After conference ended, we said farewell to Thailand (but not before a cuddly visit to the Tiger Kingdom).
A short plane ride later, we arrived in Hanoi for our 10 days in Vietnam. The past two days we spent among the karsts on a boat in Halong Bay. I could have stayed 10 days on that boat alone -- how in the world can we see the country in that time? I'm already thinking I may have to return someday.
Hanoi is the most humid place I have been. It's winter now and not terribly hot, but the moisture in the air has you sweating in minutes. We met up with a couple from my organization who teaches here, and they talk about the physical burden of having to climb up 5 or 6 flights of stairs and teach a 2.5 hour class in the sweltering summer. I can't imagine fighting a war in this climate.
The language barrier here is more pronounced than in China. Very few people know any English, except those connected with the tourism industry. And heaven knows I don't speak Vietnamese. (6 tones??? frightening!) We've found that even trying to get food at a restaurant is a challenge. At the same time, it's nice to be in a place that isn't as overrun with tourists as Thailand. Our part of Thailand was entirely centered around the foreigners, but it seems like here the local culture just goes on as if we weren't around.
The very best thing we did in the city was going to Fanny's ice cream buffet. All you can eat for only 75,000 dong! Less than 5 dollars! I clocked in at 17 scoops, a far cry from my friend Samson's 32 scoops. Tonight we'll probably go back for more ice cream, as we're meeting another friend from our organization's Vietnam team. Exccelllent.
I'm sorry I can't seem to communicate with any of your people. I hate your currency and your language is impossible, but the scenery rocks. Keep up those cool hats and the rice paddies in the countryside. Also, could you arrange for some sunshine in Halong Bay next time I come through? Thanks.