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My first few days solo and impressions from Vietnam

7/2/23, I'm sitting at the airport in Dushanbe. Was a bit awkward with the car taxi to the airport because of the two large boxes. The box with the bike was halfway out of the car, but the driver drove slowly and carefully, so everything went well. Was amazed that the taxi driver only charged 1 franc (10 Somoni) for the 3 kilometer 'special trip'. But you get ripped off with the 'wrapping', at least my cash was only enough for one box but I think it will be fine and my things will arrive in Hanoi. 

A few hours ago Nicolas was here. His flight was at 06.10 h via Istanbul to Zurich._11100000-0000-0000-0000-00000 0000111_At 04.00 h was day watch. I'm curious how he fared with the whole procedure. possibly a bit more cumbersome than mine, since he flies economy and I booked business for my 24-hour trip via Almaty, Kazakhstan and Seoul, Korea to Vietnam. At check-in the clerk took my Vietnam visa out of the passport and didn't put it back in. Luckily I noticed this one floor up at passport control. After a long explanation of what my problem is, a man in uniform went downstairs and came back after 10 minutes with my visa in hand. I was relieved. Saw me hanging out at the airport for months like Tom Hanks, in the film whose title I can't remember right now. Otherwise everything went smoothly at the airport in Tajikistan and the plane took off according to plan in the direction of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Once there, it was a matter of making ends meet for a full 7 hours before boarding the plane again for Seoul, Korea for the next stopover. Luckily the bartender took pity on me and gave me a hotspot so I could at least have some cell phone distraction. The hall was filled to the last seat and the air conditioning was about to give up the ghost. The air grew thicker and thicker. Sitting around without any meaningful work is not for me and I was already looking forward to cycling again. While I was doing the time and my ass hurt more than 10 hours on the bike saddle, questions shot through my head. Will my Vreni arrive safely in Hanoi? Does forwarding two stopovers really work? With my two left hands, will I be able to properly assemble the Vreni? Can I even find my way out of Hanoi without my guide 'Nicolas' and even in the right direction? Questions upon questions - maybe the dwindling lack of oxygen also contributed to this. By the way, after 7 hours I was already quite good friends with the bartender.. He looked for me at the gate for a selfie just before boarding shoot and give me a bar of chocolate. What a nice young man that was. Anyway, I ate the chocolate on the plane and it didn't even taste that bad. If my Swiss quality standards for chocolate weren't so high, I would even have said it was excellent.

 

3.7.23, landed on time in Hanoi coming from Seoul, Korea, everything went well with the luggage as well as with the pick-up service, which I booked through Booking.com. I thought a larger vehicle would make sense with all my baggage, so I wanted to be on the safe side. At 2:00 p.m. I arrived at the Hotel De la Soie. I have never stayed in such a small hotel. Considerable 6 floors high but only 1 room per floor. With my feet I measure a house width of 230 cm. So I've arrived in the middle of Hanoi, in the hustle and bustle of traffic and in the constant honking. Although I'm on the rims from my 24-hour trip, the wheel now has to be assembled. I don't have any time to waste, because my visa for Vietnam expires at the end of the month and tomorrow, on Nicola's birthday, I have booked a sightseeing tour to Halong Bay by bus and boat. There is no space in the room for assembly and it would certainly not be possible to bring it to the 5th floor, let alone assemble it and bring it down again in full size. So I tinker around in the two square meters in front of the reception. The lady at reception wants to help and stoically holds my bike while I'm sweating. I did take a few photos during the disassembly, these are now very helpful in bringing everything back to its original condition. The test drive wasn't bad, but it wasn't perfect either. It still scratches and the gears don't shift perfectly. But I'm postponing the fine tuning to the start day July 5th, because now I want to explore the city, although I could fall asleep on the spot and standing up. My goal was to see the famous 'Train Street'. The place where the train drives through the narrow streets and the market stalls have to be folded away in no time at all so that it can pass. The receptionist gives me a map of the city and ticks where I should go. In good spirits I venture into chaos. Unbelievable what is going on here on the street. After just a few hundred meters, the country bumpkin from Burgdorf has no idea which way to go. The reading glasses in the hotel would be great, because the map and especially the street names are printed in font size 2 or 3. The separation from Nicolas was only a few hours ago but now I already miss him by my side. He navigated blindly through the big cities and I was happy to only have to concentrate on his rear wheel. But I don't want to dramatize the situation either. I get along, resp. I take it easy, have time and try to absorb and save all the impressions. So I'm in this new world for hours and to get straight to the point, I haven't found my 'train street'. But I was probably already so flashed by all the impressions that it didn't seem so important to me anymore, because I could have got on a moped taxi every few meters. Hanoi just overwhelmed me a bit, but it was positive and exciting, I finally found my way back to the hotel, did the necessary things like getting a SIM card and then went to my few square meters in the penthouse and fell asleep in bed a..


4.7.23, wake up an hour before the alarm clock, there is already a lot of buzzing and honking in the streets of Hanoi. I'm on my way to breakfast, which I have to get myself as there isn't room in the hotel to set up a few tables anyway. But just around the corner there are already several alternatives to get a coffee. I wait punctually in front of the hotel for the tour organizer to pick me up. I'm looking forward to my 'aclimatization day' and to Halong Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 50-seater pulls up and is already well occupied. The drive out of the city takes half an eternity. Everywhere passengers are charged until the last seat is taken. A mix of different nations. Indians in front of me, a Russian woman to my left and a pretty, young couple from Argentina to the right. The travel guide informed about this and that, e.g. that we should better cancel any appointments in the evening, because in most cases it will be midnight by the time you get back to the hotel, that Hanoi means something like the city surrounded by a river. The 'Red River', which should better be renamed 'Brown Broth'. She didn't say that, of course, and it's just a suggestion on my part. Or that in Hanoi alone 9 million people live, that there are 6 million mopeds driving or standing in this city, that Hanoi has only been the capital of Vietnam for 42 years and that there are a whole_11100000-0000-0000-0000 -000000000111_1969 Islands in Halong Bay there. She also wants to make it clear to us that we can't visit all of them today, which I think makes sense to the last and last. Informative but probably not exciting enough, because behind me it's already snoring at an amazing volume. After a 2.5 hour drive there is the first stop at a pearl farm and we learn more about how these precious pearls are cultivated. The chance of pearl luck is a lot higher when cultivating, since only one grain of sand in 10,000 oysters naturally finds its way inside the shell at the right moment. Of course, you could now also buy the corresponding pieces of jewelry here. After a good two-hour drive we reach the port in Halong and switch from the bus to the ship. Everything is well organized, the seats are distributed at the tables and my fate could not have been better. Although they were all the same age as my boys, the chemistry was there right away. Abi from Norway, a 25-year-old athlete who is now enjoying a 2-month vacation in various Asian countries after his studies, Layla from Kuwait and Mohamed from Oman. During lunch we chugged around a variety of these 2000 or so islands and docked at one with a sandy beach. There is a 45 minute break where half of the group takes a dip and the rest climbs to the top to take photos. It's breathtakingly beautiful and impressive and I'm glad to be going digital and not having to switch films after 36 shots like I used to. The time passed quickly and the guide rounded up his flock for the onward journey. The second highlight was pending - kayaking. I sit down in the shaky plastic part with the Norwegian with roots from Sri Lanka and we harmonize perfectly right from the start. During the third island hopping, we went to an impressive cave tour and we received information about the age and history of its origin. The day was over in no time and soon the sun was sinking over the horizon and we drove back towards the port where the car was waiting for us and brought us back to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. Less than 3 minutes on the way, it's already snoring behind me again..




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