I just got off of the "23-hour bus", which others had been told wass 19 from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. That was more like a 29-30 hour busride! Well, aside from the Vietnamese people being a bit more pushy than those in other Southeast Asian countries and the SUPER uncomfortable mat that we had to walk on (you have to take your shoes/flip-flops off), it went well! The seats were comfortable for the most part, but jamming your toes into this small box was not so nice...however I discovered that under the seats you could sleep quite well on the cushions and I proceeded to do so for a large portion of the ride! At times, it reminded me of a pimped-out ride with its blue-underglow and loud music playing!
Upon getting off the bus, two nice Texans and myself paid half of what the pushy and sly taxi driver wanted. He did not want to open the trunk until we paid, but I started getting my bag and that settled that. We paid what we owed and he dropped us at the lake, refusing to take us to the hotel, lovely Vietnamese hospitality (I was expecting this). So we were a bit hungry after not stopping to eat much (and very few bathroom stops too!) so we ate the traditional dish, Pho, noodle soup! For 1 USD on the sidewalk, I could not complain! It was DELICIOUS...a seemingly small, but surprisingly filling bowl! We could not check into the hostel I wanted because it was full so we split a nice room (and off to the hostel tomorrow)! I will look to setup a tour to Halong Bay and then head South! Also can't wait to try Vietnamese coffee!
First Impressions of Vietnam: 1) People are a bit more rude and pushy. 2) The scenery is gorgeous. 3) The buildings are beautiful and colorful. 4) The communist flag with the red star strewn across the yellow background is almost everywhere. 5) The language sounds notably different than that of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand - it is a bit more harsh. 6) The letters of the words have strange accent marks, question-mark looking things over some words and the letters seem to have slightly weird bits and pieces to them that we do not find in the English alphabet.