Turns out, Allison missed her connecting flight in Beijing last night, so she’s going to arrive in Hanoi after we leave for Sapa tonight. We booked her on an excursion to Halong Bay tomorrow and we’re gonna have to catch up with her on Sunday. Ah, travel.
Hardly slept last night because I shared a room with Jen and Melissa who had to leave for the airport at 5 in the morning and of course we were packing and talking all night. Melissa and Jen agreed to lighten my load because already I’ve quickly realized that I’m not as great a packer I thought I was and there’s a lot of stuff I can do without.
We also spent some time figuring out what we can do to make Tammy and Esther’s birthday special, so far away from home, so Jen and Melissa wrote them a card, and I decorated their door.
I couldn’t really sleep much after Jen and Melissa left, so as soon as I heard what I thought was a shower running in the room above me, I ran up there and knocked on the door. Sure enough, Tammy and Esther were up. Happy birthday, ladies!
We started our morning by trying to figure out what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. We went to the travel agent across the street from the hotel (there are many travel agencies everywhere) and booked 3 flights over the next couple of days for about $300! Flying from city to city here in SE Asia is as easy as booking your seat on a bus! And while we’re talking about the price of things, let;s talk about how inexpensive it is once you get here — last night when Jen, Melissa, Tammy, Esther and I went out to dinner, we went to a cute but sparse little restaurant where we ordered appetizers, dinner and fruit shakes. The total cost of that meal including tip was about THREE DOLLARS PER PERSON!
Anyway, we booked flights, I went to ask about getting to some sites we wanted to see today and Tammy and Esther made a pit stop at the shop next door. We wanted to go see the Ho Chi Minh moselleam and palace… but our concierge said even though it’s walking distance, they close in 25 minutes so we better think of a quick way to get there — so I booked us moped taxies! The concierge called, and a couple of minutes later, three guys on bikes come to pick us up. I ran downstairs where Tammy and Esther were shopping and said, “Let’s go!” They weren’t expecting to leave so fast, but we didn’t want to miss the moseleum so we hopped on those bikes!
Even though I was shooting a video blog while riding the moped, it was a little hard to watch the driving. At one point, a bus almost hit us. I yelped and my driver laughed! As if to let me know that us Americans can’t handle Vietnamese driving. Uh, duh.
We JUST made it to the moseleum and it was so strange! Ho Chi Minh, who died in 1969 was actually THERE, preserved, lying in state! People just walk by and gawk at his body, even though we’re told his wish was to be cremated. Guards stand by the door to make sure you’re showing respect by not talking, have your hands out of your pockets and are moving along.
Once outside, the 3 of us were a little in shock it was such a crazy experience! We ran back to get the bags we had to check and then walked around the museum and the grounds.
We saw pagodas everywhere. Melissa and Jen taught us a Vietnamese phrase that we now say to each other all the time — it’s “Same, same but different.” They say that all the time here! For example, we’d say the streets in different parts of SE Asia look same same but different. They even have shirts they sell that say it.
After our educational morning, we took the long way home through the markets and did some shopping and bargaining. Later, we even stopped by the food market vendors, which is filled with people selling all kinds of fruits and vegetables I’ve never seen before — it’s an experience for the sights and senses!
I keep noticing people overpacking their backs, cars, bikes, etc. It’s amazing how much Vietnamese people can CARRY, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s too much or too heavy for them:
In a little bit, we’ll off to take an overnight sleeping train to Sapa. I doubt I’ll have internet connection there, so I’ll have to take notes and write more after we get back early Sunday morning!