Tucker in Asia

Friday, May 26, 2006

We find the heat

Today is the first real day of intense heat and humidity and I think it will only grow worse as we continue to move south. We are in Hanoi, I am not entirely sure of the temperature, it is over 30ºC, but it sure is humid. There was a rain shower an hour ago so that cooled things off but this is going to take a bit of an adjustment.

We first arrived in Hanoi a few days ago via a slow, loud, overnight train from Sapa (it was also the nicest train we had been on). The train spit us off somewhere onto a random street with loads of motor cycle taxis and car taxis about 5:30 AM. My first realglimpses of Hanoioccurredd as we were loading into a taxi car with some others (to split the cost) and a mototaxi came up to us with the driver pressing the horn down for us to move; and he was not giving up on the horn.Apparentlyy instead of simply going around us he wanted to drive where we were loading and the horn is the obvious sign to get the hell out of the way. Since he could have easily gone around, it was 5:30 in the morning, and the horn was loud I was sort ofirritatedd at the driver so in my defense I reached over his handle bars and physically moved his thumb off the horn. He got really pissed. It was really funny. The karma came back to me a few minutes as our cab driver went the long way to the hotel and the cost was probably double what it should have been. Oh well.

We have spent two days in Hanoi splitting them up with a two day tour of Halong Bay, the infamous bay with the limestonepillarss. Other than the overcast/rainy weather the area is beautiful and very unique. There seem to be numberlesspillarss that just jet up out of the ocean covered in green foliage.

Hanoi seems to be the land of motor bikes. They are everywhere and here in the Old Quarter they outnumber cars at least 50 to 1. This is a lively city, lots seems to be happening, and the Vietnamese live their life in the street, which is interesting to observe and try to experience. Shops and restaurants pour well onto thesidewalkk, actually we rarely walk on thesidewalkk because it is so filled with motorbikes and random stuff. Its muchtastierr and easier to eat street food here than in China. The food has changed a bit from China, very similar foods but less is deep fried greasy and there is maybe a little less spice. Thanks to the French they have bread which was a rarity in China. The people of Vietnam also differ from the Chinese. First off they seem much more open to western tourists and don't gawk (but they do try to sell you everything in a verypersistentt manner). After doing the little Halong tour and talking with some other tourists I realized that the Vietnamese first approach tourists as open, kind, happy you are here, and then after you pay, or do the tour they turn a bit and act as if they no longer speakEnglishh or are oblivious to any problems or concerns. Like the cab driver. There was also a little food shortage incident on our Halong Bay tour, basically a family traveling with a two year old had paid for all three of them but the crew would only bring food for the two adults. Strange situation. The rest of Hanoi has been fun too see, mostly just walking around and taking the city in but we did see the Temple of Literature and the Hanoi Hilton, the prison where American POWs were kept during the Vietnam War. This is where John McCain was. The information on the Vietnam war was intriguing, a very differentinterpretationn from what most American'sperceivee. The exhibit at the museum makes it sound as though staying at the prison was similar to staying at the Hilton, except you couldn't leave and listed in the rules was no "sharing free thought".

We are leaving Hanoi tonight heading south, starting to push our way a little quicker towards Bangkok. All this heat is making me think beach and there is so much to see and do three months doesn't seem like that much time. Well, see ya later.


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