Sunday, August 15, 2010

in vietnam

As evidence by this post, Blogger is accessible in politically communist Vietnam. Facebook is too.

I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam's buzzing capital, late this afternoon after about a 6-hour bus ride from China's southern city of Nanning. I'm staying in a hotel in the Old Quarter of the city. Having arrived here tired and late in the day, I didn't do any exploring. That will be left to tomorrow. However, I did walk through some of the nearby streets looking for a place to dive into Vietnamese cuisine.

Walking the streets of Hanoi is undoubtedly an experience. Until now, Beijing and Cairo stood as the most exciting but I think Hanoi might take the crown away. This place is buzzing with energy. Mopeds, motorcycles, cars, and bicycles are everywhere. Like locusts, mopeds and motorcycles saturate the capital's streets. And crossing the streets is a bit of hazard. Perhaps twice this evening, I might have spent at least 7 minutes waiting for a window to cross the street safely. While it's more chaotic and lawless than any Western city that I know, it is this very rawness and liveliness that makes it so appealing.

Right now, it's my intention to stay in Hanoi for 3-4 nights before exploring famous Halong Bay to the east and maybe mountainous Sapa to the northwest and then, heading southwards along the coast. In addition, I decided to extend my time in Vietnam. Instead of returning on August 30th, I will return on September 4th. Looking at my itinerary more closely and talking to other travelers who had visited Vietnam, it became apparent that two weeks here would feel rushed. Vietnam is a large country. It's larger than Italy. My two week itinerary did not include travel time which in a country of this size can be significant. Add in the fact that I don't know when I'll be back in the region again, I decided to stay here for a couple of more days. Yes, this will give me less time to unwind, unpack, and prepare for faculty orientation which begins on the 7th, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to manage.

While I slept through sizable chunks of the bus ride south from Nanning, I also found the time to look out at the lovely Vietnamese countryside. As you would suspect, rice paddy after rice paddy are everywhere as has been the case in China and South Korea. As in South Korea, it seemed like every slice of arable land has been set aside for rice production.

Although Hanoi is chaotic but invigorating, I'm hoping that some of the other parts that I plan to visit will be more relaxed. Yangshou, China, renowned for its scenic, poetic landscape, was the first real escape from the country's summer crunch in 4 weeks of traveling there. It was a welcomed relief to be away from the suffocating crowds and to relax in nature at a slowed pace. Vietnam, I think, will offer similar escapes like Yangshou.

Health-wise, I feel great. My supply of meds remains good. I haven't had any medical issues so far. In particular, I haven't experienced any diarrhea or even the slightest upset stomach to my surprise. And I've definitely enjoyed diving into the culinary riches of the countries that I've visited. I haven't been shy about this at all, which explains the wider waistline. So I've heard many people lose weight when they travel, but I also seem to do the opposite. I'll just have to work hard to burn it off these extra pounds when I'm home. Nevertheless, I'm having a great time. The foods of all these countries is awesome.

Sending warm greetings to all.


Comment Blogger david said...

Duane my man!

Hope you are well; From the looks of your posts, its seems everything is amazing my friend!
Truly jealous, enjoy the rest of the trip and be safe pal. Speak when you get back.



1:48 AM  
Comment Anonymous Donald O. said...

Hey there,

I just came upon you blog in search of some inspiration for my fight against my own nasty Hodgkins (second relapse). I distinctively remember Vietnam as one of the most fascinating experiences in my life. You were right to extend your stay, the country - and especially its people! - have so much to offer. I was personally most impressed by Saigon (the streets are so lively compared to Hanoi) and a city called Hoi-Anh, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most beautiful fisher villages. Anyway, I will follow youir adventures with delight!


6:58 AM  

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