You know, to look at the two countries , S.korea and Vietnam on a map, yes you would say Vietnam defintiely looks bigger, but not by that much. Vietnam has 80mil people and SK has 50. But for some reason things feel much more crowded in Korea. We bus-rode through numerous areas of Vietnam that really were wide open spaces.
Things kicked off in Hanoi, see above, where they really know how to put cement and paint to good use. The city looked great. Initially the traffic, overwhelmingly light motorcycles, was panic-inducing but as the 2 weeks progressed I could see how (other than a space-age mass-transit system) motorbikes were the most logical solution. Folks beep the horns in the way fish use sonar (not angry honking like westerners) but even then, if everybodies doing it, it can create quite a din that I imagine would take several months to desensitise to.
Pretty much everyone was on the make in Hanoi. Anyone who could charge me more, would. Luckily I had my friend M– there, who is much wiser to the grifting and more adept at haggling.
It’s a really attractive city with almost no high-rises or sky scrapers.
I didn’t know anyone was still doing the hammer and sickle. We said and thought several times that it’s a good thing that Vietnam won the last war and not the US (and allies). We didn’t see one McDonalds the whole fortnight. (Saw one KFC (in HCMCity and two Loterias). There’s no dick-sucking of coporate capitalism of the kind that’s rampant in S.Korea. Sure, it’s not communism in the way Lennin and Trotsky envisioned it, but they’re doing their own thing; people looked healthy, happy not wanting — for the most part.
Once we got out of the city — a 12-16hour scrappy busride down the coast — I found that the people in Hanoi were actually a bit stand-offish compared to country folks. We took the ‘tourist busses’ which are supposed to be the more cushy option, but they were still a huge pain in the arse and easily the most challenging thing during the trip. Next time I’d take the train 1st class.
Hoi an is know for its tailors, and above is me with Mr.Xe (pronounced ‘sheh’). M– “I only need two pairs of pants to be happy” E. sez she thinks she heard he was gay, but just because he asked me to strip down to jocks to take measurements… and then stuck his hands in my pockets when the suit was done, doesn’t mean he’s homosexual I think. Suit not pictured.
I went for it bigtime. Pictures will appear as new clothing comes to hand, and in contrast to my travelling companion, I like the postmodernist notion of slipping on different masks, becoming different people from time to time. I got a white safari suit.
I think we both agreed that Hoi an was the nicest place we stopped at during the two weeks. Wikipedia says the pop. is 25 000 but the LP books says 76, so there must be another 50 or so in the surrounding area. Either way – it was a good size. Bicycles are cheap to rent and make for a super way to get around. There’s an excellent beach about 4kms out of town which no body goes to. Shop owners are honest and friendly. Accommodation is cheap and plentiful.
Here, M– is eating a local delicacy called ‘whie rose’ (kind of like korean mandoo, or dim sum) and also we’re getting stuck into the fantastic vietnamese style coffee and yummy carbonated mineral water. Thanks to French colonialism, folks in Vietnam really know how to grow and brew a good coffee.
I am having the lunch of champions; pho bo! Pho Bo! Pho Bo! — rice noodles, a little beef and green leafy vegetable in clear broth.
Kids in Da Lat, like everywhere else in the world, are cute.
On the back of our motorbike, whacked out on caffeine, we held up a bandanna store using only wild-eyed looks and bad use of tonal lang. Made off with an armful of neckerchiefs and about 4$US; good for 10 or 12 more coffees.
More excruciating detail at flickr
*Also see Vietnam Holiday: the second time*