Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vietnam: Girls Trip to Hanoi and First Impressions

On March 29th, the “girls” took a trip down to northern Vietnam for Elizabeth and Anna’s school break. (Lord Capulet had play practice.) We began our adventure with a 3+ hour flight from Beijing to Hanoi. We stayed at The Galaxy Hotel on the edge of the Old Quarter. What a vibrant, dynamic place! It was a bit overcast, so the pictures do not do justice to the life and activity around us. Motorcycles zoomed in an out, carrying young and old, tall and small. We saw grandmothers in suits and toddlers tucked between parents, almost all with helmets. Crossing the street was unnerving at first. The secret is to walk slowly and steadily, trying to make contact with the cycles zooming toward you. There was indeed a rhythm to the madness. Along the sidewalks folks would sit on small tables outside shops, conducting the activities of daily life – cooking, playing cards, talking. Straw cone hats were not just tourist items, but were actually worn by some to shade the sun and stop the rain.

The homes were tall and narrow. Apparently taxes are determined by the width of the buildings. Hmm - what other architectural influences result from tax policies? The architectural style also showed a French influence. At spots it look a bit like New Orleans. Our food choices included “pho” – Vietnamese noodles. After becoming quite comfortable with the Chinese Yuan, we needed to adapt to the Vietnamese dong, which is 17,000 dong to $1.

Among our stops in Vietnam was a trip to the water puppets, which is an art form that arose from the countryside. The puppet show was literally in water, with a story told in Vietnamese, accompanied by music. At the end the curtain came up to reveal the puppeteers standing in thigh-high water.

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