28 July 2008

Same Same But Different: Hanoi-Style

Four days in Phu Quoc left both Kyle and I in a semi-permanent state of “nothing is all that serious.” That bungalow – combined with amazing food and a significant (but welcome) lack of people left us totally unprepared for the frenetic energy of Hanoi.

After a one-night layover in Rach Gia, where we witnessed the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen (the sky changed about 10 different colors over the course of an hour), we boarded our PROP plane to make our connection in Saigon. The airport - which only sees two flights go in and out per day – consisted of a coffee shop, a security guard and a big door that opened to the runway, where we walked right on to our PROP plane, circa 1949. I think it may have been a DC-9.

2 hours in Saigon and we were on a real plane, kit kats and ritz crackers in-hand. Arriving in Hanoi was slightly overwhelming – so many people, so many gates and so many touts posing the exact same question – “Hello, motorbike?” Our minibus driver couldn’t find our hostel and so just stopped at one and said “yep, this is it.” Fortunately, Kyle had been to Hanoi before, so knew where we were supposed to be. Unfortunately, the guesthouse he really liked had no room. That left us wandering the streets in search of an alternative, which we found in the Prince II Hotel. (Prince I was full, so they motor-biked us and our bags to their satellite hotel a few blocks away). For $17 we had a real bathtub, satellite TV, wireless internet, a full-on duvet and air-conditioning. It was so incredibly luxurious!

Our two and a half days in Hanoi weren’t filled with a whole lot of blog-worthy material. After a solid month of traveling (with 7 consecutive days of bus travel at one point) we were both totally exhausted. We did visit the “Hanoi Hilton” where John McCain was held during the Vietnam War, though two thirds of it was razed to build the “Hanoi Towers,” a massive 5-star hotel. Hmm…Still, it was incredibly interesting and eye-opening. No one really wins in war because, as FDR put so well, war is hell. The battlefield is only one tenth of all that is involved in armed conflict – wounded, dead, prisoners of war, long-term health problems, reconstruction, urban renewal – the list goes on and on.

Beyond this site, we focused on resting (watched the entire season four of The Office), shopping (my sister and brother are rather lucky siblings) and eating (the food is Hanoi is absolutely phenomenal, as are the prices). Oh, and I drank 9 iced coffees in 3 days. Addiction? It’s very likely…


Kyle Taylor

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