Good morning, Vietnam!
Three weeks visiting a country is enough time to start to adjust to local customs and learn a little of the language. We had just hit that point in Japan. We had become over-polite, saying "arigato" every third word; we waited at cross walks until the light changed green; we ate fermented anything plus lots of sweet bean paste filled treats; we fell in love with the heated toilet seats with bidets and learned to deal with the lack of trash cans and hand towels.
And then we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam at 11pm, 23 days after leaving Boston. Stepping outside the Hanoi airport at midnight after getting our Visas and clearing customs, I looked at Ruben and to borrow a line from the Wizard of Oz, said: "Pokémon, we're not in Tokyo anymore."
Japan is orderly, clean, precise (you can set your clocks to the train schedule) and polite. Even at midnight, Hanoi was loud with cars and motorbikes and bicycles and pedestrians all vying for the same inch of space. There was trash on the streets and smells that were foreign, both sweet and off-putting. I was exhausted but mesmerized as our cab weaved in and out of the traffic and parked us safely at the hotel. A new country with new foods, new customs, new adventures.
Ruben and I have a lot of catching up to do on Japan - including my first pie chart of expenses! But until that happens, here is what's on tap for the next 2 weeks:
- A few days in Hanoi to settle in
- An overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay
- A few days hiking in Sapa - northwest Vietnam - including a one day trip up Mt. Fansipan, the tallest peak in Vietnam
- Cave hiking in Phong Nha National Park
- And then we will work our way south to Hue, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City