We touched down in Hanoi at 9pm – the airport was shiny, brand spankin? with clean toilets and deserted. Is there is a more misleading way to enter Vietnam? It was pitch black outside and the headlights of our cab picked out the occasional cyclist as we made our way into the city over dusty, rutted roads and under a half-finished freeway. I?d been wearing the same underwear for 40 hours and was eager to catch a bath and fall into bed.
However once we?d checked in we decided that perhaps we should catch a beer in the hotel bar. Employing the tactic of a Scottish friend I ordered a Vietnamese beer (when in Rome etc.) but it was a Heineken promotion night and a can of Holland?s finest was all the attractive waitperson would serve us. I hadn?t been in town 10 minutes and I was failing the tourist test already.
I studied the band and the motley selection of Euros and Yanks watching them. I could have been anywhere in the world. Was this what I?d travelled half the way round the world for? The chubby band-leader bent sullenly over his piano which needed tuning as badly as Michael Bolton once needed a haircut and the singer sang phonetically: ?I lef tmy har tin Sanf rancis co…? The violinist soloed, Grappelli-style, over a version of Desperado that was easily three times longer than the original version. It was time for bed.