Chuc Mung Nam Moi!
Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
19Trip End Dec 22, 2009
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Our second day in Hanoi was a little less chaotic. I got my luggage the night I sent out the first blog...so perhaps your prayers worked. Thank you! The streets were a little less crowded the second day. Saturday is market day so we think that is why it was soooooo crazy around town the day before. We have read that before the New Year everyone is out shopping for clothes, food, and offerings. During the day we walked around some more, taking in all the sights. We ate at a restaurant where there were a lot of "whities" (as I have been calling them/us)...the places listed in Lonely Planet always have a lot of whities which is why we want to avoid those places from now on. But we did get a kick out of the American Christmas music they were playing for the entire time we were in there. After walking around all day we took a 3 hour nap before we headed out into the night to celebrate Tet (New Year). We were told to go to the lake to watch the fireworks. When we arrived we were in awe at how many people were on the streets! We walked around the entire lake and bet there were hundreds of thousands of people there with us. People of all ages...even families with little kids were there past midnight. Common sights: girls and women in 4 inch heels, guys holding hands, teenagers running in a train (in a line holding on to each others hips) through the thick crowds, older Vietnamese men wearing beret hats, people eating ice-cream and popcorn and carrying colorful balloons. There was an outdoor concert where crowds gathered and people were lighting paper lanterns everywhere. When you looked up, the sky was decorated with glowing lanterns. We were told that to release the lanterns means your wishes will come true. When midnight hit and the first fireworks sounded, crowds went running to get the best views. The firework show lasted about 20 minutes and as soon as they were over everyone started leaving the area. Getting back to our hotel was quite the feat. At one intersection it took us at least 10 minutes to cross. It was like a mosh pit...but with motorbikes, cars and thousands of people trying to get to the same place...across the street. We made it eventually.
Hanoi in a word or two:
Masks (people wear masks everywhere...they are like the doctor masks only home-made with cloth. I saw one that said it was Versace. lol)
High heels (girls and women wear high heels everywhere)
Getting lost! (the streets in Hanoi are so confusing!!)
Smell of dried squid (on the streets people cook dried, pressed squid and it smells awful!)
Cold and cloudy (we came during crappy weather...did not see sun for the first 4 days of our trip)
Smiles (when you smile, people smile back)
Tet (New Years celebration!)
Overpriced everything (I think partly this was because of the New Year. Prices go up for a few weeks here)
Heavy loads on motorbikes (4 people on one bike, live and dead animals, loads of vegetables, etc)
New Years trees (people carried these trees on their motorbike and put them in their homes and shops)
All in all Hanoi was a good experience...especially to have been there during Tet. We were excited to move on, however...to get to warmer weather! Halong Bay is our next destination.