Monday 25th August
Today was the day we were returning to the lovely Hanoi as we go home tomorrow (booo already!) but getting up so damn early everyday means you still have a lot of time to kill even if you´re getting picked up at midday to go to the airport. So we decided to take a trip to the War Remnants museum. We got a taxi there for 70,000 dong and in we went. We knew we had to brace ourselves as I´d read it was pretty heavy going but we kind of felt like we should visit and learn a little.
There were several exhibitions to go through too, and in fact at the very beginning you’re directed into an exhibition showing generations of people affected today by Agent Orange, a mixture of powerful defoliants used by US military forces during the Vietnam War, to wipe out forests and therefore expose hiding North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, as well as the crops that they would eat. The exhibition was really hard going from the start but I couldn’t miss any of them. They were good photos, photographically speaking, and each one so powerful, showing the deformities each person suffered from. There were also exhibitions explaining aggressive war tactics used and remnants of the weaponry used. After a while Javi couldn’t take it anymore and waited outside. The Palace also housed a helicopter and tanks outside and a couple of jets, which made for nicer photos and lifted the heavy feeling off your shoulders a bit.
Eventually we emerged, rather sombre, and decided we would have lunch in the hotel as the food was so good, so approached the first taxi we saw. We showed the guy the hotel card (it´s a ten, fifteen minute drive maximum with the awful city traffic) and he said 350. That´s 350,000dong – quadruple what we´d paid for the journey there. We literally laughed in his face and told him 70,000. He laughed back and said 100 to which we responded no more than 80,000. Gotta love this haggling. He finally said ok to 80, not happy one bit coz he didn´t manage to con the latest tourists, and we jumped in. Of course he put his foot down and we made it back in no time. But hahaHAAA he forgot to cover his meter which of course we were watching so when we got to the hotel we gave him a 50,000 note and he waited for the rest. We argued as the meter said 42,000 and yes we´d settled on 80,000 but sorry, no – at least cover the bloody meter if you´re going to screw us over! So we gave him the 50,000 and jumped out before he could lock us in. He was shouting at us a bit as we got out. Oh well. Try the next tourists mate.
We ate lunch and made our way to the airport, tired already from travelling (the flights and moving around and packing and unpacking) and actually had a bit of a frightening start to the short 2 hour flight. We had just sat down and the crew were doing their checks, not even moving yet, and the clouds let loose with what felt like a ton of heavy rain. You could hardly see out the window it was so hard and as the captain slowly taxi´d out he said we were going to wait for about 20 minutes for the rain to pass/lessen. I was happy with that! After about 15, although it was still raining but not so fiercely, we took off and he really gave it some welly! We were going much faster along the tarmac than normal and when he took off we were going up much steeper and with all the power the plane had (it felt like it anyway!) He really powered through the rain and clouds and we were bashed around a bit and then all of a sudden we came over the top of the bad weather and the rest of the 2 hour flight was fine. Phew – scary.
We were staying in the Tulinh hotel again, the same one as when we first arrived to the country, and it was really nice to be welcomed back and be lifted off my feet by Chien (I know how to spell Chin properly now) in a bear hug. We felt like we´d come home we were so familiar with Hanoi and this hotel. Later in the evening we went out for dinner at a high restaurant overlooking the river and enjoyed some posh Vietnamese grub – no family fights or blood splashing tonight – and then retired to bed. We have a food tour booked for tomorrow so we don´t waste the day doing nothing. Our last night in Vietnam, can´t believe it! It´s going too quick.