Hanoi Under Water
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 12 of 25 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.