Our first destination in Vietnam was due to be Hanoi. Armed with our passports and Visas, we left China on an overnight train to get to Hanoi.
We’ve done this a few times now, we’ve got a train at night, chill out for a bit and then go for a sleep. When you wake up, you are somewhere quite near to your destination and that’s about it really.
Due to the border crossings, we couldn’t do that on this journey. During the 11hour journey, we had to get off the train with all of our luggage to go through the border control at China. I’ve never crossed a border by land apart form the Scotland and English one which doesn’t really count so I was unsure on what to expect.
At some point into the journey, the train stopped at a dark station and we had to gather our backpacks and get off. The first thing that I noticed when getting off the train was how dark it was and that it was raining. There were lights further up the platform but not much where we got off the train.
We were greeted by a guy who was part of the Chinese army. He never spoke to us, he just stood at the train, with a huge gun and had a fixed stare on each of the peope who left the train. At this point, it wasn’t clear if he was hijacking the train or if he was supposed to be there.
If he ever wants a change of career away from frightening people, he would fit in perfectly as a Chinese gangster or maniac in a movie.
We were directed to a big room where we had to show our passports and have our bags scanned and then after a short wait, we were allowed back on the train.
With that part of the journey complete, it was time for a sleep. But not for very long. I was about to take my first steps on to Vietnamese soil.
This time it was into Vietnamese water instead of soil as the rain was still very heavy.
With our bags again, we trudged over to another office where you could change Chinese currency into the local currency, the dong.
In the same room, you had to give over your passports and sit around for a while. The whole process took just under an hour and there was wifi – proper wifi.
Wifi that allowed you to log into facebook, twitter, get on to google etc. That was something of a change as we didn’t have access to that in China.
The rest of the trian journey passed without much happening really and then a few hours later, we arrived in Gia Lam station which isn’t in Hanoi at all but it is fairly close by.
As usual, when you get off the train, you will be approached by several taxi drivers offering to take you to whereever your hotel is – often a massively inflated price. The drivers at Gia Lam were no different, we heard them charging someone $20 to go to the old quarter, which is about 5 miles away.
We walked the short distance to the bus station and got the local bus instead and from there, it was easy enough to find our way to our accommodation.
At the time of writing this, I have already spent 1 week in Vietnam, we’ve been to Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay and taught a local tour guide how to say “aye nay bother” along with a few other Scottish words.