Asia 2009: Ha Noi (Viet Nam)

Being Vietnamese, I’ve always been asked if I’ve ever been to Viet Nam and the answer has always been “no”… Until now!

Original plans were to fly into Ha Noi, stay the night,┬ástay a night on a junk boat in Ha Long Bay, and then take an overnight train to Sapa to see the countryside. However, all our relatives kept telling us that we couldn’t go to Viet Nam without seeing Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) so we decided to skip Sapa and fly to Saigon instead.

We had a bit of a scare when we landed in Ha Noi. C had written his passport number wrong on his visa application so it didn’t match his passport. The military police at the airport gave us a little trouble, telling us he wouldn’t be able to enter the country, but eventually allowed us to pass (without extortion) through immigration where the driver our hotel sent was waiting for us. The next twenty minutes were even scarier than the whole deal with immigration; we were about to have our first taste of Vietnamese driving. It was pitch black, rain was pouring down, and our driver was tailgating, weaving in and out between cargo trucks, honking, and flashing the high beams in his 1980’s Toyota Corolla. I honestly think that this was the closest to death I’ve ever been. I couldn’t be happier to be out of the car once we arrived at the hotel.

Street in Hanoi

Our Ha Long trip was canceled due to rain so we spent two days exploring Ha Noi with our Ha Noi native friend, Nhung, instead.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

We ran into this exploring the old quarter. It’s the St. Joseph’s Cathedral and apparently it looks like the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris if you look really fast and squint your eyes. This was the first French copy; Louis Vuitton was naturally next.

Lunch at Quan An Ngon

We had lunch at Quan An Ngon which literally means “tasty food stall”. Apparently this is a chain of that serves typical Vietnamese fare. I got to try Pho Cuon which is supposed to be all that is good about Pho wrapped up into a roll. It was interesting but I’ll take Pho Tai Chin over it any day.

Museum of Ethnography

We visited the Museum of Ethnography. It had a lot of trinkets and replications from Vietnamese culture. We didn’t stay long though because it was like a sweat box in the museum. I wasn’t sure what to make of this statue. Constipation maybe?

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