I had obtained e-visa for Vietnam. Hence I was under the impression, that there won’t be much of a formality on arrival. But that was not to be. You have to hand over your passport and print out of e-visa on a counter and wait. Wait, patiently I mean. After so and so minutes, your photo is displayed on a TV monitor and your name is called by some pre-programmed reader. You realize that there is one more way to pronounce your name, which you should be trying henceforth. A pink receipt is handed over to you, along with passport, and you pay USD 25 (for 30 days) and there you go. I mean go and join one of the long queues for actual visa stamping. This may take several hours. The queues do not seem to move. I changed couple of them, but the actual stamping takes just 10 seconds I wonder, why the queues were not moving !
Folks, this is the only somewhat funny experience, I had in Vietnam. The moment I set my foot in the country, Ms. Jindo of Rubicon tours (https://rubicontours.com/ ) had taken care of each and every detail of my stay. ( I really do not have words to express my appreciation for her efforts. She constantly kept in touch with me. Kept me updated for each and every arrangement, in advance. Had chosen lovely hotels, for my stay. Had arranged super enthusiastic and young guides for me. I will not mention this again and again, in my posts, but must mention that due to her, I had a dream like holiday in Vietnam.)
One driver was waiting for me outside and he took me to the hotel. The airport is little far away from the city and took about an hour to reach the hotel. http://www.ladolcevita-hotel.com/ . There was a young caretaker by name, Harry was already waiting for me. He arranged the quick check in and offered me to take out for dinner. (I had informed Jindo that I am vegetarian, and my food was taken care of, throughout my stay.) Harry took me to a restaurant called “Vegan”, and we had a wonderful dinner there. That was the last thing, I expected in Hanoi, but then I had many during my stay there. The streets of Hanoi, were very busy and alive. There was an unending flow of bikes and a newcomer would wonder how to cross the road. You just have to walk across all the bikers will move swiftly around you, without even touching you. That is Hanoi. While, I was there, Vietnam was looking forward to Chinese new year celebration. As a part of this celebration, they were carrying a blooming peach tree or a fruiting kumquat tree, on their two wheelers.
The hotel itself was wonderful. Each and every detail was taken care of. (Like toothbrush with toothpaste, razor with shaving cream, comb, earbuds, shower cap was provided, free of cost.)
Next day, I had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, then we started our journey to Sa Pa. A super comfortable minibus was arranged and the 4 hour journey was completed in time, with suitable breaks in between. The roads are just fantastic and there wasn’t too much of traffic on the way. The bus stops were clean and had a good choice of food. The other tourist buses, which I saw there were ultra modern and super comfortable. It is customary in Vietnam, to remove the footwear, while entering the bus. To move around at the bus stop, the bus staff provides temporary footwears.
At Sa Pa there was another young girl waiting for us. She checked us in hotel Sa Pa Relax & Spa. https://www.saparelaxhotel.com/ . Due to road construction activity, our vehicle could not reach the hotel, but the staff came forward to receive us. The hotel is fantastic and we had wonderful lunch there.
After a quick nap, we started our tour to Sa Pa village. The visibility was less than 50 meters, and I was wondering, what we would be able to see. But the village is in a valley and we started climbing down the steps.
This was a wonderful journey and the village crowd was dressed in colorful costumes. The dresses were available for sale and also for hire.
We walked down for about 4 kilometers and reached a stage set against backdrop of a waterfall. There was a lovely show of folk dance on that stage.
And to our surprise, we did not have to climb back to the point from where we started, a vehicle was arranged for us.
After reaching the hotel, another wonderful dinner was arranged for us. I never thought a vegetarian version of this do it yourself on the table delicacy could ever be made.
To be continued.