Here’s the much overdue synopsis of my brief encounter in Hanoi!
My first contact was with the hotel room. And the most curious observation was this:
The shower is in open view of the bed! Kinky… Thankfully, they also fitted blinds in for modesty’s sake.
We had a nice view from the window too. 🙂
My first day was spent doing the talk at a hospital, followed by a generous dinner with my hosts. Probably the most enjoyable part of the trip. They were very hospitable. 🙂
I only had the next day to see Hanoi. Decided to walk around the city and get to know their local lifestyle instead of spending the entire day at Halong Bay. (Yup! I did not visit the famed Halong Bay when I was at Hanoi– one of my best friends gaped at me in disbelief when I told her that. What’s there to miss at Halong Bay anyway??) I prefer to experience the culture and lives of the locals rather than chase sights and wonders. It’ll be great to do both, but I was limited by time.
Hanoi is vastly different from Singapore! Well, I’m sure almost all of Vietnam is, with the exception of perhaps, Ho Chi Minh city. I can only appreciate how clean and green our little city is– because the city of Hanoi is really very dusty. Maybe it’s the swarms of diesel-powered motorcycles vrooming to and fro on the roads. All motorists travel below 50km/hr in that place… you just can’t go any faster with all those vehicles and people zipping around. It’s also fascinating to see how many people can ride on a single motorcycle and what they can deliver on those two wheels (huge boxes, refrigerators, glass sheets, no kidding).
It was a great burden on our respiratory system just walking a couple of blocks around the place. Must… take… cab.
Cabs are cheap! You can go around Hanoi for just a few USD. The rickety rickshaws cost more– we got ripped off by one… paid 15 USD for riding just a couple of blocks! (Grr… I’m swearing them off forever. :()
The rest of Hanoi is cheap– food, shopping, transport. The quality of goods in general are quite disappointing though. Didn’t find any local product that I fancied at all. International brands made in Vietnam, on the other hand, are cheap and good! I particularly liked the Triumph shop I chanced upon while walking around the city. Half the prices in Singapore. 😉 Clinique was cheaper too. There are also many many dirt cheap imitations of Chanel, LV and Ferragamo goods in the shops that lined the streets– these were not so quality though. =S
One decent Vietnamese delicacy I tried was the traditional Pho-something-something beef noodle soup. They like to eat rice paper wraps… they have a lot of those! Seafood dishes are fresh and juicy too. The food is actually quite close to Chinese type cuisine.
Communication when ordering food or places was tricky. Before setting out on our own, we learned from our Vietnamese host that certain words in Vietnamese are rather close to Cantonese! So we tried that a few times and, amazingly, was understood, notwithstanding it was also punctuated with no lack of gesticulations and pointing at maps. 😀
All in all, I can’t say that I overly enjoyed my trip, especially after it ended with the airport security throwing away my moisturiser in case it was an explosive.
It was an eye-opener in many ways and certainly made me appreciate my life at home much, much more.
Well, what can I say… I am, without a doubt, a big city girl. 🙂