First of all I'd like to thank you all for the flood of emails and e-prayers wishing us a safe flight with Lao Airlines. Your loving support made all the difference.
And yes, we did safely arrive in Hanoi on time and in one uncharred piece. We saw our plane from the departure lounge and were a little bit worried for our safety when we spotted and distinct lack of jet engines, and only saw propellers. I also got to witness my bag being dropped by the throwers at least three times. Woot! We were seated directly behind the right propellor, and so would be the first to be decapitated should it come loose. We were also above the wheel, and so would be the first to be sucked through the floor should our wheel be torn off by a fence or stray albatross. We were also right above the fuel tank, and so would be the first to be incinerated or exploded in case of a fire or explosion. Also, we were in the row very furthest from both exits, and thus would be the first to die of smoke inhalation, should we survive the fuel tank fire. Paul no longer wants to sit next to me on any future flights.
Stingy as we are, we took the shuttle bus from the airport into town, which, I kid you not, was a longer journey than our flight. We arrived in the Old Quarter at about 7pm, with no accomodation and only a vague idea of where we were. Waving off the moto and cyclo drivers, we decided to walk in the general direction of the lake and actually got there. The Tet celebrations were still going strong, and we walked past a few stages with music and dancing, and a little carnivale with bumper cars and carosels. The lake was lit up very beautifully but I was too tired to hold up my camera. We found a room in Prince 55-57 hotel, a gaudy affair with fairy lights. After umming and ahhing we got a room down to $6 (sweet!). It's quite a bit cleaner and nicer than the $8 room, but it is only slightly larger than the bed itself. We figured the tinyness would be hilarious fun. The door nearly hits the bed when it opens, so I have to jump on the bed while Paul squeezes in. The only free floor space is taken up by our bags. Bathroom is not bad, but we can only get the shower to go from freezing cold to slightly less cold. Bummer.
We have booked an overnight tour to Halong Bay, I just hope we haven't paid too much... The word is you get what you pay for, but my worry is being dumped on a "Why-didn't-I-pay-more!?" tour when I did in fact pay more. The day we get back from the bay, we'll have about 5 hours to kill before jumping on a train to Lao Cai, and then a bus to Sapa. We will probably stay here a week. Our train tickets are also a bit of a worry. We can't work out if we're in the same booth, or if our bunks are the low ones or the high ones. I guess I'm just going to deal with it however it turns out.
This morning we got a big bowl of our beloved Pho for breakfast, along with some fried bread stick things (the best) and we knew we'd been missing out on this soup for ages. We got noodle soup all through Cambodia and Laos, but it's just not the same.
Here is a photo of Paul to illustrate the temperature in Hanoi.
It's not freezing, just chilly.