Motor Bikes Really Hanoi Me
My arrival in Hanoi didn’t just signify a visit to a new city, such as Boston or Paris, but rather a real taste of what South East Asia has in store for me. Walking from place to place is a challenge in itself, with no sidewalks, and hundreds of motorbikes cutting off pedestrians and honking loudly. The fumes are ominous and the pollution inevitable.
I had some time on my hands as I was one of the first to arrive, so I exchanged some US dollars into Vietnamese Dong, walked around the battlefield (city), and relaxed in the room until more people arrived.
The first half of us to show up went with Dan (head tour guide) and Zoom (Vietnamese tour guide) to a quaint, little restaurant, where most of us ordered some kind of dish with noodles and meat. The food was tasty and a good foreshadow into what Vietnamese cuisine has to offer.
After dinner, we headed to happy hour at the hostel. The next few hours consisted mostly of getting to know each other a little better, relaxing, and waiting for more group members to arrive. After 12 out of the 14 reached the destination, we headed out for the hostel’s daily bar crawl. This was a lot of fun, as we bonded over most South East Asian bars' signature drink: the bucket. No one really knows what goes into each one, or wants to know, but just sips it all up anyway. It was pretty late before we got back to the hostel, which was clean, and spacious enough to hold four people in a room.
The next day, we slept in, got a quick breakfast and headed for a tour of the city. This trip included visiting a few Vietnamese temples, a war museum, and a walk by the scenic, green Hoàn Kiếm Lake. The temples were cool because they showcased a mélange between the older and modern cultures of Vietnam. The architecture and scripture was also pretty impressive, and it is intriguing to note that a lot of early Vietnamese society was structured off of the Chinese, since China used to rule Vietnam. The war museum was really interesting because Vietnam is friendly toward the United States, and welcomes in visitors like myself, despite the fact that the Americans bombed the heck out of them and contaminated the country with Agent Orange just 50-60 years ago. The museum tried to indicate how nice the Vietnamese were to the American prisoners that they took in, especially the pilots, making sure they returned home safely after the war. To be honest, this part of the exhibit seemed a little exaggerated.
That evening, there was an optional activity to visit Snake Village, where a live snake would have its head chopped off and throat slit. Following this, the snake would be cooked up in every way possible, and served up to the customer. If I was on Fear Factor, I would have no problem attending, but I didn’t really want to see an animal be mutilated, plus, I wanted time to eat a nice dinner and get snacks for our overnight bus ride to Sa Pa.
The next blog post will talk about traveling to Sa Pa, strolling the town, and an extensive coverage of trekking for two days through the rice fields, totalling 20 kilometers.
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