I'm starting to write this on a Wednesday evening, absolutely shattered after five days of exploring Vietnam. I am looking forward to ambling around the city of Hanoi tomorrow, but also feeling slightly apprehensive because boy, I could do with a day's rest. We've done a lot of travelling, eating, sightseeing - all good things - but I am tired. (Edit: I'm finishing this on Friday when we are having a rest day - the air pollution is making the sky look like milk so we're opting to stay indoors, maybe with some climbing later.)
Anyway, I thought I would share with you some small, quirky details about our time in Vietnam, and by the time this actually makes it online, we may have landed in the Phillippines already.
So, the traffic in Vietnam is wild.
Many who have previously visited had warned us about this but never have I felt like I've been put through a blender with traffic like I have here. There's a gazillion motorbikes not willing to stop, as well as trucks, buses, cars, taxis and whatever else which you have to contend with as you walk the streets. Oh, and you can't often walk on the pavements, because they're full of parked bikes, fruit sales or people eating on little plastic stools, so you have to walk down the road. Bascially, walking around Hanoi has taken the same concentration as driving a long motorway journey. Well, that's how it felt to me anyway. Plus, the sound of horns here is relentless. We joked about whether they have to have a horn usage competency assessment during their driving tests. One hilarious moment in Hoi An was when a woman, carrying a crate full of something, move walked through the crowds shouting 'beep beep.' I'm sure people living here get used to it, like the friends we're staying with, but blimey, what an exciting whirlwind!
Things got a little quieter when we have sat to enjoy the local cuisine and tried the infamous egg coffee. Sounds strange, but it's actually pretty good. It got quieter still when we took an overnight boat to Ha Long Bay. Named as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Ha Long Bay in the North of Vietnam and is composed of thousands of limestone mountains topped with rainforests, all sitting in breathtaking, emerald waters. It was a special experience for us and we feel truly thankful for the time we've spent together this week.
Over all though, there is something that's really been on my heart. Being here and heading to most of the tourist destinations, we have encountered a lot of street sellers. Men and women selling anything from fruit and donuts to offering to shine your shoes. A lot of these things are cons or scams where you pay over the odds for substandard products. I had encountered people like this before in Europe, but when we went to Ha Long Bay, it went to a new level. Here's a picture of a woman on a rowing boat full of products, approaching our cruise ship, asking us if we want to buy something.
Even out in what often felt like the middle of nowhere, people with very little are coming to those who seemingly have a lot. There's much to think about here and the issues go so deep that I won't even attempt to try and tackle them. Yet it has given me a heart for these people, who stand on street corners, selling whatever they can, while looking up at decadent, shining skyscrapers. I obviously don't know the circumstances of those individuals, they might not be struggling at all. I almost don't know what I'm trying to say here either, but I am still thinking about it, that these people do this day, day out, and they persevere.
I don't know how I can help them, or what their motives or dreams are, but there has certainly been something humbling about the experience.
How are things with you? Let me know. We're off to the Phillippines tomorrow and I know there's more adventures ahead.
Have happy days,