Friday, October 19, 2007
Xin Chao (Hello!) Hanoi
Traffic is crazy in Hanoi. Being from Los Angeles, I feel qualified to make that judgment. To give you some idea, there are approximately five million people in Hanoi and approximately four million motorcycles, primarily of the scooter variety. Child "seats" consist of arms or laps. Helmets are rarely used.
We began the day by wandering the streets looking for street food. We bought a papaya from a lady on a bicycle and took it back to our room to crack it open. We were surprised to find there were no seeds inside! It was a good day for food with lunch at a restaurant that has been family-owned for five generations and serves only one dish: a delicious fried fish with noodles and fresh herbs. Dinner was at one of the finer contemporary Vietnamese restaurants in town where the biggest surprise was green bananas in our food! They were raw and sliced thinly with the peel on, believe it or not, and were delicious.
The shopping streets here are laid out by category. The majority of the shoe vendors, for example, can be found along one street and that street is referred to as Shoe Street. There is also a luggage street, a wedding street, a toy street...you get the picture. While doing our shopping reconnaisance yesterday, we noticed some adorable baby shoes. We went back to consider purchasing them today and guess what? They're made in China! It makes perfect sense that all of the vendors purchase their goods from the same vendors, but we couldn't help but be disappointed. We're going to have to keep shopping in order to come up with a suitable souvenir for our Island Boy.
During our shopping mission we also learned just how much the people here love flowers. There are flower stalls, shops, and street vendors everywhere full of unique and beautiful bouquets, many more here than in other countries we've visited.
We did a few more touristy things today than typical for us, but it was a very nice introduction to Vietnam and Hanoi. I was relieved to learn that Ho Chi Minh's body is in Russia at the moment for it's annual maintenance so we missed that typical tourist highlight of Hanoi. The city is full of beautiful parks and museums and we saw just a few. We even went to see Hanoi's unique water puppet theater.
Perhaps one of the most important things we learned today about Hanoi is that it has many foot massage places. Hallelujah! Since we are so committed to sampling local culture wherever we go, we felt obligated to go back for another taste of this local specialty yesterday. We are now getting serious about our research so went to a new purveyor. Although double the price, for $15, we received an even more thorough "foot" massage, this one involving the entire leg, the entire arm, the entire back and a very thorough head, neck and facial massage. I'm trying to figure out how to export these massages at these prices to the US, or at least to our house.
Today we travel to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where we will kayak and spend the night on a junk. We're not sure what it will be like, but that's what adventure is all about!
Posted by R... at 6:42 AM