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Ha Noi, Vietnam

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Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Angel, who must've dropped out of heaven to help us

Ok, so my biggest fear of this adventure finally came true while traveling through Northern Vietnam. 

Why, you may be wondering?!  Well, the North is famed for its very unique specialty . . . DOG!!!

So, there we were driving through the streets of Vietnam’s capital city, Ha Noi, which just so happens to be situated in the Northern part of the country, when I saw the unthinkable . . . Roasted dog!! :( 

It’s no surprise, really, considering the location and all.  Funny thing is that this specialty is quite common and highly appreciated . . . even considered to be a delicacy, because it’s quite costly. 

Crazy, just think, "Hmm, it’s your birthday and you want to have a special dish served for the very special occasion.  Hey why not some roasted dog?!!"  How about that?!! 

Quite a change from the pricey foie gras that’s eaten in France!!  Yum, yum, yum!!!  Nah!!  On a serious note, though, it wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese hospitality
  

We even had a little stroll through the local market, which featured this infamous specialty and much more, and it went ok, I must say.

I was even strong enough to videotape!!  Just couldn’t miss out on that opportunity!!

Strong stomach or not, I could never eat that though!! 

Yes, yes, never say never, but this time NEVER!!!  We have met foreigners wanting to be "adventurous" and who’ve tried this Northern Vietnamese specialty. 

According to them, "it’s not so bad, tasted alright, just has a strong flavor . . ."  Yeah, ok, I’ll still pass it up!! 

In the defense of dog-eaters, though, if it’s a normal dish eaten here and part of the culture, then, be my guest, after you, but you can just skip over me when the platter gets passed back this way!!  haha!  :) 

Now I can sort of understand how Hindus, who regard cows as sacred, must feel when they think of the many foreigners who love themselves a nice juicy steak!! 

Yeah, it was really something else.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Vietnamese hosts preparing a home-cooked meal for us

All throughout the ride up North, I saw restaurant signs reading: "Thịt Chó & Thịt mèo," which is none other than "Dog Meat & Cat Meat!!"  Yep, those were their specialties!!  Hungry anyone?!! 

Besides this bit of scary excitement, our stay here was a pleasant one.  And apart from the hassle we underwent to get our Chinese visas, Ha Noi is a rather nice capital city, I must stay.

Speaking of our Chinese visas though, how we got them is a story in itself, and deserves to be told!! 

Anyhow, after several visits to the Chinese Embassy, and after many attempts to actually get in to speak to an official, we did it!!

The first time we went there, the Embassy was closed for a Chinese holiday  . . . strike one.  Before leaving, though, we made sure to take a look at the information board to make sure we’d have all the necessary paperwork for the visas.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese "tortillas"
 

And the next day, we returned, thinking we’d get by with the little documents we had . . . Nope!!  Strike two!

You see, due to the Olympics in Beijing, apparently the Chinese got stricter on folks wanting to visit it. 

We would need a letter of invitation or hotel reservations for the entire duration of our stay, reservations for the method of transport chosen during the journey, a round-trip ticket showing proof of exit out of the country, and of course the passport-size photos. 

It wouldn’t be easy!!

We didn’t have ANY of those requirements!!  Uh oh!  What were we gonna do? 

All we had was our e-ticket back to France, but leaving from India, not China!!  Oh, and the photos, we had as well!! 

And well, since we had been hitchhiking all around the world, it would be impossible and out of the question to reserve our transport!!

Then, as far as the hotel reservations, since we relied on CS hosts and tent-surfing for accommodation, that wasn’t possible! 

So, if we actually managed to get in to speak to someone, what would be our explanation?  Beg??!!  Hmm?!  :)  Ha!  We were pretty sly now thinking back at it all!

Getting in was a huge accomplishment, in itself.

Hanoi, Vietnam - La petite mami vietnamienne

Folks started lining up as early as 6am, in order to be well-positioned, as far as the line was concerned!!

Not us! We rolled up there at about 8:30 am, and yes, we found ourselves WAAAAYYY in back of the line!  Oh well, we had a few hours wait. 

The visa office closed its doors at 11 am, regardless of the line of people waiting outside, and inside the gated part of the Embassy, mind you!

