Gooood Morning Vietnam
Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
13Trip End Mar 19, 2009
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In Vietnam, with the currency exchange rate pegged at 17,000 dong to the dollar, it's easy to feel like a millionaire. You ask the waitress, "How much for my breakfast?" "Only 85 thousand. Here's a hundred thousand...keep the change!"
Of course, back in America, if you arrived flushed with a million dong (sounds dirty doesn't it) you could barely pay for a bus ticket from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, Arizona.
However, millionaire or no millionaire, in Hanoi, even staying in its more charming Old Quarter section provides little inspiration to shout Good Morning salutations to the world.
One might be tempted to say Hanoi is a great city to leave however I shall try to emphasize Hanoi's positives. For instance, highlights included the best springs rolls I've ever tasted and the incredible artwork you see in the different galleries/ shops. At night, sections of the Old Quarter look graceful with draping trees, bright chinese lanterns and a charming French ambiance (Gee, if only the French had a word for "atmosphere") while the Old Quarter lake makes for a pleasant evening stroll. There's also that uniquely Vietnamese energy in the streets; people sitting around the sidewalks eating from steaming pots and bowls while women wearing their conicle hats pass them by carrying everything from pineapples to bricks.
That said, the downside to Hanoi is the weather; February drizzly and gray with insufferable humidity, the motorbikes; total mayhem madness in the streets, the touts or hawkers; difficult to walk two blocks without a half dozen "Hey mister, hello, hello" trying to sell you something, and the exhaust pollution which leaves you gasping for air.
Hopping on the bus for Ninh Binh was a smart move. Renting a bicycle and "getting lost" among the villagers in the countryside an absolutely brilliant move! I was in my element, in my groove, peddling away, taking pictures of picturesque karst peaks and ricefields, and encountering many smily face Vietnamese, waving and shouting "HELLO, HELLO!" a gazillion times, not motivated to sell you anything, but simply to greet this strange long-hair stranger riding through their village and sneeking up on them in their ricefields.
School kids in particular were fun to interact with and I received big smiles and "hellos" from a group of girls dressed in their Communist Party H.S. brown uniform outfits. Did I mention this was the Peace and Love tour?
Just trying to bridging the cultural gap, remember...there is no "ism" in smile. Wait...actually there is, just the letters rearranged. Anyway, it sounds profound.
A nice touch, occasionally I could hear over the distant Communist Party community center loudspeaker some Vietnamese soft music playing. I assumed this was music to please "the Workers" while they sowed the rice seeds for the next harvest.
This reminded me of the MUSAK or elevator music that is sometimes played in the corporate capitalist workplaces to please the "office workers" while they sow the seeds for the next set of useless corporate reports.
Are our worlds REALLY so different? Who is ready for a group hug!!!!!
And, if life couldn't get any better, even the village dogs (who are, contrary to popular myth, kept as pets, not as appetizers) were friendly!
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