Hello Hanoi

8 Sep

You know that moment when you’re in the middle of doing something you really hadn’t thought much about until it finally hits and you find yourself asking “What the fuck I am I doing.” I had that exact moment yesterday when I landed in Hanoi, jumped into a cab and participated in what can only be described as Mario Kart Double Dash, with the drivers and excessive amounts of motorbikers speeding around each other, ignoring all rules of the road and finding excitement in last minute avoidance of accidents. 

After over 24 hours of travel — a 16 hour flight from JFK to Taipei, followed by a three hour layover and a three hour flight from Taipei to Hanoi — we (my sister Angela and I) found ourselves at the Backpacker Hostel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The hostel kicks the asses of any other hostel I have been to. It has nightly pre-games (themed parties, beer pong nights, pub crawl nights), free beer and 2 for 1 vodkas for happy hour, a full kitchen and bar, bar crawls, free actual breakfast (eggs, toast, yogurt, bacon, coffee) and really excellent resources for things to do both in and around Hanoi. 

Let’s talk Hanoi. In the under 24 hours I have amassed in this city, I’ve experienced severe culture shock, even after researching the city and getting the no-frills lowdown from friends who have visited before. Let me break down a few things:

  • Motorbikes are king. You cannot open your eyes in this city without seeing a motorbike. Seriously, I think that Hanoi single-handedly keeps Suzuki’s business afloat. Everyone and their mother navigates these streets on bikes. People in dresses and heels, the elderly, teenagers going to school, delivery people and more. People will put anything on their bikes, I have so far seen multiple cases of soda cans tied to the back of a bike, flowers, and a passenger holding artwork – like, massive canvases in between him and the driver. Anything goes. Also, sidewalks do not exist – they are simply places to park your bike. 

  • The Vietnam dollar is Monopoly money and Monopoly money is cheap. Attempting to convert the Vietnam dollar to the United States dollar makes no sense in my brain and I don’t think that it ever will. Angela and I have a conversion key saved on our phones so that when we buy things we know what we’re doing. I took out 3,000,000 VD — the maximum the ATM would spit out — at an ATM at the airport and thought I had taken out 3,000 USD and and had a minor breakdown. Turns out it was 150 USD and that that 150 USD will last me a very long time. Here at the hostel a 1.5L water bottle costs 15,000 VD – under one USD, a mojito costs under 3 dollars, and a vodka soda you may ask? Around 2 dollars. This fact alone could bring me to tears of happiness. If heaven doesn’t have cheaper vodka sodas, send my body back to a Hanoi bar.
  • People expect you to wash your butt with a hose. Perhaps the most troubling part of being here is the septic system. The toilets cannot handle toilet paper and you’re expected to throw the toilet paper you use in the trash (sorry hostel, I have yet to get used to this). Further, each toilet is equipped with a hose similar to that of a kitchen sink hose. Except that you’re meant to use this romantically titled “bum gun” hose to clean your ass rather than wipe with toilet paper. Sorry Vietnam, not happening.  

  • The food is frightening for my French fry and chicken tender loving self. Food places are everywhere, like actually everywhere. Apparently different blocks specialize in different food types and from what I’ve seen so far, no English translations or explanations exist anywhere…except for at the Burger King which is laughably out of place and seemingly offers free beer (step it up America). Angela and I, in our overwhelmed, jet-lagged stupor, walked the streets attempting to find food we should try but instead recoiled in food anxiety and the fear of bikers and settled on hostel food. Do I wish that I had done more research on food before coming here to have an idea of what I should eat? Yes. But did I spend this morning googling where Anthony Bourdain ate in Hanoi and now feel like I can tackle this day’s eats? Also yes. Thank you forever, Tony.

Today will be our first functioning day in the city and we have plans to do a walking tour, visit a temple located in Hoan Liem lake and maybe take on a couple of museums. We will also attempt to order Pho and avoid being hit by biker friends.


One Response to “Hello Hanoi”

  1. CINDY September 12, 2016 at 10:41 am #


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