It really didn’t look like we’d be getting in.  It was already 10:30 am, so obviously we began to start losing hope of us getting in. 

And well, though we tried not to get discouraged, it was tough considering all the folks being turned down for a visa.

Yeah, we actually started to say to each other, perhaps we’ll just have to skip over China.

No way!!  We hadn’t come this far, only to give up now.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Hà Nội souvenirs
  We WOULD see the Great Wall!!  

So, we got pumped up again, and came up with a bright idea, after seeing these two clever Russians get away with what they did!  These chaps were waiting their turn, behind us, when suddenly they decided to go to another line, which had practically no one in it!!

We just watched and waited because we weren’t sure they’d get in, especially since the line they were waiting in was for diplomats, the elderly and pregnant woman. 

We knew they weren’t diplomats, so what did they have up their sleeves?!!

Before we knew it, they were in!!  Those lucky bastards!!  They must’ve slipped the guard a few bills, while no one was looking!! 

In any case, they got in, so now we had to try our luck, as well!! 

Luckily, we had been pretty friendly with the guard, always smiling, and going to him for assistance, as to say, "You’re such a GREAT help, can you help us a bit further and actually get us in, pretty please?!!!!"

So, we played it cool, and moved over to the other line, and waited our turn .

Hanoi, Vietnam - Viet Arnaud
. . Guess what!?  We got in too!!!!  The hard part was over . . . so we thought! 

Now that we were in, what tall-tale would we tell the official?!  We couldn’t tell them that we would be hitchhiking around China, because we’d be immediately turned away then!

So, here’s what we came up with . . . We would say that we were cycling around the world!!!  And hence, the reason for not being able to have transportation reserved in advance, or hotel reservations set. 

But, of course, our little problem of accommodation was soon discovered, when we told the young lady that we slept in a tent.

Of course, it was the first time she’d ever heard such a story, and so she didn’t know how to handle it.  And well, being that we were extra friendly with her, she tried to help us out as best she could!  Great! 

So, she asked us to write a letter, explaining our situation, so that she could give it to her supervisor, and hence place our visa request under consideration.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Unique restaurant specializing in Thịt Chó & Thỏ-Mèo, aka DOG & CAT Meat!!! :(

It seemed as though, our dream to go to China, would actually be coming true!!  Yeah!  And voilà, a few days later, we had our Chinese Visas in our possession!!  Mission Accomplished!!

Ha Noi, Ha Noi!!  A nice capital city with lots to see and do.  Not as chaotic as Ho Chi Minh, so obviously, really appreciated by us.  Apart from the hassle of getting our Chinese visas, we had a pleasant time here.

Ah, before I forget to mention, many thanks to the Shells, for hosting us and kindly opening up their home, and for including us in all their family dinners. 

Thanks to this family, we had the pleasure of enjoying some more authentic and DE-LI-CIOUS Vietnamese meals!! 

No worries, no dog was served!  They weren’t into that sort of thing, I guess!! 

Lucky for their dog, "Chance," who actually was rescued as a puppy, and saved from ending up on someone’s plate; Hence, the reason for his name!! 

Lucky fella, given a second chance at life!!  :)  So a BIG BIG thank you to Ms.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Guess what's the specialty here?!!
Luyen and the entire Shell family!!

Y basta, off we go for another adventure.

La route fut longue et fastidieuse pour arriver enfin à la capitale. De longues heures de marche, des sacs lourds, des Vietnamiens ne s’intéressant uniquement à notre portefeuille, bref c’était dur. 

Au milieu des montagnes entre 2 auto-stoppeurs, un père et son fils s’arrêtèrent et ils montrèrent enfin une meilleure facette de la population.

On était d’accord sur un point, la majorité de Vietnamiens ne pensent qu’à l’argent.

Même pour ceux qu’y viennent d’une autre région du Vietnam, le prix change, ils saignent tout le monde.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Thịt Chó, aka Dog meat, a specialty in Northern Vietnam
Alors si vous êtes étrangers, c’est la complète.

Ces échanges d’informations ne me rassuraient guère sur ma vision des gens. Ils pensent tout simplement que si vous venez d’ailleurs, vous avez les moyens et vous êtes là pour eux.

