Xin Xhao! That’s Vietnamese for Greetings! I just arrived literally, on the other side of the world after about 30 hours of travel. Tammy, Esther and I are now adjusting to our new surroundings here in Hanoi, Vietnam. Here were are at the start of our first flight from Newark to Beijing:
That’s the flight where we flew over the North Pole and Siberia to get to the Far East. We were cramped up on a 14 hour flight (we flew coach) and after a good 10 hours, we just needed to stretch and walk around. Tammy and I just kept walking in circles and looking out the window. Amazing view! There were snow-capped mountains as far as we could see! According to the information monitor on our tv screens, the temperature up there was negative 85 F. One flight down, one more to go.
The flight from Beijing to Hanoi may have been a bit shorter (about 7 hours) but it was more difficult since we were already walking zombies… and we had to get off the plane and get back on it in Southern China to let some people off, like a bus!
We met a guy in the passport line from our flight who chatted with us about China and how it’s changed over the past 29 years; including the taboo subject of the one-child law and baby girls in China (who do the men marry, if everyone wants to have a boy?) and about the government stronghold in this communist regime. Apparently, the hold is loosening up, but it’s not like America. I guess when you have never experienced the freedoms that we enjoy, you don’t really kow what you’re missing. The mini-stopover gave me a taste of how interesting it will be when we actually have a few days to explore Beijing on the way back towards the end of the trip.
After passport control, visa control and baggage claim, we were met by our driver whom we arranged ahead of time to take us to our hotel.
We drove throught he countryside into the heart of Vietnam’s capital city. What struck me was the beautiful architecture… and all the mopeds on the street! The houses are colorful and there seems to be a lot of decorations up for the Chinese New Year out already — red lanterns, lights, etc.
As for the mopeds… it’s not uncommon to see riders with all their wares heading to the night market, which our driver pointed out to us was quite lively, even at 11:00 at night, or entire families all riding on one moped! Helmets are optional. Apparently, so are turn signals and driving laws.
Once at our hotel, Melissa and Jen, high school friends of mine were there to greet us! We did it! We met on the other side of the world in a tiny little hotel on a side street in Southeast Asia! It was so nice to be greeted by familiar faces.
Melissa and Jen have already been traveling in Vietnam for about 2 and a half weeks and started telling us some of their amazing stories!
Tomorrow we’re off to Vietnam’s Halong Bay in the north, to sleep on a “junk” boat, catch up, and see the thousands of limestone formations in this UNESCO World Heritage protected site. Melissa and Jen will be leaving from Hanoi when we return, and we’ll be joined by another friend, Allison. I really wish Melissa and Jen could stay longer but alas, life and work are calling them back to reality.
I’ve been reading up on all the different customs and manners here in Southeast Asia. I’m sure I’ll pick up a lot as we go, but just being here it feels like I’m on another planet. People are very polite and very demure. They don’t yell and they smile a lot. They seem very interested in us, as we really do stick out because we don’t look like everyone else. It’s very endearing, how sweet and helpfu everyone is to us.
I’m just so excited to be here… but I think I packed too much stuff. If you ever backpack, listen to people who tell you not to bring a lot and to wear the same stuff every day! My bag is heavy!