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Hanoi Under Water

Hanoi Travel Blog

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Flooding in Hanoi. July, 13th 2010

People who made my travels more enjoyable: Michelle (USA), Thu (Vietnam) and Quang (Vietnam)

Michelle wrote an intro for today's entry. Enjoy!

"I had been traveling for three weeks before I arrived in Vietnam. No matter where I'd gone, crazy rainstorms would prevent me from fulfilling all my tourist-y desires. So when I flew into Hanoi and was greeted by a heat index of 115 degrees every darn day, I couldn't help but wish for a little rain to cool us all down.

I woke up this morning to the loud sounds of raindrops on our windows and the walls of our hotel. I rejoiced, hallelujah! I thought, today is the day I can go outside without the sun burning my skin off.

Brave taxi driver


We had booked a tour with HanoiKids, which is an organization that recruits university students eager to practice their English and pairing them up with foreign visitors. Kyle and I were excited to meet some local people our age, but most of all, to speak to people who had a somewhat more advanced understanding of English. This whole week, we had been using various forms of sign language and sounds to communicate to the people here. The only Vietnamese words I knew were food-related, how typical of me.

Our guides were to arrive at 8:30am so Kyle and I were up earlier than usual. I went downstairs to get some breakfast and to check out whether the rain had actually affected the temperature outside. What I saw shocked me: our street had completely flooded.
Hang Dieu craziness
People were wading through the icky brown water, and bikers were pushing their motorbikes through the water with all their might. A few cars had tried to brave the water by attempting to drive through it. The stronger ones made it through but many other drivers found their cars (and themselves) stuck.

I ran upstairs to tell Kyle what was going on (and to grab my camera). I didn't know how to explain it to him: "THE STREETS HAVE FLOODED. OH MY GOD THE RAIN!" I could tell he was really confused and he ran downstairs with me. He looked out the entrance and basically had the same reaction. He also went to grab his camera.

The hotel staff was struggling to keep the water from entering the building. They put up a makeshift dam (some metal bars and a large brick) which helped.
Fallen tree
We soon received phone calls from our Hanoi Kids guides, telling us that they would come to the hotel at a later time, when the rain let up a bit.

Kyle and I had breakfast on the couches overlooking the street, enjoying the show from up close. We watched as people struggled to keep the water from entering their shops, as cars and motorbikes debated venturing deeper into the water. We saw one guy on a bicycle pedaling as fast and hard as he could to get through our street to dryer land."

I couldn't have said it better myself :) Thanks Michelle!

What happened next was even crazier. Our first guide, a girl by the name of Thu, showed up on her bicycle. She was a very pleasant girl and certainly as excited to meet us, as we were her. After some brief introductions, she told us that our other guide was stranded in another part of town.
Traffic jam
Since he was near one of our desired tourist spots, we decided to take a cab and pick him up. Thu called a cab while Michelle and I grabbed our rain gear. By the time the cab arrived the water had receded just enough for us to climb in without getting wet. Soon our state of dryness would take a turn for the worst!

As we drove through Hanoi, street after street was blocked by flooding. Our cab wasn't large enough to venture into the deeper pools of water, so we had to keep taking detours. It felt like a scene from Black Hawk Down (minus people shooting at us)! As we approached our destination, we encountered another roadblock. This time, a large tree had fallen, covering an entire street. We turned down some side streets and drove through more flooded areas. At this point we picked up our second guide.
About to wade through the flooded streets
His motorbike had stopped working after water had flooded the engine. Once inside the cab, he instructed the cab driver to head for the Temple of Literature. As we approached traffic became worse. Flooding near the temple, had caused stranded several cars and now the path was completely blocked. Even motorbikes were not able to cross. Quang told us to get out of the cab, we had no other option but to cross the flooded area on foot.

Despite his instruction, Michelle and I were extremely hesitant. We wanted to try everything, rather than walk through two foot deep shit water. We could see oil, chemicals, roaches, trash and mud floating in the water. First we tried to hail a taxi, but nobody could go in or out (the street behind us had flooded as well). We also tried a bus, but flooded cars blocked the path.
Temple of Literature (Flooded)
With no options remaining, we decided to ford the flooded street. Careful not to lose our footing, we moved slowly through the river of sludge. I couldn't help but laugh at our predicament. A day ago we had prayed for rain, anything that would make the heat more bearable. Apparently we prayed too hard!

Finally we reached the Temple of Literature, but it was also completely flooded. We could see dry land about 100 yards further down the street, so we continued on. Finally we reached a restaurant by the name of Koto. It had avoided most of the flooding. Even though we weren't that hungry, we were desperate to get out of the muck. Quang left his shoes at the front door, while Michelle and I bolted for the bathroom. I used soap and towels to clean my legs as thoroughly as possible.
Michelle and Thu at lunch
I was thrilled we made it, and nobody had fallen down in the disgusting water!

Koto, which was owned by an Australian company, served traditional Vietnamese fare. Their staff were local and the company's mission was to provide training for underprivileged youth in the areas of cooking, hospitality and management. The food wasn't the best I'd had in Vietnam, but I felt good supporting this type of establishment. 

At lunch I asked our guides what they thought about American-Vietnamese relations. I had always been curious because of our involvement in the Vietnam War. Quang explained that Vietnamese people didn't harbor any ill-will toward Americans. The Vietnamese government had shown its citizens footage of American protestors and other dissidents. The blame was placed on the government, rather than the entire nation.

With Quang at Lunch
 

I also asked about the state of communism in Vietnam. According to Quang, nobody knows if Vietnam is communist or capitalist. The government hadn't shown much direction recently, and everyone was simply fending for themselves. One local late explained to me, "Everything is for sale in Vietnam, even Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum".

After lunch we returned to our hotel, via taxi. I gave our guides a little departing gift and we said goodbye. Without a doubt, Thu and Quang were the two nicest people we had met in Vietnam. Honest, hard-working students, I really wish them well. To anyone reading this blog, if you ever travel to Hanoi, make sure you book a tour with Hanoi Kids!

The rest of the evening Michelle and I spent relaxing. We ate some local neighborhood food, watched TV, and prepared for our upcoming Ha Long Bay adventure! Tomorrow we would leave bright and early.






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Flooding in Hanoi. July, 13th 2010
Brave taxi driver
Brave taxi driver
Hang Dieu craziness
Hang Dieu craziness
Fallen tree
Fallen tree
Traffic jam
Traffic jam
About to wade through the flooded …
About to wade through the flooded…
Temple of Literature (Flooded)
Temple of Literature (Flooded)
Michelle and Thu at lunch
Michelle and Thu at lunch
With Quang at Lunch
With Quang at Lunch
Taxi, front view
Taxi, front view
Another brave driver
Another brave driver
The water kept getting higher
The water kept getting higher
Bikes and cars
Bikes and cars
Even the buses were having trouble
Even the buses were having trouble
Taxi, rear view
Taxi, rear view
Michelle is not happy
Michelle is not happy
More bikes
More bikes
Near Temple of Literature
Near Temple of Literature
Another brave taxi driver
Another brave taxi driver
The sun came out! (The temple was …
The sun came out! (The temple was…
Cityscape
Cityscape
Still flooded
Still flooded
Woman selling fruit
Woman selling fruit
Flooding outside our hotel
Flooding outside our hotel
Woman on a bike in the flood
Woman on a bike in the flood
Typical shop in Hanoi, re-opened a…
Typical shop in Hanoi, re-opened …
Hanoi
photo by: mario26