First day in Hanoi

I got in to the hotel last night and the visa and immigration/customs things take awhile at the airport. Today I rested a bit and then headed out for some time in the Old Quarter with the camera. I ended up at the Ho Hoan Kiem Lake along with just about everybody else. It was a warmer day but kinda overcast with a light breeze blowing across the lake. Lots of people out with cameras, lots of tourists. Lots of people. I stopped at this beautiful lounge/bar and had a few beers because that’s what retired folk are supposed to do. I have not gathered the photos yet from the camera. I guess laziness has struck.

Tonight I decided to go to a brewpub for dinner which is just down the street and have myself a few more beers and some food there. Pasteur Street is right down the street from my hotel so I will stop in there. I figure there is plenty of time for Pho and street food. I’m gonna do the retirement thing and enjoy my time.

Here’s some stuff after only one day I have learned. Everything is cheaper than you can really imagine. Couple that with finding a cheaper long stay place and the cost of food and beer and its really a good deal. If you are on a limited budget and want places to go, I’m willing to bet that Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are quite cheap at least when you compare it to living in the San Francisco Bay area. Before I left, I had decided to be rather strict with my budget and record everything. I cannot see the reason in Hanoi to do this. I think when you do this it drags the time down to a lowest common denominator that may cause you grief. Given that, here is my list of little things to do your first day in Hanoi:

  1. Find a place to buy a SIM Card. Hopefully you have an unlocked phone. I just plopped down a few bucks and got a data sim card from Mobiphone. Its 4g most places and appears to be okay in cities. You can “top it off” by buying a little card in most places and entering the code. I could also just bail on this card and get a Viettel or Vinaphone one if i wanted. I noted this some years ago in Asia. The plan is not important but the phone is. All the phones in Chennai I ever saw were unlocked and I would buy prepaid SIM Cards in Singapore or other places and just keep them in a little envelope in my stuff. Nothing has changed.
  2. Exchange some money and don’t be shocked when a thing costs like ₫ 145,000. What’s helpful is find a currency converter for your phone. I found this useful right away.
  3. Exploration and getting lost can be fun but there are times you want to be found. Combine this with the first thing and learn how to use Google Maps to find yourself and plot the way back to a good known spot like your hotel room after a few too many beers.
  4. Visas in Vietnam are fun. Lets take the one I got last night. Its a 6 month multiple entry tourist Visa but I must leave and return after 90 days and kinda check back in so I will have to change travel plans a bit and fly out and probably fly back to Ho Chi Minh City and cancel the rail trip I had paid for. You may want to check this out especially if you get a VOA or Visa on Arrival with a agency like I did. I had no problems getting the Visa or using it at the airport. They issued the visa with my forms and the authorization letter from the agency and I was done with the buying part in minutes. One thing, bring US Dollars. That is all the they take and there is no ATM I could see so I took sufficient US dollars.
  5. Driving and walking here is much like what I remember from India. Drivers and cyclists don’t give a damn about you so be careful here. In the old Quarter the cyclists zoom with no real regard even for their bigger cousins called cars and buses. In Chennai, the buses ruled and my auto driver VJ would complain bitterly about the buses being unfair. Just be careful here.
  6. Tourists, ex-pats, visitors, retirees; whatever are all over the place. i heard more English today than any other language. The old Quarter is interesting in that regard but I think you have to get out of the area because its rather manic at times. The lake is just the right place to get away. i can see spending many quality days there to come ;-0

Now finally on to a point which is interesting and one I shall study more. I believe the value for the money based on my limited funds in retirement are much greater here. I can simply do more with the dollars I have. I can eat better, drink better, see things. Vietnam is a great value for someone wanting to retire and travel slowly I think.

I’ll put up the photos today a bit later when i get done with dinner tonight. I’m hoping sleep is better tonight and I will go for a walk tomorrow around the lake but I’ll perhaps start at the Starbucks tomorrow for coffee or the place i stopped for beers.