Tuesday, January 12, 2010

 I Survived my 1st Full day in Hanoi

I have missed entries RE: Lampang, Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai, Thailand but will try to add those.

Yesterday I flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand via Bangkok to Hanoi Vietnam. The flight was relatively straight forward with the exception of being overweight on my luggage and not having enough local currency on me to pay the penalty fee. The money changer wasn’t open and I did not want to withdraw Baht from my US checking account @ a 3% bank fee. A bunch of back and forth negotiations and eventually we worked it out by charging my penalty fee. So much for spending down every last Baht the evening prior at the Chiang Mai Sunday Market!

My first impression of Hanoi was frightful. The sky was pea soup grey just like I experienced last year in China. I just could not get a straight answer from anyone. The good old internet confirmed my worst fears – serious POLLUTION, blowing in from China as well as home grown. I was dreadfully ill last year upon my return from China and just didn’t want to repeat that. Next, plan what might become a shortened visit and escape stage left.  And then there was the case of no heat in my room, only AC and lots of noise pollution until 11 pm coming from the street.  My wax ear plugs that I use for swimming took care of the noise and a 2nd quilt, the cold.

After a lot of research on Monday eve, I found what turned out to be a main connection – the Kangaroo CafĂ© – an English speaking, Tour Operator who directed me to place to purchase a new Simm card for my cell phone so I could call from Vietnam, a Chemist so I could purchase multiple face masks to filter the air and a trip to Halong Bay leaving on Friday. I started to relax and feel a little better.

Essentials covered, I set out to explore the city.  While admiring lacquor ware in a shop window I ended up meeting a lovely English speaking Filipino woman who I spent about half a day with. What a god sent – she helped me with the money, referred me to a money changer for a better exchange rate than my hotel offered, introduced me to a wonderful Vietnamese Restaurant where we had lunch and most importantly, taught me how to cross the street and survive. Thank you Betty.

Sounds silly but judge for yourself. Motorcycles, scooters, cyclos, pedestrians, and cars are all over the place. Everything was being moved on some sort of bike. It is each man/woman for oneself.   Its very common for the cycles and scooters to be parked on the sidewalk so more often than not, the pedestrian is forced to walk in the street amidst the moving vehicles. 

These pics were taken between 3-4pm.  Rush hour was not even into full swing at that point.  

Walking back to my hotel @ 5pm, I was stuck in a 5 intersection traffic jam where nothing moved and no one was there to administer.  It was the motorcycles driving on the sidewalk that ultimately enabled the traffic knot to be untied.

More to come soon,
Carpe Diem,