We woke up very early, and tried to find a place to eat breakfast in our neighbourhood. Most things were still closed, so we had to settle for a Mac D’s Coffee. We spent the morning wandering around the area that our hostel was in, Causeway bay. There were many places decorated for the Chinese New Year, and we enjoyed taking photos all over the area.
Our flight to Hanoi Vietnam was in the early afternoon, so we kept close to the hostel before checking out and heading to the airport.
As we had done on the way to Hong Kong, we took the express train!
The flight was approximately two hours, and we flew with Vietnam Airways (we originally had a flight with JET STAR, but they proved to be an incredibly terrible airline… and left us stranded..I’ll write about that separately).
The trickiest part about the flight to Vietnam was the immigration and visa application process. We applied ahead of time for a visa on arrive in Hanoi. You can only get a visa on arrival if you are arriving to Vietnam at one of the designated airports. We applied online three months in advance of our trip, and received an email that confirmed our visa had been approved. We then had to print out the confirmation email (that oddly also lists every other person who has been approved for a visa that day, and their passport number…) and fill out a form and affix an appropriately sized photo. I recommend prefilling out the form for your visa so that you can get in line at the visa window before everyone else on your flight. You drop all your information off at the Visa counter and then wait for them to call your name. You then pay the visa fee and go stand in line for immigration. The entire visa and immigration process took us about an hour, but mostly because the immigration officers moved very slowly when processing each visitor.
Once through immigration, we met up with our prearranged cab driver, sent by our hotel. I normally do not prearrange airport transfers, but having never been to Vietnam I was unsure about directing a cab driver to our hotel, and I was very uneasy about getting ripped off.
I was so glad that we had arranged the transfer, because our hotel was down an alley off of an alley off of another alley in the old quarter of Hanoi. Both Jives and I had a bit of a panic as we drove into Hanoi. The streets were packed like we had never seen before. Shop owners had to move there stalls as our taxi passed, and people on bikes and carts and scooters weaved in and out of the packs of people. I had no idea how we were going to walk in this new city, let alone navigate! I had been to South East Asia twice before, but this was something completely new!!
We checked into our hotel and immediately set off to find a bar that Jives had been communicating with about playing a gig. It was a thirty minute walk, but proved to be pretty easy to find, despite some anxiety on my part. The bar was called Cama ATK and describes itself as “Hanoi’s speakeasy alternative music venue”… and I am incredibly sad to say that it is no longer open.
Cama ATK was amazing! We drank tasty hoppy beers and listened to Slowz Nguyen spin an amazing mix of retro-y funk-y groove-y vinyl. We had the opportunity to watch some amazing dancing, and talk to the group there. We absolutely loved it, and it was sad to leave and head back to our hotel room.. but I was uneasy about walking downtown too late at night (it was much much safer than I thought).