Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mekong Delta

I'm behind on posts, but I wanted to write at least one post on the Mekong Delta. It was so different from anywhere else in Vietnam. These are the "boat people" that I've read about in so many books, that have been mistreated and marginalized in their costal U.S. cities because of their minority status. Instead of saving up for a new car for the family, these guys save up to buy a boat. On them, their children travel to school, they trade their produce and animals, and at times they even live on these boats. It's a stark contrast to Saigon which is a mere three hours away. 

Homes along the river because then the government can't steal their land.

This is a typical tourist boat, although ours was much smaller.

This woman was selling beets. 

The bamboo poles were attached to each pole, indicating what produce was for sale.

A view of the floating market from the roof of our boat at 7:30 am.

Hanoi, Vietnam

This experience in Vietnam has been completely unique. We've gone from sweaty armpit weather to having to wear every article of clothing in order to survive in a mere three and a half weeks. Hanoi has been different than the other cities. It's not nearly as Westernized, and the poor infrastructure is apparent from your first steps out of the hotel. Sidewalks? I believe you mean motorbike parking areas. Despite the foreignness of this city, I love it.

I find it endearing that on Valentine's day instead of couples spending $50-$100, they went to the Pho shop on the corner and spent $2.50. The family-orientated society is much more apparent here. It's rare to see a person my age without their significant other, or even their parents.

If I could go back, I would hope that the people who planned this trip would give us more time in each place. Just when I think I've got a feel on how the city works, on where my hotel is in relation to a coffee shop or restaurant, it's time to move on. I leave for Hong Kong on Tuesday. I miss my family, my friends and Greg, but I'll definitely always remember the time I've spent here. Maybe when I've had got a few more years under my belt I'll come back to Vietnam. I'd like to see more of the beaches and walk around more in Saigon. It feels weird to finish this blog post.

The entrance to the Temple of Literature

Balloons were the gift of choice this Valentine's Day.

Mother and child walk home after a Valentine's day dinner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hue, or On [Almost] Dying

So we've been in Hue for approximately 24 hours thus far. In that time, I have indeed seen the holy body of Ho Chi Minh himself. He was encased in a tomb not unlike what I would imagine Snow White would find in her final resting place on the mountaintop. This includes engraved roses surrounding the glass case around the body. But I digress.

My friends and I (Rachel, Rachel and Neal) asked our tour guide, Ein (as in Mozart's "Eine" Kleine Nachtmusic) if there was a coffee shop nearby. 

"ah yes! No problem! Its five minutes" was his quick reply. 

Thinking ourselves clever for getting out of the hotel to do our essays (yes that's right... we have four due Friday) we quickly made for our rooms to gather our laptops and assignments. Along with these essentials, we took our maps. Ten minutes later we asked a friendly looking Vietnamese woman where to go. In our defense the maps are not to scale and they didn't tell me "recalculating" when we messed up. Five stops to ask for directions and twenty minutes later, we arrived at our destination. This is not the heart of the story.

It is Valentine's day. Thus, there are heart shaped and/or pink balloons everywhere. You've heard of the running of the bulls? We witnessed the running of the balloon men (yes, I just dropped an e.e. cummings reference). They were running from the police because they didn't have licenses. This is the backdrop of chaos that framed our walk home in the darkness of dirty Hanoi. Our savvy sense of direction got us back to the hotel in twenty minutes this time instead of thirty. 

The Rachels and I decided to walk on and leave Neal at the hotel in order to get beer (for $0.50 per can) and some oreos so we could fend off our hunger pains from lack of dinner. And then it happened: Rachel walked into the street without looking both ways (I know, Barney must not have stuck with this one). Blindly we walked behind her, the other Rachel and I. We looked to our right and I said aloud: "WE CAN'T STOP! WE CAN'T STOP!" as a taxi drove straight at us, never intending to stop. 

We made it out alive, thank the Lord. This is a cautionary tale. Don't forget what Barney taught: 

"Stop, Look and Listen before you cross the street"

The balloonmen running from the cops.

Hats for sale on the sidewalk.

The name of the game is "what's on my sidewalk". 

Round two. Sidewalk restaurant.

Neal waiting to cross the street. He's not as bold as I was... oh wait I almost got hit by a car...