Hanoi, Vietnam – First Impression – Awesome!
While I’m waiting for Betty to arrive, I’m sitting on the steps in my cozy homestay (Hanoi Family Homestay) run by Huong and her family. She also goes by Perfume. 🙂 It’s smack dab in the middle of the Old Quarter here and the sounds are a cacophony of horns, motorbikes, people gathering around at the corner shop or eatery, cars, and yells from vendors. I love it!
I arrived in the afternoon yesterday and got to my homestay in a funny way. I had arranged for someone to pick me up but there was a mix-up from Huong. While I was waiting many of the guys at the arrival area were asking if I needed a taxi, I kept telling them no that I had a ride. Well, after about 30 minutes after getting out, I see a sign for a “Melanie,” knowing that my name gets misspelled many times I tried to ask him if he was picking up for Huong from Family Homestay. Yep that was a funny conversation. I was definitely not the Melanie he was looking for but another guy approached and I think he was a taxi dispatcher. He asked where I was staying I gave him the number to my homestay and he “apparently” called her. I had to “trust” this guy and asked him many questions. He spoke better English and I kept telling him, “I’m not paying you for your service.” LOL He replied, “Ok, don’t worry I will get you to where you need to go.” I followed him out and he told me to wait a few minutes. He then ventured to a foreign couple I saw in the visa line and turns out we were going to share a taxi.
The awesome thing about traveling are the situations that you land in. As a traveler, you just need to roll with it. I met Michael and Jana from Australia and they didn’t realize that they needed a visa before landing in Vietnam, because of that they ended up paying a substantial amount of money for just 24 hours. So remember, get your visa prior to flying here or what Betty and I did, we got a formal letter from a travel agency and when you arrive you can pay then. (Thanks for the tip Jeff Wilson) Though the process in Hanoi can be a bit slow. Once you turn your papers in, you have to wait for your picture to show up on the other side and your name is announced by a funky computer voice. It pronounced my name pretty well.
We were finally in the taxi and driving into the center of Hanoi. I’ve never seen such a high concentration of motorbikes in one city. We were laughing and also freaking out together at the driving with the near misses and the amount of passengers they would fit on one bike. We saw a guy driving with a live chicken in one hand and because it was raining, they had special covers they would place on their bike while driving. The guy driving with the chicken was pretty good but in my travels here, there have been 2 things on motorbikes I was most amazed at: 1) In Manila, I saw a dog on the back of a bike sitting on the regular seat totally balancing himself on it like it was a normal thing. I laughed with the driver and said,”That is one talented dog!” There is no way Koa boy would have been able to do that. 2) Yesterday while recording sounds in front of our homestay, there is a vendor that sells bamboo sticks and ladders. A couple was on their bike picking up two bamboo trunks that were literally 2 to 3x the size of them and they rode off with me fearing that someone was gonna get decapitated. Amazing!
It was about a 40 minute ride in and I finally arrived safely and at the proper homestay. I wasn’t dropped off randomly, we’ll see how Betty fares out today. I think she’ll be fine as I guaranteed that someone will be there… I hope. LOL
I’ve met a great amount of people here at Hanoi Family Homestay. Last night I shared dinner made by Huong with 5 other travelers, 3 from Canada and 2 from France. We had homemade spring rolls, tofu with tomato and vegetables along with some beer. It was delicious. They have a saying painted on their wall, “You are a family friend, not just a tourist.” Last night proved to be true along with making new travel friends. The best part of traveling for sure.
This morning I went around and was able to snap a few pictures of the life here in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. I’ll walk around more once Betty arrives and tonight we’ll be doing a street food tour. Yummy!
Till then here are a few pics from my morning walk here: