Good Morning! This ain’t Vietnam–oh yes it is!
Hanoi! The commie capital, the heart of “Charlie,” the hive of the Viet Cong, the place of the “POW Hilton”! It’s so good to be here!
Fresh from a 33 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang, then to Vientiane, and finally to Hanoi! Some highlights from the trip:
1. Watching an old Lao man vomit all over a younger Lao guy’s face in the middle of the bus ride.
2. Watching the Lao men trying to “cross streams” while pissing on the side of the road.
3. TWO DAYS WITH NO SLEEP
4. My last memory of Laos, a cute 9 year-old Lao girl selling balloons, who I had taught English too, finding me on the last day, saying: “Hey, you want Pepsi baby?”
Me: “Pepsi baby? What is that? Pepsi…peep…peep show baby?”
girl: “Yes. Peep show. You want peep show baby?”
Me: “Oh. That figures.” I bought a balloon.
But it doesn’t matter, you know, cuz I’m in Hanoi! The place of the communist star, and Ho Chinh Minh (Uncle “Ho”), the “Mao” of Vietnam.
The drive here was gorgeous. Unlike Lao people, the Vietnamese have learned to cut down their jungles. That’s right—SCREW THOSE JUNGLES. Vietnam used to be a place of mass starvation, one of the biggest importers of rice in the world. Now it’s a rising wealthy nation, and one of the biggest EXPORTERS of rice in the world, all because they CUT DOWN THOSE JUNGLES. Oh yes, and because of their repudiation of communist economics.
“The North and South Vietnamese have a history of racism and hatred, but since the fall of the Soviet Union, the North and South have overcome their differences for business and fast-paced construction, and now carry no such enmity.” – Lonely Planet
Is there a more beautiful sentence in the English language? “overcome their differences for business”! Stunning, ethereal–bleed those words! I know I will.
Being in Hanoi, it’s all quite true. Hanoi must be one of the busiest cities in the world, every Vietnamese is always in a rush, and every other store specializes in construction materials. This is a city very much on the rise, though it’s already pretty advanced. It’s very similar to what Korea was like in the 80s, or so people tell me.
Actually, it’s so busy here it’s scary. People will run into you without thinking about it, the motorbikes will line up and completely ignore anyone crossing the street like Roman legions charging at you:
Scariness. Actually, it gets pretty exciting crossing the street at times, the adrenaline hits you like a hammer, and all you can think is “Oh my god I’m going to die”. But you just take it easy, they will navigate against you.
The leitmotif so far has been “Water”. It’s everywhere. In the typhoons, in the thousands of rice fields, and even in Hanoi, every district is circled around a lake, and on almost every street I find myself walking over a bridge, after a block or two. The big traditional show here is “Water puppets,” which is pretty much like it sounds, and even funner when under some influence.
The police smoke marijuana on the streets here. Some friends and I stopped to watch, and they joined in, saying: “There are no cops around, right?”
This place is totally awesome, it’s everything an urban traveler needs–except the curfew. Yes, it’s officially still “conservative,” though it’s changing fast, and the curfew is midnight. Even though I was out until 1am tonight. The more popular dance bars have a lock-in until 5am, which must get pretty exhausting.
Tomorrow I go to see the War Museum, which is full of American stolen goods, as well as dog-tags of the deceased. Pretty disturbing.
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