Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a beautiful city of friendly people. With a population of 7 million in an area of 1291 mi², Hanoi is known for its centuries-old architecture and rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. I was amazed with how beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake are in this city. I was also impressed at how people drive/ride here. With the many cars and scooters on the road, flow of traffic is heavy. It certainly looks like everyone will get into accident, but they all seem to know how to maneuver around one another. After almost being hit twice, I learned that the secret to crossing the street is to keep walking and not stop to wait for motorists to stop. That is, because, most likely, they won’t give way for pedestrians.
Even though it is only 316 km, the car ride to get here from Dongxing, China took over 7 hours. Surprisingly, the road was not as rough as I had expected, but the fact that it’s just very windy and single lane, it makes it hard to go more than 45 km/hr. The first time I visited this city was in 2007 with my godbrother, Anh Tom. The feeling I had back then is far different from what I felt this time. I guess that my dear godbrother was just very protective of me, so he showed me only the nicest hotels, shopping areas, the most beautiful scenery and the finest cuisine. He was worried I might get sick if he took me to eat local street food or that I might get robbed if I was to walk on local markets. Fortunately, this time, we lived in the heart of downtown where we got to see a lot more of the life of ordinary people and taste their yummy local food. And no, I did not get sick or robbed! LOL
The highlight of this 4 day trip was conversing with a super fun taxi driver while we were going sightseeing. I asked my normal interview questions to a local person in every city I visit and since my questions were so different from those of the rest of the tourists (gay marriages, red light district and pricing, corruption, divorce rate and cheating ratio, etc), our conversation became very entertaining. When I saw my uncle’s wife looking puzzled while the rest of us were heartily laughing with the driver, I felt very grateful that I am able to understand and speak some Vietnamese to enjoy a simple conversation and laugh with everyone without having a translator. Indeed, I do feel very privileged to be able to communicate in 4 languages today. I was once told that if I knew Spanish then I should be able to travel and get by in over 95% of the world. I am still open to learning this language in a Spanish-speaking country some day.
We are leaving for Seoul, South Korea today…