Since my last post, I’ve had a day in Hanoi, an overnight train to Hue and a day here exploring the Imperial City. Tomorrow, I have a train booked to Da Nang, where I’ll hopefully be able to find some way to Hoi An, as well as a hotel when I arrive.
The food has been fantastic so far. I can only describe it as a clash of Thai and Chinese foods,as you might expect. Lots of noodles, rice, meats, and fish. We went to one of the street restaurants on the night after getting back from Ha Long Bay, and I loved every bite. A little bit saddened that nobody was brave enough to order an entire dish of the Noodles with Pigeon, sure… But my stomach will probably thank me for it in the end. I still haven’t found these fabled banana leaf pate’s that are supposed to be really good, but the fried banana healthy-heart-attack is another trusty snack.
Secondly, I have to get the rant over and done with. Motorbikes. A typical conversation around Hanoi or Hue has been going something like this…
“No, thank you.”
“where you from?”
And so on…
This is typically happening approximately every 30 seconds any time I’m anywhere near a road. Which is basically all the time. Variations are now beginning to include: “Motorbike?” “Yes it is…” “You want ride?” “No.”, and to toy with them a little more, “Moto’?” “Cheese grater.” “Where you from?” Give them a blank look and walk off looking back suspiciously. Everyone I meet has similar stories, and we all hate them. I particularly enjoyed being lost in Hue looking for my hotel, with one motorbike driver telling me it was one way, and the next telling me it was the opposite direction. One particularly helpful bike-spawn told me, “Nooooo, that’s very long way…2km”. “No it’s not..”, I proclaimed pointing at the map before finding the hotel right around the corner.
The moral I’ve taken away from this is don’t trust the motorbike madmen, ever.
One random direction actually had me wandering around parts of the city I would otherwise never have found, and believe it or not – one of my favourite areas of Hue. Never mind the citadel, the imperial city, or the museums – I found myself walking through what could only be described as the poor area. Mud-track and decayed roads just minutes away from the attractions across the river, and endless streams of people pointing and staring at the crazy pale man with sweat pouring down his body carrying two large backpacks.
The more adventurous of the children offered a “hello” and a “how are you” before running back to their friends laughing and hiding. Only one man offered me a motorbike ride and fortunately he was at the receiving end of a polite decline. He then followed and talked with me as I walked. “What’s your name?” “Where you from?” “Are you married?” The three questions you can be guaranteed to be asked within the first two minutes of any conversation. “See you again soon!” he yelled, as he waved me off so I could be pointed at and laughed at by the next group.
I felt like I was in the Vietnam of 20 years ago when tourists were a rarity barely ever seen and a novelty to the people who live here. Or maybe I just looked like shit. Still I felt as though I should be imparting some sort of western wisdom to the children following me killing time and practising their english, or the ones who thought they were incredibly brave by touching my arm. Perhaps some Krispy Kreme recipes or how to buy a McDonald’s franchise would save them from the rickety patched-up wooden shacks I saw all around me. As a girl sped by me on a moped with live ducks, flapping to escape their handlebarred prison, I came across the local market selling fruits, vegetables, prepared meat, live meat, rabbits and dogs (I think both fall under the category of live meat). Scattered all around were families sitting on plastic chairs, eating freshly cooked noodles. “Perhaps they’re better off without that Krispy Kreme”, I thought.
I certainly wish had more time to explore the smaller areas like these, escape from the cities and into the smaller towns dotted around the coast. My time in Vietnam is going really quickly, and I still have at least half the country to cover, not to mention everything I’ve passed by on the way. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back one day, I just hope I don’t leave it so late that McDonald’s and Starbucks poison the landscape and the minds of the Vietnamese.