I didn’t think I needed to take a taxi from Hanoi Airport. I had written down the number of the bus that would take me within walking distance of the hotel. But when I left the airport, there was no sign of a public bus stop. I asked a man in uniform. “Oh, it does not go from here. You have to take the shuttle to the other terminal, from stand 18.” I duly waited at stand 18. A young Vietnamese man joined me. I told him I was looking for the number 7 bus, and he said so was he. Then a number 7 sailed past. He had some conversations in Vietnamese and took me to another stand where there was a minibus. I understood that the bus would take me to Hanoi station for 40,000 dong, about £1.50 – slightly cheaper than I expected. I realised this was something I had read about, the driver would set off when the bus was full, and I was not worried until after driving round the city streets for some time, there was no sign of the station.
I asked someone who was following the route on Google maps where we were, and between his phone and the simple tourist map I picked up at the airport, we managed to work it out. Then I saw that we were on the main road which passes the station. But he promptly turned off, and several turnings later he told us to get off here. Fortunately, the guy with the map said that he would walk with myself and another man until we came to a recognisable junction, although it was out of his way. So everyone did get home eventually, about two and a half hours after leaving the airport and much navigation of roads with crowded pavements and speeding motorcycles. Now I understand why some people take a taxi. Perhaps I will even do so myself when I get to Saigon.
Whether the young Vietnamese man was part of the scam, or indeed whether it was a scam not just a misunderstanding, I cannot be sure.
Having reached the hotel I had to wait 20 minutes to check that I was supposed to be staying there. I dined on local beer and a packet of Oreos from the minibar, rrather than go out into those streets again. At least I had had two reasonably healthy meals, at Hong Kong airport and on the plane.