Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vietnam: Part 1

We began our trip in Hanoi which is a decent sized city with lots of energy, and at times it was downright crazy. The first thing you notice is the crazy traffic, most of which is motorbikes, and as a result, the air is acrid with the smell of exhaust. Everyone beeps their horns constantly. This seems to be the general practice in South-East Asia since there are virtually no signs, traffic lights or even lanes, so using your horn is the only defensive driving technique. The sidewalks are unwalkable due to vendors and parked motorbikes, so you have to walk in the street amongst this wild traffic--hair-raising. Also very noticeable is the poverty. There didn't appear to be many homeless or destitute people, but the standard of living is low. Thus, people are constantly trying to hustle or hawk you. There is an endless streem of offers to buy this or that or take a motorbike ride, etc. You have to be firm and thick skinned to even make it down the street.

In Hanoi, we spent all of our time in the Old Quarter. It has some beautiful, old, French-influenced architecture. Our time was spent walking the city, hanging out in cafes, shopping, and sightseeing. Things were very inexpensive in Hanoi. Our hotel was simple but clean, and it cost $50 per night. There was lots of great shopping; could have purchased much more. We both got silk shirts for about $15 per shirt. Hanoi was super hot and there was almost no air conditioning. We had AC in our hotel, but most restaurants were fans only.

Street scenes of Hanoi:
(We have 2 cameras so the pictures are a combination of shots by Erik & Amy.)
Note the crazy mass of telephone wires. It is as if each house has its own line. Communism is alive and thriving.

We are sitting inside a cafe when this picture was taken and the man on the right is approaching the window selling tour books. The books are sealed in plastic, but when you buy and open them, they are just a photocopy of a very outdated tour book.

We were only in Hanoi a few moments before we were scammed. This vendor was selling bananas and pineapples and approached us to buy, but when we nicely said no, she quickly placed the goods on my shoulder, hat on my head, and encouraged us to take a photo. After doing so, she basically forced us to buy fruit from her as "payment" for the photo. We didn't fall for that trick again but did see other tourist being victimized.

Many times, Erik was offered to have his shoes repaired by mobile cobblers. They could spot his tearing shoe from a block away. After saying no several times, he finally agreed, because they really did need repair. Erik bartered with the guy and agreed on a price to glue the shoe, but then after the gluing, the cobbler proceeded to polish the shoes too. Then he raised the price since he had also polished. This is how they get you. Erik bartered again, and when it was finished, he only paid the guy less than $2.00. The street vendors are very clever.

No comments: