Tuesday, December 24, 2013

SE asia, here we come: hanoi, vietnam

It’s official: Vietnam is the best. Here’s why:
1. The people are super friendly, and it seems real, not just contrived to take your money. (Although also contrived to take your money.)

2. Everything’s “easy.” This one has subpoints…
a. We showed up in Hanoi with an itinerary and no train tickets, something that worried us. We mentioned this to our hotel, and voila – two days later and we had all the tickets we needed, without having to stop at the train station or deal with an online booking system.
b. All the streets are labeled, as well as the individual houses/businesses. Though we got lost a bunch, it was always a quick fix, not a ohmygodiamsolostdangitwe’regoingtoneedtohailacab lost.
c. Our hotel was happy to store our big bags for us while we went to Halong Bay. When we returned, they hailed us a cab and sent someone with us to show us right to our train berth. Now that’s service.
d. Hanoi was very walk-able. The only time we took a cab was when we left for the train station. We love cities like this.

3. It’s pretty clean, but still fun and chaotic in ways many American cities are not.

4. Women come up to you on the streets and sell you donuts.

5. Freshly brewed beer is only $0.50 per glass, and you can while away your time drinking it along the street and people watching (and eating donuts from the women in point 4).

don't let this photo mislead you - chris
is really enjoying this beer! 
6. The food. We haven’t had one “bad” dish, and we’ve had some seriously incredible dishes. Namely, bun cha (vermicelli noodles and pork), a seafood “hot pot” (sweet/sour soup with noodles, fish, shrimp, squid, etc.), and cha ca (this awesome fish flavored with dill and who knows what else). Vietnamese cuisine has become our favorite very quickly. We’re just glad we have another week to experience it.

This is only a preliminary list – I’m sure we’ll add more as we continue our journey down the coast. We started with Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. Much of our time was spent drinking coffee, eating great food, and drinking a few beers. But we did have a chance to see some cool places.

classic shot of the back of chris's head...
in the temple of literature
Temple of Literature
This beautiful compound held several temples devoted to Confucius and other Confucian teachers. The architecture was in a traditional Vietnamese style, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of the intricate carvings. While we were visiting, some sort of graduation ceremony was happening. It was cute to watch the young students frolic around the campus and take photos.

Hoa La Prison
This was a pretty small museum, but we did get to learn all about the American pilots’ stay during the Vietnam War. (This is where John McCain was holed up after capture.) According to the museum, the American pilots enjoyed religious freedom, excellent American-style food, and lots of fun and leisure. They even got souvenirs! As Chris said, I’m sure it was more like “Now play chess and smile for camera. Now torture time.”

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Unfortunately we couldn’t get anywhere near Uncle Ho’s actual tomb, but we were excited to see his house and collection of Soviet/French cars. We also wandered into a weird museum that was half communist propaganda and half strange, socialist art installations. 
yup. there it is.

Halong Bay
We took an overnight cruise through Halong Bay, a few hours away from Hanoi. The bay holds 1,969 islands, big chunks of rock and trees that push out of the water. It was gorgeous. We went to the “surprising” cave, which was appropriately surprising; climbed to the top of one of the rocks; and saw a pearl farm. It was a relaxing two days in an exotic place.

geological dreams!

me in the surprising cave - near a
surprising stop sign.

(We'll post the other photos on facebook.) Now we’re en route to Hue and Hoi An, where we’ll spend Christmas. Happy holidays to you all!  

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear. I've never been, but you make it sound about perfect.
    Happy hols guys. x