Hanoi, second time around

Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
Trip End Aug 2005

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Our days in Vietnam are drawing to a close, and that makes me incredibly sad. Not much to say in this entry, other than to say again how much I love Hanoi.

We arrived early in the morning and asked a taxi driver to take us to the Thu Giang guest house, which is where we stayed before. He very kindly took us to a different guesthouse. He kept insisting that we stay at his guesthouse, since I'm sure he was anxious to get his cut of our room fee. Which is how we found ourselves, yet again, trekking through a city at 6am, map in hand and enormous backpacks strapped to our backs, trying to find a hotel.

Annoyances like that aside, I still enjoyed myself thoroughly during our final full day in Hanoi. We visited a few temples and wandered around aimlessly. We bought even more souvenirs to haul back with us. This place seems a little more mellow in its post-Tet state. The smell of incense permeates the city; every home and business has a little altar where the incense sticks constantly burn. Everywhere I turn people are also burning piles of "ghost money" on the sidewalk-fake money which is burned as an offering to the gods.

Despite my reluctance to leave Vietnam, I am also relieved (just a little) to be getting back "home." To all of the die-hard, ardent backpackers out there, I have nothing but the greatest respect. I love traveling, but I just don't think I can handle multiple-month journeys through foreign lands. Seeing new and breathtaking sights is great. Taking 20 hour bus rides every few days and lugging around a 60 pound backpack is not.

I am looking forward to dropping my pack, uncrumpling my nasty clothes and doing laundry, and pulling out all of my souvenirs from the dark depths of the "beast" (as I refer to the backpack now). She has swelled to monumental proportions as a result of several retail extravaganzas and many moments of personal weakness. To prove my point, here are some of the things I am returning to Liuyang with:

10. Five pound bags of Doctor Ho's tea, which I am convinced I will need once I return to China.
9. Two containers of Laughing Cow cheese. Can't get that in China!
8. One wooden pig sculpture (don't ask).
7. One new wardrobe. I don't even want to talk about it.
6. Five pairs of shoes, excluding the ones on my feet.
5. Eleven books and one magazine (hey, I'm stocking up)
4. Six cd's.
3. One 2-foot long solid wood lacquered photo album (a once-in-a lifetime purchase, of course).
2. One wall rubbing from Angkor Wat, complete with giant wicker carrying case.

And finally...the bane of my existence...
1.One jar of unopened peanut butter, which has now been carried through three countries in the unlikely event that I might go hungry. I am kicking myself now for not donating it to one of those poor starving Cambodian kids when I had the chance.

Ah well, live and learn. I have certainly learned a lot while on the road. I learned a lot about traveling, about how to look out for myself, how to avoid certain scams, how Western Union works...

Tomorrow: return to the Middle Kingdom.
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