After a lazy morning, reading and taking in the view at my hostel, I headed back to Hanoi.
Hostels in Vietnam are not hostels as I know them. They are more like hotels in that the beds and rooms are made and tidied on a daily basis – even in the dormitories.
THe hostel booked me a taxi to take me to my bus boarding point – a car rather than a motorbike, for this ride. While the distance was walkable, in the heat and with a rucksack, I had decided to take transport.
The taxi dropped me at the boat dock, where I had taken the previous day’s boat trip.
The motorbike riders, touting for business, had the right idea – they were waiting in the only shade, on the other side of the road.
One of them rode over. Did I need a motorbike lift? No, thankyou – I was waiting for a bus. Ok, then you should come and stand with us – it’s not as hot there.
It’s these small acts of kindness that I keep experiencing that make all of the difference to my day.
I was discussing this with a Danish woman at the hostel. We compared notes on our travelling experiences – me in China, she in Korea.
Her theory was that in these societies, Confucianism is a key religious underpinning for daily life.
My basic understanding of Confucian philosophy had been shaped at secondary (high) school where the motto had been: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
That, to me, seems to be a pretty solid rule for life.
As I travelled around China and visited Confucian temples I learned more – his requirement for honesty in all dealings and, while having a hierarchy of respect, he promoted everyone’s duty to challenge poor behaviour.
For example, in one story, one of his students was beaten by his father. The young man decided to return to the family home playing a musical instrument, to show his father that he bore him no ill-will and forgave him for his actions.
When he returned to studies with Confucius, feeling somewhat smug about his magnanimous behaviour, his teacher didn’t speak to him.
What the student had failed to do was challenge his father over his unfair, unreasonable and wrong behaviour. Just because his father was senior in the hierarchical relationship, he wasn’t entitled to treat his son in such a manner.
Confucius could have been a little more direct in his treatment of the student, rather than giving him the silent treatment, in my view.
I’m also not impressed by the fact that he viewed women as inferior to men.
In China, I visited three main religions – Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The third is the only one that is based on a code of behaviour rather then gods or supernatural beings.
Confucianism also spread across Southeast Asia though, as I have been less than a week in Vietnam (and didn’t see the Confucius temple there), I’m hardly an expert on the role of this religion in the population’s behaviour but religion does shape society.
What I have seen is the same kindness and friendliness as I experienced in China.
I also found Russia and Mongolia to be friendly – please don’t think I didn’t – just not in the scale experienced after arriving in Beijing.
The bus arrived to take me into Ninh Binh where I would join another minibus bound for Hanoi.
Minibuses here are not like in the UK.
This was nice, but I wasn’t staying on this one. I was put on another bus, not nearly as plush, but still good.
We were all counted on to the bus and names called out for verbal confirmation though the woman checking us didn’t read out my name… she looked up at me, nodded and resumed reading out the other passenger names.
The bus pulled out.
Ten minutes later, there was the sound of a vehicle moving alongside, its horn sounding. Our driver returned the beeping. This went on for several minutes and I wondered if we were re-enacting ‘Duel’.
The bus stopped.
We had left someone behind.
I was impressed that the company had sent another vehicle to make sure the passenger was able to board the correct bus.
However, the noise had not helped the tiny baby up front. Every time a horn sounded, the baby cried in response.
It was like this all the way to Hanoi – I wondered if the baby was teething. Nobody on the bus seemed to mind the grizzling which must have meant that Mum didn’t feel stressed. Babies cry, teething babies more so.
The fact that the bus was comfortable was probably a help. Actually, the buses need to be comfortable because the roads are awful.
We bounced over ruts, rattled over gravel and juddered to undertake trucks up the hard shoulder – the driver sounding rage horn all the way to encourage vehicles to move aside.
The experience was a live action replay of the blood curdling seat belt safety education videos I had seen in China. As we were shaken out of our seats, it was only the safety belts holding us in.
We arrived into Hanoi’s swirling motorcycle traffic. I had wondered if I would find it overwhelming after the peace at Trang An.
Not at all. After the noise of Nanning, even Hanoi’s hustle and bustle feels relaxed… until I casually strolled into my hostel, the one I had previously stayed in: “Hello. I’m back.”
We exchanged pleasantries and then it emerged, I hadn’t booked this hostel… I’d booked another hostel.
My face must have dropped through the floor as the man at reception said: “Don’t worry, it’s only around the corner. It used to be part of our group but it isn’t now.”
So, I was no longer at the Old Quarter View Hanoi, I was around the corner at Old Quarter Hanoi.
I’m not sure how I missed that, though on my booking app, they seemed to have the same design on their accompanying advert.
I wandered around the right hostel, realising that I am being picked up from the wrong hostel tomorrow.
The new hostel tried to contact the company to update the pick up point but couldn’t get in touch so they decided that they will put me on the back of a motorbike tomorrow morning.
Its only a five minute walk, I’ll use my legs.
*Featured Photo: Hanoi at night