Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hanoi Buses And Other Miscellaneous Stuff

It was pouring rain today when I got out of my French class, so I decided to take the bus. I've gotten used to the two buses that I can take back and forth from my neighborhood to the French Institute, the #55 and the #31. I know how to take both of them there, but I still have not figured out how to take the #31 back to my apartment. The Hanoi buses are not terribly transparent as far as information goes. The two buses that I did figure out, I kind of just got there by trial and error. The first day that I tried to take the bus, I ended up taking three buses to get to where I needed to go when I could have taken just one, had I been able to figure out the correct information. But I did learn about how to get there. And it's really no big deal to just ride on the buses for a while; each one costs about a quarter. Online, I have not found any map or time schedule. If I click on the link for the “schedule”, all I see are the bus numbers and a list of neighborhoods that they go through. That is not terribly helpful for someone who is not familiar with all of Hanoi's neighborhoods. Google Maps has a list of bus stops, but many of them are incorrect.

I would consider taking my motorbike to class, but parking is really difficult in the congested area where the Institute is. There is a parking garage connected to the Institute, but the cost is about the same as taking the bus both ways, so I figure it is better to leave my bike at home rather than let it sit downtown for a while. Maybe I'm just being overly paranoid about that, but the bus is just a better solution for me right now.

Eventually I am going to have to figure out where to buy a tarp to cover my backpack with for when I am in transit, in case it rains. I can probably go to the place I bought my bike, Style Motorbikes, and they will most certainly either know or sell them there. That place is a great resource. They will help you plan routes, show up for assistance if you have an issue with your bike, provide maintenance if needed, and generally provide all kinds of support. They were recommended to me by a guy from Georgia (the state in the US, not the country adjoining Russia) at the hostel where I was staying, and he did not steer me wrong. He also turned me on to the Facebook group where I found my apartment.

I found a place not too far from where I am living where I can rent a keyboard for 25-30 dollars a month, with a minimum of three months, and a delivery/set up fee of ten bucks. I am tempted to do it, but probably won't. First of all, I'm not going to be here for three more months. Second of all, there's not much room in my apartment to set up a keyboard. But I might stop by and check out the place. It would sure be nice to have a keyboard in my place to play, and I have only played piano a couple of times since I left the States. Maybe if I come back to Hanoi at some point (which I may well do at a later time), I can keep it in mind.

I have to leave the country for at least a day at the end of November to renew my visa. Well, technically I don't really have to, I could renew my visa internally, but that can be complicated and expensive. So leaving the country is, for the most part, the easiest and cheapest way to get another visa. I had just missed the new one-year visas that Vietnam has for US citizens, which started on September 1. Just my luck, I got here on August 31, and fell under the old deal, which was a 90 day visa. But even the new one-year visas supposedly require you to leave the country every three months. I say “supposedly” because the visas are new and the rules are not terribly clear yet, and some people seem to be able to help you figure out ways to get around many rules, or find loopholes, in any case. Some folks just ride their motorbikes across the border to Laos for a day or two, and then come back. You can pretty much do that for years...some people live here long-term and just take a short journey to another country every three months. So I went to Skyscanner to see what would be the cheapest place to fly to for a few days. The first place I found was Malaysia, but I didn't jump on that right away, so I didn't get that ticket. A few days later, I looked again, and at that time, flights to Bangkok were the cheapest at the end of November. So I bought a ticket, and Bangkok it is. I'll be there for five days, maybe that is enough time to take a short trip somewhere in Thailand. But if not, I'm not going to push it; I can just spend the five days checking out the city. The hostel is only about five bucks a night, so it is not like it will be super expensive or anything.

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