Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunday in Vietnam

Our first order of business/pleasure was to enjoy the facilities at the Sheraton, which stands in sharp contrast to its surroundings. We worked out on the treadmills, then grabbed a bite at The Kitchen, despite Erik's desire to try something new. We spent the rest of the morning by the pool. I took a nap! It was glorious. Those of you who know me know that napping is not my forte.

Erik managed to find the one geocache in Hanoi so we set off on the motorbike to find it. It's hard to blend in when you have a map in one hand and a GPS unit in the other. Also the white skin gives us away. This cache was an "earth cache" where you just take a picture or answer questions. It was the crash of a B-52 bomber in the dirtiest excuse for a lake I've ever seen.

Erik got his way with lunch - we found a place whose name is escaping me, but the seats are all old rickshaws. The food was ok, but the atmosphere was fun. We had a few more items to buy - I wanted a set of bamboo serving bowls and a few gifts for family. It was sad to drop off our motorbike, but we felt enjoyed the feeling of a safer mode of transportation as we walked back to get our paintings. Back to the hotel to pick up our bags, where Erik tipped the bell boy a whopping 10,000 dong. I mention this because as much as we appreciated his help, we were exactly 10,000 dong short for our taxi ride back to the airport. I ran inside with a Sing $2 bill. I went to the first store I saw and said, "Change money?" She looked at me and said, "2?" Then handed me 20,000 dong, making it the easiest transaction ever. I did get shafted a bit on the exchange, but that's ok.

So what are my impressions of Vietnam? I was surprised by how undeveloped it was, but delighted by the many ways people still use old modes of business and transport - the women with their balanced baskets, people selling things along the road, makeshift everything. I kept trying to imagine living there, but it was hard because I'm used to seeing the whole spectrum of living standards, from "Never in my wildest dreams could I afford that" to "Lord, thank you that I don't have to live there." This was mostly all the latter.

On our way back through the airport we picked up our camera, no hard done aside from the agony of missing so many photo ops. It will just have to exist in my memory.

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