Falling ill in Hanoi and Halong Bay

After one month in China I finally made my first step into South East Asia by crossing the border with the International train to Vietnam. Whilst the going was pretty smooth on the Chinese side, the train quickly crawled to a snails pace once we crossed into Vietnam.

The border checkpoint was pretty straightforward and quick compared to my previous experiences in Russia and Mongolia, so it didn’t take too long for us to get moving again. It was around 5am when we arrived in Hanoi. Still dark outside, we all opted to share a taxi to get to the old quarter where all the hostels could be found.

Pauline and Ben, the French couple, decided to come to the hostel that I had researched beforehand, but once we got there it was still closed, so we opted to wait it out in a cafe nearby. My first meal in Vietnam was a very dry piece of baguette with fried egg. “Not the best first impression for a country known for its good cuisine” I thought to myself. Not wanting to take any chances we decided to go to a different hostel aftwards, which indeed was already opened, once we got there.

Not being able to check in before 11am, we decided to walk around town and see what Hanoi had to offer. The traffic was getting increasingly busy, shops were lifting their shutters and hawkers already started harassing us to buy their wares. We held our ground and continued our wander. The more we saw the more I got the impression that this is how Bangkok might have looked like in the 1980’s when my dad first came to Thailand and eventually settled there to open his restaurant.

Back at the hostel I connected to the wifi and got a message from Ronan that he also arrived in Hanoi today. I was slightly confused as he was supposed to be here a day before I did. Anyway long story short we met again in the afternoon and he had a Vietnamese friend in tow, whom he met on the train. Hang turned out to be quite the tour guide, showing us around town on our rented bikes. It was quite an adrenalin kick to cycle amongst the notorious traffic of Hanoi, but once you got used to the flow it became much easier to follow the flow.

We ended up staying in Hanoi for a couple of days until I started having fever from a bacterial infection of my tonsils. Thankfully another French girl we met turned out to be a doctor and prescribed my the right kind of antibiotics to fight the infection. Still delirious from the headaches, fever and hallucinations of the night before, Ronan convinced me to join him, Ben and Pauline for a 3 day trip to Cat Ba close to Halong Bay. The journey there proved to be an excruciating ordeal but once we arrived I retired to bed for the next 48h. I was steadily getting better until I could join in on a kayak tour of the surrounding islands. Still moody and cranky from the pain I had to endure, I wasn’t the most joyful rowing companion, but once the sun came out it was all forgotten.

The next day we headed back to Hanoi to pick up my passport and caught the next bus South to the old imperial city of Hue.