Vietnam is a country rich with varied cultural experiences for the traveler from sites to food. I first visited the south years ago and was amazed mostly with the method of crossing the street through incredible traffic…..the secret, of course, is to just go at a regular pace and the drivers would adjust accordingly. And from a historical perspective, I found the cu chi tunnels most interesting, except for the bat that tried to get stuck in my hair. I was with a friend who had served as an American soldier during the Vietnam war or as the locals call it, the American War. This added a few layers of depth to my overall understanding.
Years later I returned, this time to Hanoi. I walked the streets with a smile on my face as the crazy pace of local businesses stretching into the streets seemed to melt in the sun and the din of the traffic while constant felt like music. The smells were of cooking food, yesterday’s garbage and sweat from the interminable heat. None was offensive. It was just really upbeat.
The prices of hotels, food and clothing were unbelievable. I imagine they are much higher already. As I had enough time, I did a side trip to Ha Long Bay and another to Hue.
Both of these were as exciting as the big city. The Diamond Hotel in Hue was unbelievable at $25 a night including breakfast. They also arranged the boat ride and the motorcycle excursion to see all the temples.
My favorite tale of the trip was the last night at a house turned hotel near the Hanoi airport due to very early flight home. As there were no restaurants in the area the owner volunteered his brother to cook a meal for $5 each. I found a warm beer in a little store near by and walked into the kitchen to put it in their fridge. A young man was chopping the head off a fat fish on the floor while also chopping up greens nearby. At first I was convinced I would be sick if I ate here…but then realized I was probably the first person to ever wear shoes into that room! It was a delightful meal.