We left Los Angeles in the wee hours of Wednesday morning on essentially the same flight that inaugurated our honeymoon five years ago, non-stop to Taiwan. Both then and now, that was only the beginning of our journey. We arrived in Hanoi yesterday morning, after nearly a day of traveling.
I'm not sure what I was expecting to find in Vietnam, but the surprises started right away. I expected Hanoi to be a major city and it is, but I guess I expected all of the modernization that goes with it. The airport is newly built - less than 2 years old - and about 45 minutes outside of the city center. There are people farming the fields out there and I don't mean with their fancy combines. In most cases they don't even have an ox. These people are toiling by hand and hoe to feed their families, and, if they are lucky, to have enough of the harvest left over to save for the future.
The homes here are fascinating and range from shacks to tall, skinny towers. Land here, we're told, is some of the most expensive in the world. Many generations share a single house, so, if the family can afford it, each of the families within the family will build a floor for themselves. I'm not sure what to think about baby-proofing these!
We had the good fortune to lunch in one of these houses. There is an actual restaurant, with an actual menu and everything situated within what is basically a family home. The mother and daughter serve the food and the father prepares it. We saw at least one other woman in the home with her small baby. We could have eaten in one of the fancy Westernized restaurants, sure! But why would we? We can do that at home. The daughter, incidentally, was thrilled to hear that we were from Los Angeles. She seemed to think it somehow brought her closer to the celebrities that she is so fascinated with. Her favorites? You guessed it: Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. We're so proud.
We wandered the streets around our hotel scoping out local culture and shopping opportunities, then returned to our hotel for one of the most amazing foot massages ever. Ok, I should admit that I'm no connoisseur of foot massages (previous experience has been mostly limited to those accompanying a pedicure), however it seems reasonable to say that $7 for a 60 minute foot massage that included a neck and back rub was well, WOW. We can get roughly eleven hours of massages here for the price of one 50 minute massage in LA. I'm not sure we'll have time for anything else! ;-)