Vietnam 4: Hanoi

Editor’s note: Post has been redone and previously missing photos have been inserted.  Sorry the formatting is a little sloppy.  

A little achronological and such, but here are some odds and ends from my time around Hanoi at the end of February, and again in mid-March.

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Cook and baby from lunch on my first full day in Vietnam. Oh, the shock of not being able to talk to anyone! Even on day one in China, thanks to a few friends both in Taiwan and in Korea, I had a few phrases under my belt, such as “I’m vegetarian,” “I’m American,” and “The apple tastes good.” I didn’t even have a Vietnamese dictionary installed on my phone at this point. Point at some greens and get…steamed greens, no sauce. Point at some tofu and get…fried tofu, no sauce. Not an encouraging first day. Still, the dude was nice, asked me (with gestures) to stay for tea, figured out that we were the same age, and went into the back of the restaurant, which must also have been his house, to pridefully pull out his baby and show me.

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I hate to harp, but this is why No Trash is one of my 3 R’s.

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I crashed at my friend Matt’s house in Hanoi; he lived next to the Kim Chi Guest House…I have no idea what this meant.

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Tangent: I just finished George Saunders’ short story collection Tenth of December, which includes one piece called “The Semplica Girl Diaries” (I think that was the name), which is about (in a very indirect way) an American town where it has become trendy to purchase willing young women from developing countries, insert a rod through their brain, dress them nicely, and string three or four of them up in front of your house as decorations. The company comes around and feeds them thrice daily. It’s good for the girls because they get to send money home to their families, right? Many of the other stories are equally creepy and thought-provoking. Definitely recommended.

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Little dude hanging out in a mini Banyan tree in the “Temple of Literature.”

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Girls wearing ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese dress. Far superior to Hanboks and Kimonos.

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I’ve been contemplating a post exclusively about Banyans for about five months now, since I first started seeing them in Fujian province, China. Thus, I’ve mostly spared you my many ruminations on this weird and crazy cool and even philosophical beast of a plant. Check out these roots though! Holy Jesus.

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New habit: walking around Vietnamese cities at four in the morning. Why? Because when traveling between Hanoi and Saigon, you get on the train at 7PM on day one, spend day two cooped up, and get dropped off at about 3:45AM on day three. My friends are at home sleeping peacefully, so what’s the rush? Why bother with a taxi when I could walk an hour and a half and see the city at its eerie emptiest?

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A little pre-sunrise shirtless soccer in front of the Lenin statue.

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Later, a trip to the Hanoi Bicycle Collective to get a tune up and ask about road conditions. The owner, Guim (Spanish), cycled around the world on an electric bicycle with a solar charger in tow. Free beers, apertifs, and advice for long-distance cycle tourists. Does 200 days and 10.000KM qualify? I think so!

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New friends I met at the HBC: Mirko (Czech Republic) and Katya (Slovenia), who have been traveling the world (mostly Asia) by bicycle for TWELVE YEARS, making a living by settling here or there for a year or two and selling jewlry made of hemp and other natural materials; Nancy (middle), from Hong Kong, who met them several years ago and joined up with them to cycle from China down to Saigon; Hoa (Left), who met Nancy while studying in Guangzhou, and who decided on a whim to join the other three on their trip, with bike and gear supported by the HBC; and two of Hoa’s friends. I thought about joining this group for their trip down South, but I missed China too much.

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…what the hell was I thinking?!

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Riding around the city in formation with other cyclists – badass!

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Sitting across the street from Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. I kind of wanted to go see his embalmed corpse, but you have to wear decent clothes to get in, and all I’ve got is one pair of shorts and one pair of tattered up travel pants. Instead, I just sat in front of my bike for an hour people-watching. And spreading the good word about 3RR! Several people stopped to chat about the bike and flag. I need to get into the habit of doing more just sitting-around. Must…learn…ukelele…

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Hoa invited us to a 1-month birthday party for her friend’s baby. Luckily, though Hoa and her friend didn’t speak much English, they both spoke Chinese. Excellent Chinese, infinitely better than mine. Still, using Chinese to talk to Vietnamese ladies? Great way to impress the Eastern European nomadhippies.

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No words.

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Preppie me and two super-vagabonds. Interesting tidbit. Mirko is 40. He’s been cycling for twelve years, meaning he started when he was 28. I started when I was 28. I have no plans to stop any time soon. Crystal ball.

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Of course, Mirko and Katya are also vegetarians and non-plastickers. I have a feeling Hoa and Nancy soon will be, too.

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Peace out, everybody. I’m off to go let Northwest Vietnam screw with my head for a week. Happy travels!

** If you want to follow Katya and Mirko, and maybe buy some sweet jewelry when they pass through your neighborood, follow them at

** You can also follow K, M, N, and H’s HBC-sponsored trip across (or down?) Vietnam on Facebook.

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5 Responses to Vietnam 4: Hanoi

  1. Mom says:

    Some of the photos don’t come through.

  2. 썌키 says:

    Yay the pics work! What was the solution?