C’est une certaine vérité, car beaucoup de Vietnamiens et de touristes sont trop fiers. Ils montrent qu’ils sont supérieurs, avec cette arrogance si particulière.

Les gens leur redonnent la monnaie de leur pièce en multipliant les prix sans aucune limite.

Par la suite et à ma grande tristesse, il est impossible de se mêler à ce pays, cette culture, il est impossible de communiquer ou d’échanger sans qu’il y est main à la poche.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud et le fameux Thịt Chó, viande de chien!!

J’aimerais vous dire autre chose du fait que je généralise, mais malheureusement, c’est comme cela que j’ai vécu mon périple dans ce pays.

On a eu la chance, ou du moins on a rencontré quelques personnes qui nous ont montré enfin du positif, et où l’on me considérait pas seulement pour une banque.

Je reviens au père et son fils qui nous fait l’honneur de nous inviter à passer quelques temps chez eux.

Le temps d’un repas, de revenir aux choses simples, de pouvoir parler à cœur ouvert, avec des sourires et de l’écoute, de savoir pourquoi on voyage en stop, pourquoi ils se sont arrêtés pour nous, de l’échange pur.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny, a saleswoman, and a couple of roasted ducks with the heads still there of course!!

Après cette belle rencontre, il était nécessaire d’arriver à Hanoi, la fatigue commençait à se faire sentir. 

Un routier, comme d’habitude, il nous prit sous son aile et fit en sorte de nous donner toutes les informations pour arriver à bon bord avec les moyens les plus économiques.

Car quand vous pénétrez dans une capitale sans aucun repère, c’est plus difficile.

Il nous donna le numéro des bus à prendre, il appela même notre contact pour avoir l’adresse exacte, bref un ange quoi. 

Il voulait même nous donner de l’argent pour le bus.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Day at a local Vietnamese market
 Mais bon, il y a des limites à recevoir.

On arriva enfin dans ce quartier, il faut le dire, un des quartiers riches de la ville. Une famille nous attendait, les bras et les cœurs grands ouverts. 

Une mère Vietnamienne, rapatriée pendant la guerre comme refugiée aux Etats-Unis, où elle y rencontra son mari, un Anglais travaillant pour des organisations humanitaires et un fils de 16 ans qui aime le basket.

Une famille vivant un peu partout, ayant pour base du moment Hanoi. On y passa d’ailleurs tout notre séjour. 

Ils nous donnèrent de bons conseils pour les sites à visiter et surtout les meilleures façons d’obtenir le VISA pour la Chine.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Images du marché local
 

La durée de notre séjour dépendait de l’obtention de ce visa et pendant la période des Jeux Olympiques, cela s’annonçait difficile.

Les critères de sélection sont très stricts, tout doit être réservé, payés, des billets d’avion aller-retour aux réservations de l’hôtel, du détail des visites, des villes, bref une liste ahurissant.

Je ne vous parle même pas des critères si vous allez chez des amis, ils demandent un certificat de propriétés avec une lettre de motivation des propriétaires, une facture de gaz. 

Les autorités peuvent entreprendre une enquête et font même jusqu’à surveiller les familles recevant des étrangers !!

Nous, on est arrivé comme une fleur, avec un billet d’avion retour pour la France, mais partant de l’Inde, une réservation d’un jour dans un hôtel en Chine et 2 beaux et grands sourires.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Sightseeing around Hà Nội
 

Il fallait donc être malin et leur expliquer notre situation. Voyager au jour le jour, sous une tente et en stop. 

Vu que le stop était interdit, on choisit l’option : vélo, un tour de Chine en vélo. 

Ils acceptèrent miraculeusement avec une simple condition, un visa seulement de 15 jours. C’était toujours mieux que rien !! 

On pouvait enfin profiter de nos derniers jours au Vietnam. On eut l’occasion de voir des chiens dans les marchés, pas très exceptionnel sauf ces chiens étaient sur le marché aux viandes (rôti ou grillé).

