I'll start by giving you the visa process because that's a tricky process and everyone going to 'Nam has questions about this.
Because I flew in from Chiang Mai (stopping in Bangkok for a layover) I got a visa on arrival. For this you apply online. It seems there are a few websites out there for this. I used myvietnamvisa.com and applied online letting them know (about) when I was going to be arriving into the country. If you don't have your ticket bought which was my case, then you just tell them when you suspect to arrive, the earliest date. I paid $20 USD online for the processing and then I had to wait 2 to 5 business days for an approval letter to be emailed to me. Once that letter arrived I had to print it and keep it with me in order to board the plane to Vietnam. When I arrived at the Vietnam airport I completed the process by first going to the visa counter and turning in 1 passport sized photo that I had brought with me from the states. They took my passport and my photo while I sat in the waiting area tell my name was called and my passport photo appeared on a big screen above the counter. Pay attention to the screen not necessarily the names they call because my name started with Mr. when they called it out and I didn't recognize the rest of what they said but I saw my photo. I then had a visa in my passport and paid them $25USD
Now for the regular routine of entering one country from another... Passport and immigration check. Then collect your baggage if there is any and off you go!
I paid my hostel $15 extra to pick me up from the airport so that I didn't have to deal with taxi's or the bus. My driver spoke maybe 2 words in English and wasn't so willing to learn anything new so we drove for 40 minutes in silence. Once we got out of the rural area near the airport the traffic became insane! Scooter insane! Flashbacks of Indonesia were quickly flooding my memory! I even saw an accident with probably 70 people gathered around a laid down scooter, a body on the ground shaking, blood and the tower of boxes it had been transporting, scattered all over the road. Oh yeah and one cop on foot trying to control the scene and the traffic jam it had caused!
Rush hour traffic is very noticeable here even though the streets are always crazy. When rush hour hits the green uniformed police come out into the roads and start directing traffic on top of the stop lights already in place. It's a bit harder to cross the streets then usual and then you hit the sidewalk and everything is fine until you look ahead of you and a scooter or FIVE have decided to hop the curb and approach you head on instead of using the street!
I visited the war museum a very interesting take, seeing the history from the Vietnamese perspective.
I ventured through markets and stumbled across lots of local street food. There were a few full day walks into not so tourist areas with my travel parents.
As well as a food tour I set up with the front desk girl of the hotel janes and Dee were staying at. Quinn, really liked me and I liked her, she spoke good English so I asked her if she'd be willing to go on a food tour with me. Candice joined us and it was in this outing where we both tried the famous Vietnam egg coffee.
I met A LOT of Americans in Hanoi, between 2 hostels in the short time span of one night and just 3 hours!
From SanFransico, Connecticut, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and 2 other states that I didn't catch. Americans are hard to find out in this world. Apparently they are all in Vietnam!
My favorite find was the only person in my dorm room when I returned back to my hostel. Candice, a very adventurous girl from Washington state. She was in bed with the lights out when I walked in but I could tell she was awake. She said I could turn on the lights so I could see and then we ended up sharing story's for the next 3 hours! Her wanderlust was very inspiring! She has adventure stories that make me look like not so much of a traveler! Sounds crazy but it's true! We became good friends right off and a few people who met us together assumed we were sisters.
I also met an African guy named Emmanual and four amazing girls from Shanghai, China! All five of these beautiful people were staying at the friendly backpackers that I was at.
They are part of an archeological team that is searching for the remains of fallen US military soldiers, 50 years later! It was really neat to hear their take on everything and just the country of Vietnam.
A moment I'll never forget in Hanoi is the food challenge at the Vietnam backpackers I was involved in. I signed up for it thinking I was going to be getting some really good spring rolls and pho. Nope! Not even close and by the time I figured it out it was really to late to back out without causing a scene. I hate to even admit one of the items I tried but I can't lie! So...
I have a HUGE disclaimer here... I swear to you I heard them say duck. I tried the smallest peice I could find and after the challenge was complete someone said "dog" to me and I went into complete denile of what I had just ate! I asked everyone in charge just to hoping to hear "duck" again. It was true, it had been dog. I was mortified!
How did I react?
This hostel became my go to place most evenings when I wasn't ready for bed and I either wanted to socialize or write in my blog. They gave out lots of free stuff such as appetizers, free shots (Vietnamese rice wine), and even a free beer to me one night when I was sitting at the bar typing for a few hours. I didn't want the beer but they insisted so when the bartender wasn't looking I gave it to the table behind me.
James, Dee and I went to a movie on one of the days that we needed a rest from walking. We saw In The Heart Of The Sea, the true story based on how the book Moby Dick was created. It was a great movie and even more great was the experience of a movie in an Asian country.
This amusement & water park has a 300 person capacity and in the summer it's so hot that the locals will jump the walls to get in once it's reached capacity.
Once we had explored enough of Hanoi we headed to Sapa for 2 days of trekking. It wasn't just my travel parents and I, we collected 5 more amazing backpackers to join us! The 4 Chinese girls and Candice my newly adopted lol sister.