Thursday, August 27th. This was the day our international journey commenced. Sure, it would first begin in New Hampshire and not New Delhi but as far as I’m concerned (and since today is Friday, January 15) Jen and I have been traveling for four months, three weeks and a day. So far so good! We’ve endured bone chilling temps in Seoul and a sweltering solar noon in Bangkok and a whole lot of living on between. Traveling for such long periods has its distinct advantages, one being the potential to see so many new places. If I was to list all the cities, towns and small villages Jen and I have seen so far I would need an entirely separate blog post to do so. Every time we come to a new place, whether be Krabi, Thailand or Koyasan, Japan I usually subconsciously make some predictions about what will happen in the next few days. Sometimes I’m right, most times I’m wrong but I’m always amazed at how unique each place is. This time around I thought it would be interesting to share some predictions for Hanoi, before I arrive (later today) and then revisit the post for a Part 2 when we leave for India in 3 and 1/2 weeks.
Daniel’s Hanoi Predictions:
Dirty ? :
Hanoi, like it’s more tan more riotous cousin Thailand, will be rather dirty with the odd sights and smells. Since it’s such a big city this is probably unavoidable and since also Vietnam is a third world country they probably lack the infrastructure / funding stream for a very clean and well manicured urban environment.
Insanely delicious food:
This is a near certainty. Jen and I have a great Vietnamese restaurant near our home in San Francisco so we have a fair idea of what to expect. I am anticipating some delicious food and can’t wait to be surprised at what I discover too.
In my limited understanding of world politics and the conquistadors, my recollection is that the French played a somewhat important role in the reshaping of the Vietnam we see today. This is of particular interest to me so needless to say I’m excited at what I may discover. Stay tuned on this one.
Crossing the street in Bangkok was risky. Dodging the scooters and Tuk-Tuks was scary at first but soon became a fun challenge for us. I’m predicting that doing the same in Hanoi will be damn near suicidal. I’ve seen the videos… Rick Steves can be such a coward 😉 Should be interesting.
Japanese Yen was fun and Korean Won was simple; just add another zero to the yen. Thai Bhat was a little more difficult (100 Bhat = $2.75) and my understanding is the Vietnamese unit of currency, the Dong, is just a bit more tricky. 1 US dollar = 22,000 in Vietnam! That’s a lot of Dong. I’m now doing me best Chevy Chase inside voice saying “I was told there would be no math”.
War Time Imagery / Propaganda:
I believe, like the Americans, the Vietnamese probably want to forget about the war that happened not so long ago. Should be interesting to see how much emphasis the Vietnamese place on this part of their history. My hunch is not very much.
Drink Beer, Not Water:
A common phrase heard in south east Asia. Since the water is unsafe to drink in most places, some people choose to drink copious amounts of beer instead of water. I think Vietnam will be the same in regards to their water quality and the ethos of staying away from any water borne illnesses. It’s been almost 4 weeks since we entered a country who’s tap water we couldn’t drink so we are now officially “in it to win it”. On a similar note, Jen just told me that both Hanoi and Saigon are experiencing Dengue Fever outbreaks. Pray for our butts.
Weatherman says mid 60’s. Being from California, this is just fine with me
Lost In Translation:
Japan was doable, Korea was rough but Thailand was really not too bad. Gesturing works only soo well when trying to order Tiger Prawns. Looking forward to getting by without too much difficulty.
I happen to be traveling to Hanoi with two very wonderful people who have two entirely different yet similarly compelling ties to Vietnam and it’s less than virtuous past. I truly hope that Jen and Lam will find some peace when visiting this city.
Happy Smiling Faces ?
Thai people are nice and happy. For the most part. Although there were times when not every native person I met was exceedingly kind (wink wink), Thai people are good natured and warm. I’m hoping that this is a pan Southeast Asian trait and that the Vietnamese people are equally warm and hospitable. My bet is they are.
The seedy underbelly of Bangkok’s tourist trade is alive and well. My instinct tells me that in Vietnam I won’t see as many massage parlors or expatriate bars, gun ranges or monkey shows. Just a hunch.
Stay tuned in for Visiting Vietnam / Part 2 in a few short weeks.