Gooood Morning Vietnam!

Hanoi Travel Blog

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About 100 mopeds waiting at a traffic light- only 10% of traffic consists of cars.
Many of you have been asking me what I've been up to the last couple of weeks. My apologies for not updating my blog earlier, things have been unbelievably (and amazingly) busy! No complaints here however, a dull life doesn't give one much to write about now does it?

Although there is more to tell you than my trip to Vietnam, I'm going to focus on that for this entry and tell you about the rest later.

How It Started:
One of the exchange students from France (and a dear friend since meeting her) proposed taking a trip during our mini break from school on the 7th &8th of July. Since she had school on the 6th, and I had class on the 9th, we decided to each miss one day of school, and consequently visit Vietnam for six days. My room mate, Charlene, two other French boys, and a French couple (all of my dearest friends here) all booked flights for Ha Noi for 120 euros! Then it was off to the Vietnam consulate for some tourist visas.
The 1000 year old temple

What we did:
Upon arriving in Ha Noi, we immediately found a hotel and had a good night sleep. The next day it was off to Hua Lu, a town three hours south of Ha Noi. I'm still not sure what the exact significance of this place is, but we went because every tourist office had pictures of what is supposed to be a lovely day trip. Too bad it rained. Our tour guide spoke in-audible English and so each one of us had different interpretations of the story she was telling us. Turns out that the temples she was showing us from 1968 where old kings were buried, were actually from 968. We didn't figure that out until later though. At the times they just looked like crappy 50 year old temples.

Moving on. After our first taste of cooked Vietnamese food (breakfast was a "pain au chocolat" from a french bakkery - Yum!) which included rice, tofu, a chicken stir-fry, cooked veggies, and spring rolls, we went on a boat tour to see some of the nature.
Two days with these views from the boat :)
Little did we know that "boat tour" meant two people per wooden canoe, with about 50 other tourist alongside you, while this ten year-old boy is rowing his bum off for 5 kilometers through a windy river/lake thingy. Charlene and I made an attempt to help paddle, but it turns out this only make his job harder as he has to focus twice as hard on not going into the bushes (Charlene and I couldn't quite steer properly), so we sat and enjoyed the amazing scenery around us.

We went through a couple of cave/tunnels and saw various sights like a woman using her shoes as paddles, a cow next to a broken bicycle, various Asians openly staring at us, and ladies in canoes selling sodas and chips. This boat ride was also our first experience (of many) being ripped off and exploited for being "rich" westerners.
Three of the French sitting in the canoe.
Turns out then when you get to the end of the lake, the ladies selling stuff tell you to buy their over-priced products for the two people who have just been rowing their bums off for you. Of course you can't refuse, especially as the rowers even tell you they want you to buy them something. So you end up paying five euros for two drinks and some chips/cookies. Next thing you know, the lady from the boats trades all the food you just bought for two little bananas, while you don't get any of your money back. Then, this same lady (who is now not rowing anymore and just letting the other kid do all the work) opens up this chest (previously hidden somewhere in the canoe) and tries to sell you some ugly stuff, because hey, you were dumb enough to spend five euros on two drinks! Luckily, Charlene and I managed to get out of that one by repeatedly explaining that we were backpacking and could not purchase any goods for lack of storage.
Me getting off the boat
However, at the end of the boat trip, the lady doesn't hesitate to ask you for a tip.

The next day it was off to Ho Long Bay, something everyone recommended we do whilst visiting Vietnam. This trip involved staying on a boat for one night while it travelled around the coast, letting you see some beautiful scenery. A pit stop to visit some caves, and a six am kayaking trip were among the excitement for this one. Too bad the weather was still grey at this point because it didn't give us the beautiful sights we had hoped for, but the two-day trip was a lovely experience nonetheless.

Having travelled south and east (and already being in the north), our next trip was off to west Wietnam. We booked a three night, two day trip to the mountainous village of Sappa, where one can see some native Vietnamese tribal people work in the rice fields and stay with a family overnight.
They held on to my hands and did NOT let go... (please notice the height difference)
For two days we trekked through the mountains, seeing the beautiful sights, and exploring the villages. On out first day the pigmy people from the "Mong" tribe greeted us (by running towards us and making us feel bombarded) and followed us on out entire hike down to their village (and our lunch break). They asked us questions, and held out hands as we went down slippery slopes. I was rendered incompetent and received two Mongs to help me out...

Don't be fooled however, even these people expect some compensation. Once arriving in their village, they hand you off to the next tribe, but not before opening up the baskets they have been carrying and soliciting the purchase of their hand-made goods. Naturally, with my two Mongs, I ended up buying two things, and spending way to much money.
Mong people
These people speak better English than the Thai by the way. Something quite amazing considering they live 40 km from the nearest urban town.

Having experienced Sappa for two days, and a lovely ten-hour night train each way with triple bunk-beds (see picture), the only thing left to do was explore a little of Ha Noi city itself. Besides being ugly, noisy, and full of people ready to rip off a white person, there is little other to see besides an embalmed Ho Chi Min, and his former residence. So see the former communistic leader of Vietnam we did! Then we caught a little bit of sleep before flying back to Bangkok.

When being asked about Vietnam I respond with two things; first, that I'm glad I went and saw this new culture, and two, that I'm really happy I don't have to go back, or want to go back, because I'm still living in Bangkok for another eight months and would hate it if there was somewhere else i would rather live.
Vietnamese architecture- Mediterranean witha spanish vibe.
Vietnam is loud. The people speak loudly, the streets are FULL of people honking (as this is the only rule on the road; "honk before you do it"). Food in Vietnam is much blander than the rich Thai food, and the people are much less sincere as they always try to rip you off for everything. Vietnam is actaully more expensive than Thailand because of this exploitation, and the worst is, there is nothing you can do.

Either way, I had an amazing experience with my six favorite people here in Thailand, and I'm so grateful these opportunities continuously present themselves. Who would have thought I would end up in Vietnam during a quick break from school?? Random awesomeness!

Now its back to the books as I have three quizzes, two term papers, and four midterm exams - all in 8 days.
Just a typical vietnamese sight.
I'm afraid my adventures will be put on hold for just a bit. I did just organize a dinner with about 12 of us tonight at a new restaurant with live music. And a this random guy I know from Holland is here visiting one of the other exchange students, so maybe I won't be working that hard afteral....

And yes, this blog entry is total procrastination from my marketing report.

More to come soon.... take care of yourselves, and enjoy the holidays to their fullest as random adventures are one of life's greatest gifts!

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About 100 mopeds waiting at a traf…
About 100 mopeds waiting at a tra…
The 1000 year old temple
The 1000 year old temple
Two days with these views from the…
Two days with these views from th…
Three of the French sitting in the…
Three of the French sitting in th…
Me getting off the boat
Me getting off the boat
They held on to my hands and did N…
They held on to my hands and did …
Mong people
Mong people
Vietnamese architecture- Mediterra…
Vietnamese architecture- Mediterr…
Just a typical vietnamese sight.
Just a typical vietnamese sight.
The group in Sappa
The group in Sappa
Charlene in the airplane next to a…
Charlene in the airplane next to …
photo by: mario26