Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Honk if you love Hanoi!

I’m at a loss to come up with new adjectives to describe Hanoi, having already used the words chaotic and intense to describe Bangkok. So how about some new qualifiers? Hanoi is more chaotic and more intense than Bangkok. But it’s charming too, with it’s maze of alleyways and French colonial architecture. But after almost a week, the maze continues to confound my sense of direction, and I am finding myself continually turned around! (I blame it on the lack of sun to help guide me.)

The old quarter originally had a street dedicated to each of the 36 guilds. The guilds may be gone, but categories of stores are still lumped together. You’ll see six or more stores in a row selling the same thing. There’s toy street, root vegetable street, shoe street, ladder street, caged bird street (didn't so much like that one...), tape and adhesive street, mannequin street, buttons and zipper street (aka notion street), and aquarium street, to name just a few. Also, you know you’re in the old quarter when you have to walk in the street, as the sidewalks are impeded with overflow goods from stores, food stalls selling tasty and cheap pho and banh mi and bun cha, and otherwise crowded with parked (or moving) motorbikes.

On Christmas Eve our hotel invited us to a party they were hosting at their sister location. Upon arrival, the hotel owner, Chin, poured us each a mugful of straight vodka and showed us and some other guests how to do a proper cheers in Vietnamese; and later, Chin tried with mixed success to turn the evening into a dance party. But it was a great evening of snacking and chatting with other travelers and discussing the various ways that led us to all be in Hanoi for Christmas.

On Christmas Day we went to the Water Puppet Theatre, which was really fascinating, and later, while we were sitting by the lake, a group of about 8 university students came up to us to interview us for a school project. They took turns nervously asking us the same few questions (where are you from? Do you like Hanoi? Where are you going after Hanoi?) and giggling; it was very cute. Then we asked them some questions, and chatted with them for about 20 minutes. Before they left, they asked us if we would sing a Christmas song, so we asked if they knew any, and they knew “we wish you a Merry Christmas” so we all sang that! It was all very random, but a lot of fun.

Not a bad way to spend Christmas, but it just doesn’t compare to what we missed at home. We miss you guys! xo

These are stamped all over walls in Vietnam; I haven't figured out what they're for...
any ideas? I was thinking some sort of registration number.

If I hadn't seen them move, I would have thought they were fake.

We had a custom stamp made; it was amazing to watch how quickly and skillfully he worked.

New friends

We had one of these Butte Cream cakes for Christmas. Mmmmm, butte cream.

Need to work on my chopstick skills...

The sombre Ho Chi Minh mausoleum


  1. Wow, I can't believe those frogs were real!
    What did the stamp say? It must be so tough to sparingly decide what things to buy when you have to carry everything with you!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Missing you guys too!! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

    -K xoxo