Friday, July 28, 2017

Life in Hanoi

Good morning Vietnam!'s actually 10pm, but I had to write that 😀

I landed in Hanoi, a city in northern Vietnam yesterday afternoon and am still shocked by the sights and sounds.  I really feel like experiencing Asia has different levels.  The cultures are so drastically different from western culture that Asia can be shocking.  If there were a comparison scale of cultural differences between the US and each Asian country, Vietnam would rank quite high.  While China has really become quite modern and has many familiar western amenities, Vietnam is quite different. It's clear that western influence is just now beginning to rear its head in Hanoi.  For instance there is one Starbucks in the large touristy section I am staying in, but it only opened in 2015.  Vietnamese people are clearly proud of their culture and don't see a need for many of the things westerners have come to depend on.  The Vietnamese seem much more accustomed to sitting on tiny chairs which line sidewalks while chatting and enjoying snacks, drinks, or even meals.  The casualness and sense of community of these spaces is sometimes overwhelming, which leads to my next observation.....the kindness of the Vietnamese!

From the moment I arrived in Hanoi, I was astounded by how friendly the people are.  My driver from the airport accidentally took me to the wrong hotel, and then didn't understand my english when I asked him to wait while I checked my reservation.  Sure enough it was the wrong hotel, and he did not understand when I asked him to wait.  Luckily I was dropped at a hotel with the most kind front desk employees I have ever met.  When they realized I was in the wrong hotel, they did everything they could to help me get to the right place.  They even called the correct hotel to confirm my reservation for me before leaving and then called a taxi for me!  The one woman that was helping me was really nice.  She had actually travelled through Philadelphia on a trip from New York to DC a couple years ago.  She was excited to learn she had a connection to where I am from.

Upon arrival to my actual hotel, I was once again met with wonderful hospitality.  The manager even took me up to my room and gave me a tour since I am in a little suite (free upgrade!)

I also had the privilege of meeting some college students in the park near my hotel tonight.  They were hanging around there specifically waiting for western looking people to pass by so they could practice conversational english with them.  I, of course, thought this was the coolest thing ever and struck up conversations with several different friendly students.  Their language skills varied drastically, but I give them all a lot of credit for spending their Friday night trying to better their english skills!

One of the students I chatted with

In addition to having wonderful people, the food here is off the hook....not to mention incredibly cheap!  I went to a vegan restaurant last night.  There seems to be lots of vegan places around, most likely for buddhists.  The food I got there was both artistic and delicious!

Some crazy coconut drink

Fried lotus favorite dish!

Pineapple fried rice with macadamia nuts 

This whole meal cost $8 usd!!  Which made more sense when I got a banh mi (Vietnamese hoagie) today and it was $1.14 usd!!  The low prices are perfect because I can try everything I want and more!

I have another full day in Hanoi before my official tour begins.  I am loving the free time to wander and explore on my own.  There is something invigorating about trying to navigate a foreign land.  Especially when there are thousands of motor bikes zipping around you with no real traffic laws!

Well for now, good night from the splendid country of Vietnam.

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