On the Fanxipan Express.

I am on the Fanxipan Express now. This is an overnight train service which will bring me to Lao Cai so I can get to Sa Pa in the morning.

This is a train for tourists, so things are considered quite luxurious by local standards. My 4-sleeper cabin is dark and I am typing this by the faint LED light in my berth. There is a babble of Vietnamese going on outside my cabin as the staff relax with a glass of= something by the open window. Everyone in my cabin is fast asleep. I am in the suburban area of the country now and I can barely see any light outside my window. This train journey is about 9 hours long.

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I was lucky to get a lower berth but the French Canadian couple in my cabin did not get their 2-person private cabin that they requested for through the tour agency they booked the tour with. It does pay to work with the correct travel agency in Vietnam.

I walked through the city of Ha Noi today. The city is very well-organised and most attractions can be reached on foot with a map from the Old Quarter is a great place to start from.

The Hoan Kiem Lake was my first destination this morning. It was great for a morning walk as the sun was not too warm.

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Walking around the public area of the lake was free, and this is a popular spot for brides to take their pre-wedding photo shoot. It seems that December is also the wedding season in Vietnam.

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I paid 20,000 dong to get to this temple. There is not much to see besides the temple, but I was quite fascinated with this Chinese-style temple.

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Little ducklings on a school tour.

The Maison Central was my next stop.

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It used to be the prison with the highest security in Southeast Asia. It was ‘hell on earth’ for the Vietnamese revolutionists when the French were here in Vietnam;

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… And a resort for the Americans when the Vietnamese were in charge. The Americans POWs during the Cold War were treated rather nicely by the Vietnamese but it was rather awkward to read writings which praised the Americans. This place is a must-go if you are interested in the following topics:
1. The Cold War
2. The French Occupation in Vietnam
3. Prisons in Southeast Asia

The St Joseph’s Cathedral was not open for public viewing today, but the exterior was still beautiful from the outside.

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I walked on the Long Bien bridge over the Red River. This walk is about 2km one-way. This bridge was built by the same architect who built the Eiffel Tower. I am a sucker for trains, so I really liked this walk. The bridge rumbled with the traffic on it.

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I made the mistake of not wearing proper shoes when I took this walk so my feet are aching now. This walk takes about an hour one-way and many sights can be seen along the way:

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Some things never change in Southeast Asia – only the poor will live by the railway.

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