Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thursday in Vietnam

I tried not to do it, but it was really hard to keep any images or quotes from Good Morning Vietnam from running through my head as we headed off to Hanoi on Thursday afternoon (sans children who were delighted to have a whole weekend with friends). That movie's the only impression I have of Vietnam, that and the sense that if I were Vietnamese, I don't know that I would like Americans very much.

I expected something crowded, like Bangkok, but the airport was still, and the air outside smelled like a giant bowl of incense. We placed our fate, as we have done so many times now in Asia, in the hands of a stranger with a taxi, trusting that he would ferry us to our hotel by the most direct route and not swindle us. It was hard to get an idea of what we were in as we drove through the dark, seeing only a few narrow houses popping up here and there. It was strange to be driving on the right side of the road again - why can't we all just pick one side and stick with it?

At the airport we had changed some money into Vietnamese dong. We walked away with over 1,000,000 dong which made us feel quite rich until we handed over nearly 200,000 to our cab driver. Easy come, easy go.

We stayed at the Sheraton because we had lots of points that made it free. That was a blessing, but it stood in such contrast to its poor surroundings that it felt unreal. After a very warm welcome, we grabbed some room service dinner and settled in for our weekend in Hanoi.

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