Bus number 17
I need to book a tour to Halong bay for tomorrow. The hotel tour desk are charging $24 for a 1 day trip, but I've spotted the same for $16 just along the next street. That's where I shall book my ticket, first thing after breakfast. After that, I'll probably take a local bus to somewhere.
Turn right out of the hotel, along the now familiar main street. A lot of locals occupying pavement space drinking green tea, or something similar, tea without milk anyway, and munching on sunflower seeds. Next right, along the road that go's more or less straight to the lake. The friendly tour desk is about half way down on the right, and yes, still $16. Tour booked, now to the bus station.
Closest bus station to the old quarter is Long Bien, to the north and just beyond the second bridge that crosses the red river. I have in mind to take bus 17, the airport bus according to an article on Wiki travel, and since I'll need to be there in a few days time, a trial run might be a good idea. A modern complex with electronic information boards at each stand. The stand for bus 17 is easy to spot, but no indication that this, or any bus is going to the airport. The last stop is called Noi Boi which rings a bell for having some connection with the Airport.
On the bus then, handing over 5000 vnd, about 17p, as it rattles over the bridge. Heading in a northerly direction, through Gia Lam, stopping, starting but surprisingly not crowded. Soon into rural Vietnam passing rice paddies, vegetable patches and buffaloes. An hour and still no sign of an airport, but hopeful that it will pop up sooner or later. 10 more minutes and a sign for Vietnam Airlines maintenance, then the airport cargo complex and a sign for the passenger terminal - mission accomplished. Straight forward and inexpensive airport transport - no taxi thank you.
I like aeroplanes, so a couple of hours here watching, snapping a few native airlines without any hindrance from the authorities. A collection of locals are there watching the action, so I just mingle in, smiling occasionally and trying to look inconspicuous. Coffee in the airport is 40-45,000 vnd, not too bad actually. Coffee just across from the bus stand and taxi park is just 18,000 vnd. I had 10 minutes before the next bus, but forgot that any coffee in Vietnam takes about 15 minutes of drip feed. Bus's pulls away without me, oh well.
Another bus 17 pulls in, so hop on that one back to Long Bien. Rush hour so this trip is taking a little longer, but still it's not an over crowded bus by any means. Quite a nice journey - 2 hours 40 minutes total for 35p through some nice rural scenes.