23 04 2010

Well we made it, we are in Vietnam and it is wild. We arrived on Thursday morning and made it through immigration and customs without a hitch. We then went to an ATM and took out a million Dong or about $50 US(VTD is the Vietnamese Currency). We  found the driver the hostel had arranged for us and took the 30 minute ride into the heart of the city. The first thing you will notice on your way from the farms surrounding the airport to the tight narrow streets of the Old Quarter is what appears to be complete and utter chaos on the roads. There are cars, trucks and motos everywhere. A moto is a small scooter or motor cycle which the Vietnamese seem to use for everything from taking the entire family for a ride to moving furniture and machinery. The first major intersection we came to was just a mess with cars just weave past each other. There was no stop light or sign or anything. We made it to the hostel in the old quarter and took a walk around for a few minutes to get used to the place. All I can say is Wow.Things are going on everywhere, there are stalls and food vendors packed along every street. Most of the side walks are filled with parked motos and if they aren’t the motos take advantage of the space by expanding the road way up on to it. After getting our bags stored and finding our bunks we decided to venture further out and visit Hoan Kiem Lake. This is where things got interesting. Simple things like following a map, buying food and crossing the street become a whole new challenge in a place like Vietnam. Let me start with crossing the street which should really be called playing in traffic. Pedestrians yield to everything here and this mean that you must wade into traffic and work your way through hundreds of vehicles moving in every direction. This is intimidating to say the least but there is a method that seems to work. Wait until the flow of traffic slows down a little bit and just start walking. The trick is to not make any sudden stops or changes in direction, other drivers anticipate your movement and go around you. Well that’s the theory at least, it is really hard to do this without freaking out as a hundred or so motor bike come whizzing by you. We are starting to get used to this which has allowed us to get farther than a block from the hostel. Buying food has been another challenge although a lot less death-defying (or so we think). You usually come to a street vendor and have to bargain a bit  which is bit difficult because of the language barrier. We have spent the past couple of days exploring the city visiting temples and sampling food. We also visited the infamous Hoa La prison also known as the Hanoi Hilton. We woke up yesterday and went to the bank only to discover that I had left my ATM card in the machine at the airport, so we spent most of the morning trying to straighten that out. We eventually got things settled and headed back out into the city and visited a large complex of buildings and temple built over 1000 years ago by Confucius. We had a late lunch at a restaurant before spending the rest of the afternoon finding our way back to the hostel. Today we are taking an excursion to Halong Bay where we will sail around on a boat called a Junk which will spend the night on followed by some rock climbing tomorrow and a night on the beach of Castaway Island. I am looking forward to getting out to the coast and will post again when we get back.

unfortunately internet access is spotty at best here and it has been hard enough to get online let alone upload anything so once agin I do not have any pictures to post.




3 responses

24 04 2010
Jim & Steph

Hi Andrew & Justyna, Vietnam sounds like an
incredible experience. Looking foward to your
next post, sleeping on a junk, climbing and sleeping on an island beach sounds amazing.

24 04 2010
mom, dad, maggie

Hi Andrew and Justyna, Happy to here things are going so well and it all sounds so exciting. Sorry about the little glitch with the ATM card but that is one of your adventures. Don’t play in traffic and remember the SPF. M,D,M

23 04 2010
Bryan Flood

Hi guys – Jodi and I are really enjoying your posts. Keep them up, and have fun!

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