foreign provinces. This university was founded in 1070. I wanted to see Uncle Ho in the mausoleum but it was closed but I visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum, pretty interesting if you see it as a tourist and not involved in the local politics, and a set of other pagodas and temples located near by. The terms of pagoda and temple is reversed in Vietnam: pagoda is a place of worship and the temple is used to worship the ancestors. A family may have a temple and a village may have a pagoda for worship. I walked a lot and ate some veggie lunch and in the evening, after I finished my bookings, and after I ran around to no use to find a internet phone (because only Maria picked up and she was in a rush to wake up Guvi who was still sleeping at 7:55am),
I went to have dinner of fish with ginger in a fancy restaurant. I tried to reach another restaurant, Cafe de Arts, pretty fancy, but I could not find it quick and I was hungry and, as usual, I did not have time. During dinner I started to study about Laos from a Lonely Planet in xeros copy bought in Nha Trang, these copies widely available in South East Asia, to see what I have to do there and if I have to skin a day from Vietnam to add it there, but I think that I am OK. It’s late and I am sleepy.