"Tam biet" Vietnam (that's "goodbye" for those philistines out there who don't speak Vietnamese!)
Thursday July 13th. Arrived back in Hanoi late evening - ahhh the hustle and bustle. How I've missed it!!! Tried to find a hotel recommended by friends but without address or name, (yes, i know, i'm useless!) it was a wee bitty difficult (esp. for the moto taxi guy - who was very patient with me!). Ended up at a new haunt, Red River I Hotel (there are a few of them, hence the number I!), which was actually brilliant, with lovely people working there. Wish i'd stayed there my whole time in Hanoi but hey, good to know for my next visit!
Friday July 14th. Roasting hot today....but no time to enjoy the sun! As I'm leaving tomorrow, its all about the chores today. Gotta drop off my dosh to the boys hostel then work on the darn blog (no surprise!)....blah blah, i know very boring! But how nice of my new friend Linh, who works at Red River! She asked me if i'd like her to take me shopping to the market. We had joked earlier about "falangs" being ripped off at the local markets, and i said, "Hmmn think that might have happened to me once or twice", so she said she'd show me how it's done! So off we set...
After some fun shopping, and a lovely last walk around Hoan Kiem lake, Linh took me to a secret restaurant in town that none of the tourists know about. Hmmn. ...sorry folks, i can't enlighten anyone as i don't know its name and probably wouldn't remember where it was but it was brilliant! We had the best dinner .. and everyone kept giggling - ok laughing out loud - at my fabulous - and still unhoned - chopstick skills! Anyway, looking at the restaurant downstairs you probably wouldn't pick this place right away! Just shows you - first impressions can be very misleading and wow, what a great way to end my fantastic Vietnamese experience with one of my best meals ever.....
I've had such a great time here i thought i'd try and explain (to myself as much as you lot!) why..... There are so many things that come to mind when i think about Vietnam: crazy crazy traffic (I SO want a motorbike now!); constant noise (and none of that background buzz - its always full on full blast noise... not sure the concept of "quiet time" will work here!); the "themed" streets of toys, clothes, housewares - all grouped together in a very handy way. Also, just how close everyone here is (families really are connected in a very different way than back home); the fact people work so very hard, yet still make it up at 5am to exercise and play badminton or do tai chi before the work day begins; oh yes and of course women work WAY harder than men! Seriously, women seem to do all the same jobs as men - like building roads, working in the rice fields, cleaning the streets AND then they also have to work in the home, restaurants (where all the men are drinking their rice wine or are hanging out sleeping in their tuk-tuks!). And even with all that work, women still try incredibly hard to keep their skin light, riding their bikes or working outside completely covered up, in searing heat, with long gloves to their shoulders, cute Miss Kitty mouth guards and/or bandanas hiding their faces, and then there are the huge range of whitening moisturizers to help them stay as white as possible!!! Crazy stuff.
Then we have the men who quite comfortabley walk hand in hand or pinky to pinky (so touchy feely, again just like South American men) and, of course no surprise, women always walk arm in arm here. Lovely to see! Lastly, I couldn't talk about Vietnam without mentioning the children - they are everywhere, shops, restuarants, buses, streets - you name it, you will see children everywhere! But they are so loved and so beautiful and so well behaved - I think i can count on one hand the number of times i have heard a Vietnamese baby or child crying. They are always smiling and seem at least, to be very happy in life. Gorgeous - just gorgeous!!!!
So I'm not sure if it's Thailand that is supposed to be the "Land of Smiles" but think that should be Vietnam's line...I've never seen so many smiles in all my life seriously (and i know i'm prone to over-exaggeration!) but i feel like I'VE smiled for a month since i arrived here! As you can tell, I LOVE VIETNAM!! Everyone should go and experience it for themselves.. so "tam biet" Vietnam. "Cam on" for a brilliant trip - I'll definitely be back!