My dad was stationed in Vietnam in 1968, so he has a very different view of the country than I do. He’s always kind of vaguely surprised that people can/want to visit.
The first time I went to Vietnam with my friend, Huw, back in 2004, I was worried that people would hassle me for being American, but I had no problems. Everybody was extremely nice, and Huw and I were even invited to be part of a (sham) wedding between a very tall American guy from Miami and a Vietnamese woman. I don’t have any digital pictures of that because it was before I had a digital camera. Boo.
I thought Vietnam was awesome, and I went back in April of 2005 with some friends, but I hadn’t been back until last week. It was still awesome. Jason and I spent our time in Hanoi mainly walking around and we didn’t see many museums…or any at all, to be honest.
You should see the crazy shit they carry on motorcycles and bicycles. Holy. Cow.
Many of Hanoi’s streets are named after what they sell, so there’s a Silk Street, an Umbrella Street (I just made that up), and, like, a Blue Pencil Street (probably). Or if you want to buy a certain food dish, there’s probably an entire street or alley devoted to that.
Food in Vietnam: Pretty good, although I don’t find it quite as exciting as Thai food. Pastries and bread in Vietnam are pretty great, and dairy products are waaaaay cheaper than here in Thailand. I had a sandwich with freshly-baked bread and Laughing Cow cheese on it every single day we were there–I am a creature of habit and also I love bread and cheese possibly more than I love, well, anything–and I am sad that I can’t find good bread in my neighborhood here in BKK.
Also, a word about dairy: I need dairy products. I just do. I thought I was okay living without cheese, but I was wrong. I assume that cheese and other delicious dairy things (and bread) are cheaper in Vietnam because of the French influence.
Alcohol like wine and vodka, that kind of thing, was also considerably cheaper. We wanted to load up on it, but Thailand has pretty strict regulations about the amount of alcohol you can bring back into the country, so we only brought the regulation amount back in.
We ate mostly street food, and you sit in the middle of the sidewalk–seriously–on these teeeensy little stools that look as if they are designed for children. At this place, we sat on stools and then they put another stool in the middle and placed the tray of food on top of it. This whole meal cost us about $2.50, I think.
I asked for some tea that I saw other people drinking, and they poured us an entire cup of water and then about a quarter of an inch of tea in the glass. We were all offended, like, hey Vietnamese people, don’t just write us off like we’re just stupid white people, even though we are just stupid white people, until we started drinking it, and even with that little tea, it was still so strong we could barely finish it.So I guess it turns out they knew what they were doing, after all. Humph.
When I was in Hanoi in 2005, I went to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where I saw Ho Chi Minh’s actual body laid out like Sleepy Beauty. I stood in line for hours with a bunch of other Vietnamese people, and you have to be very, very solemn the whole time you’re there. No laughing, no joking around, almost no smiling. You get inside, and Ho Chi Minh is in a glass case. Seriously. It was one of the creepiest and most surreal things I’ve ever seen in my life.
But every year, they send him for three months to Russia to be freshened up. I don’t know what they do to him (dip him in fresh wax?), but in any case, he was gone when we were in Hanoi, so we didn’t get to see him.
The doorways and alleyways in Hanoi were fascinating. It was like peeking through a peep hole and seeing a little secret light all the way at the back. I took a bunch pictures of those, along with doors and store fronts, because I thought the colors and the vibrancy and the secrecy of the alleyways were just killer.
Vietnam: 0 Megan: 1
I would really, really like to go to Vietnam again.