Hanoi, Vietnam - Monument à Hà Nội
 

Juanita avait beaucoup de mal à s’approcher du stand.  Je n’eus pas l’opportunité d’en gouter, ce n’était pas si facile d’en voir et surtout d’en déguster !!

mathieucalvet says:
bugger !!!! my sentence was: by the way nice shots of Nam.
Posted on: Aug 17, 2009
mathieucalvet says:
Just a little tip for the folks out there. Last time I took a visa for china they did ask me for accommodation and a returns ticket but because i did not want to spend that money not being sure I ll will get the visa or not. I just gave them pre-booking flight and hotel reservation. For that you can use the website asiaroom.com where you can book a room(s) without paying and for the ticket you can go to an airline and ask them to rpe-book a flight that you will pay in a few day time (if you don't they just cancel you booking). I actually met a lot of people doing these. Chinese embassies do not have the resources to check every single application.

Bye the nice shots of Vietnam.
Posted on: Aug 17, 2009
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Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Angel, who mu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Angel, who m…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese hospit…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese hospi…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Vietnamese ho…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Our Vietnamese h…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese torti…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese "tort…
Hanoi, Vietnam - La petite mami vi…
Hanoi, Vietnam - La petite mami v…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Hà Nội souveni…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Hà Nội souven…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Viet Arnaud
Hanoi, Vietnam - Viet Arnaud
Hanoi, Vietnam - Unique restaurant…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Unique restauran…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Guess whats the …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Guess what's the…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Thịt Chó, aka …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Thịt Chó, aka…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud et le fame…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud et le fam…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny, a saleswo…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny, a salesw…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Day at a local Vi…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Day at a local V…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images du marché…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images du march…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Sightseeing aroun…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Sightseeing arou…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Monument à Hà N…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Monument à Hà …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Công Viên Lênin
Hanoi, Vietnam - Công Viên Lênin
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud sur la pla…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud sur la pl…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Lăng Hồ Chí M…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Lăng Hồ Chí …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny on Ba Ðì…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny on Ba Ð…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Một Cột…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Một Cộ…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Một Cột…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Một Cộ…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud à la Pago…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud à la Pag…
Hanoi, Vietnam - J&A at the One Pi…
Hanoi, Vietnam - J&A at the One P…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny dans le qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny dans le q…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Sculpture located…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Sculpture locate…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud at Ho Chi …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud at Ho Chi…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Văn Miếu, aka …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Văn Miếu, aka…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Văn Miếu, aka …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Văn Miếu, aka…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese beauty
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vietnamese beauty
Hanoi, Vietnam - La famille
Hanoi, Vietnam - La famille
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny at Hoàn K…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny at Hoàn …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud sur le pon…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud sur le po…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny on Húc Br…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny on Húc B…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Hồ Hoàn Kiếm…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Hồ Hoàn Kiế…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Thap Rua Temple, …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Thap Rua Temple,…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Do you see the ha…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Do you see the h…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud, nosey as …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud, nosey as…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Entrance of Chùa…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Entrance of Chù…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud à la Pago…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud à la Pag…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny at Trấn …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Juanny at Trấn…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images of Trấn …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images of Trấn…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Worshippers at Tr…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Worshippers at T…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images de Chùa T…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Images de Chùa …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Prière à la Pag…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Prière à la Pa…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Chùa Trấn Qu…
Hanoi, Vietnam - All alone
Hanoi, Vietnam - All alone
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vegging out on th…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Vegging out on t…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnauds and his …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Arnaud's and his…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Le vendeur blanc
Hanoi, Vietnam - Le vendeur blanc
Hanoi, Vietnam - Luyens workshop …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Luyen's workshop…
Hanoi, Vietnam - La souffleuse de …
Hanoi, Vietnam - La souffleuse de…
Hanoi, Vietnam - The Shell Family
Hanoi, Vietnam - The Shell Family
Hanoi, Vietnam - Our ride to Hà N…
Hanoi, Vietnam - Our ride to Hà …
Hanoi, Vietnam - Cute little fella
Hanoi, Vietnam - Cute little fella
Hanoi, Vietnam - How adorable!!
Hanoi, Vietnam - How adorable!!
Hanoi, Vietnam - Dog meat!!!
Hanoi, Vietnam - In the temple
Hanoi, Vietnam - In the same temple
Hanoi
photo by: mario26