Kelly's HomeSoutheast AsiaHanoi, Vietnam
Our week in Hanoi coincided with the lunar New Year. We were not sure exactly what would happen during this time period (and had a hard time trying to find out) but we knew that to fly out during this time period was expensive enough to make us want to stay and find out. We had heard everything from the stores only shut down for 3 days, people stay open but prices are higher, everything is closed for a week, restaurants don't close, etc. The verdict is in--most stuff is just closed. It is actually kind of nice because the streets are not as crowded.
We checked in to a nicer mid-range hotel ($22 a night as opposed to our normal $5) and chilled out for a week. We found a place that serves killer ice cream cones for 10 to 20 cents. You can get chocolate, vanilla or strawberry soft serve, coconut ice cream and soy or green bean paste bars. We have tried them all and chocolate reigns supreme.
We went for coffee at Highlands coffee shop or to a coffee shop right on the lake. We have better access to North American cable channels that most of you at home! We can watch movies and what not. It has been a great week to just relax. It is fun to be in a city long enough to get to know you way around an area, where their are good (at times the only!) places to eat and so on.
We paid a visit to the Ho Chi Minh museum. Bizarre to say the least. There is a lot of symbolism in the exhibits that just did not translate for us. To be blunt, I think it was because we are not familiar with all of the propaganda fed to Vietnamese people. We didn't get to pay our respects to Uncle Ho himself. The hours of the mausoleum were limited.
I'm not sure I should really use the word relax so liberally. You see, most everything Vietnamese is LOUD. The back ground music in a coffee shop drowns out conversation. Any sort of public transport has the music or television up louder than you would ever believe. It is not strange if the person sitting beside you just breaks out into song. The motorbikes are loud, the hoarking and spitting sounds are loud, the owner's kids in out hotel are loud. Everything is loud, loud, loud!
Firecrackers fit into the loud category and in the New Year there are plenty of firecrackers. Some firecrackers are louder than a motorcycle backfiring. Young kids light them in the streets to try to scare people and of course I jump every time. We were walking home the other night and two kids on a bike zoomed past us and threw a fire cracker at our feet. Besides the fact they are loud an annoying, they can't be terribly safe. It think we may have officially been in Vietnam too long because Brandon instantly took off down the street after the kids. Their poor faces when they saw him coming! He caught up the the kids just in time to dramatically place his hand on the shoulder of one of the kids. I couldn't see what was going on by this point but Brandon said the kid let out a shriek, apologized and the driver took off right though a red light. Brandon figures that the kids wanted to scare us so why not return the favour. Two old men on the bike behind the young kids had seen what happened and as Brandon turned around to
walk away that were laughing and gave him a thumbs up.
The North of Vietnam is undeniable different than the South. My Uncle Doug says you can always start a conversation with a smile. My Uncle Doug has never been to Northern Vietnam. At home you generally have a few genuinely pleasant exchanges with complete strangers on a daily basis and it is amazing how those "hello's" and "how are you's?" or a simple smile really can brighten your day. I don't mean to communicate that all exchanges here are unpleasant, but the average day-to-day interactions we experiences in Vietnam are much less cordial than at home.
It also sucks to come to a country with your best manners, understanding, intentions--you name it--and feel like your not getting anything positive in return. I know that this can be the name of the game when you are traveling, but it can still taxing on the patience to say the least.
We spoke to an older German man who had also found himself in some less than desirable situations in Northern Vietnam. He asked us if we had any
experience with communist countries which of course we have not. He said that from his experience communism breaks the spirit of people and this may explain why people may appear not to be as friendly.
In Northern Vietnam if we do have a pleasant exchange it is bound to involve a Vietnamese man and Brandon's beard. Almost everyday men shake his hand, pet the beard and tell Brandon that he is a"handsome man" and how he has a "really nice beard." It is bizarre how the most pleasant exchanges of our day would never happen at home. Brandon now has grown so attached to the beard and its praises he wants to keep it when we get home.
Good bye Vietnam! Glad we came, glad we saw, don't think we will be back anytime soon!
Locations Visited: Hanoi
Only signed in members can comment on journal entries. Please sign in now or register if you would like to leave a comment. Comments are sent to the owner of this journal for approval before being made live on the site.