Friday, November 23, 2007

day one in hanoi

I'm in Hanoi for four days, staying with friends Sherman and Becky. This is my first time in Vietnam, and my first time to be out of Hong Kong in close to a year. It's nice to be somewhere new. Granted, I've felt more helpless and generally stupid in the last day than I have in a long time, but I'm enjoying the risks, the learning... everything!

Some of yesterday's memorable moments... in list form (no pictures yet -- I'll have to insert some when I get home):

  • making it to the gate in time (I left my house about half an hour later than planned, then waited for the airport bus longer than planned... thankfully HK has one of the most efficient airports in the world... I even had time to pick something up at Starbucks). We had to take a ground-transport bus to our plane (my first time to do this in HK), and I had what we might call a very small panic attack when I suddenly considered the fact that I didn't know even one word of Vietnamese. It's been such a last minute trip -- so much so that I hadn't done any research whatsoever, or even learned how to say "thank you." That's been remedied now, thanks to Sherman and Becky and their Lonely Planet phrase book.
  • sitting on the airplane, relieved to have made the flight, and then gradually noticing that the easy-listening jazz being pumped through the plane was a cover of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit." Interesting.
  • making a conscious effort to put on my "I know what I'm doing" face while wandering through the Hanoi airport, looking for a taxi to take me to Sherman and Becky's. It turned out to be a very easy experience, but once again, I was mildly tempted to fall into I'm-in-a-new-country-and-can't-speak-the-language hysterics.
  • drawing and coloring a life-sized Princess Dora [the Explorer] for Hannah's fourth birthday party. The kids played "pin the tassel on the princess's hat. :)
  • wandering around some of the streets in the old part of town and drinking in the cool mix of architecture -- modern, traditional Vietnamese, French colonial, Chinese.
  • crossing streets. "Just keep walking and assume that the motorcycle-drivers see you and will go around you." That's what I kept telling myself. I think my time in China was good preparation for this visit...
  • trying to figure out the street food, but ultimately deciding to eat at a very non-adventurous restaurant. But it's probably a good thing I did. Not only would I have had no idea what I was ordering (besides being able to see and point to ingredients), but also, Becky informed me that Hanoi's in the middle of a small cholera outbreak at the moment, so I'm glad I stayed on the safe side...
  • hiring a motorcycle to take me back to Sherman and Becky's place. What a thrill! It made my afternoon of carrying around the extra helmet very much worth it. So yes, I wasn't completely unsafe -- I wore a helmet. But then I burned my leg on the tailpipe getting off, and have a nice big blister to prove it.
Well, I guess I'll get started enjoying day two!

1 comment:

Daniel Bowring said...


But what about day two? Will you really just leave us in suspense like this? Really?