Hanoi'd

Link for pictures!

I hate to say it, but I was annoyed by Hanoi. The food was the best part, well really, the only good part. At the risk of sounding like an expectant, spoiled Westerner, I must say, I can’t really recommend Vietnam to fellow travelers. There were some things I enjoyed, and we met some really nice locals and travelers, but as a whole, the standoffish, and sometimes flat out rude nature of the locals put a damper on the whole thing. If you’re lost, don’t expect help unless you are prepared to tip. If you need to use the restroom, be prepared to bring your own toilet paper for a squatter, and STILL pay to use it. At museums, you pay double, sometimes quadruple. At restaurants you pay double, at train stations you pay double. It’s all about the money-money-money…

So on the flip side, if you have the ability to travel from any western world to Vietnam, you’ve probably got a lot more money than they do, right? Unfortunately, Vietnam seems to have three main industries: rice, tourism, and corruption. When your police officers take bribes left and right, and your government has no money, and you lie about your taxes, how is any sort of infrastructure supposed to form? When Americans bombed and gassed the s*** out of your country, and the French forced you into serf-like subservience for a century, and naive tourists are taking over your town, why should you be nice to westerners?

I’m primarily referring to the big tourist spots in the country. We didn’t do a great job getting off the beaten path here, but when we did, it was a different world. In Danang, the city was harsh, and the people ignored us as much as possible, unless they were driving taxis. When we were in the outskirts – in China beach, where we stayed, it was relaxing, pleasant, friendly, and fun. We met cool travelers, and had some of the nicest, friendliest hosts of the trip. The coast just north was lined with high-end beach resorts, but we stayed at Hoa’s place, the only guest house in the area. It was still a tourist spot, but for surfers, budget travelers, and beach bunny backpackers.

Aside from eating our faces off, we went to a few museums, walked around the city, and took a 2-day, 1-night trip to Halong Bay, where we slept on the boat in the middle of the water. We also met up with a couple we met in Danang, got ourselves pretty lost, and found some peanut butter at the store.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

The Museum of Ethnology was probably the best museum of the city. They had all of this great information about the different ethnicities that make up Vietnam. Prior to modern-day wars and tyrants, they enjoyed a rich history and vibrant culture. We’d also visited The Revolutionary Museum, but it was kind of boring, super biased, and not nearly as informative or interesting as the War Remnants Museum in Saigon.

Water Puppet Show at The Museum of Ethnology

On the last day, we went to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. They embalmed his body, and have it on display Tues-Thurs from 8:30am-10:30am. You’re all herded through this single-file line for a few blocks, and you’re not allowed to speak, stop moving, bring food or drink or cameras, or cross your arms while in the mausoleum. Zac and I both think the body is fake. Wax, probably. The two women in front of us were in a traditional get up, and cried.

There were some adorable little kids on a field trip to the mausoleum. They were all so excited to wave and say, “hello.” They were very proud of their English skills.

Halong Bay

Our worst experience was our time in Halong Bay. The crew on our boat made it perfectly clear that they didn’t want us there. Our tour guide, named Banana, wasn’t much of a guide at all, and quite obviously took a cut from some of the “not included” activities. He also seemed to have anti-gay opinions. Zac says he was just ignorant, which is probably true, but I couldn’t understand it, and it infuriated me. There were 4 couples on the boat, 1 of which was made up of two girls, and there were only 3 private double rooms. He refused to give a double room to the girls. In fact, someone else gave it to them, and he snatched it away. The girls were too nice and polite to cause any trouble, and wouldn’t let anyone else switch with them. They ended up getting twin beds right next to the generator, which goes all night and seeps smoke under the door. Awesome. Banana was a jerk.

 

Banana

Everything on the boat was 3-4 times as expensive as it is on the shore, but if you brought any of your own food or drinks, you had to pay a service charge almost equivalent to the cost of the item on the boat. What is the service for? For me walking off the boat and buying a beer and opening it and drinking it and throwing it in the garbage? You’re probably throwing that can in the water later anyway, so why the fee? I get that you’re trying to make money, but that was overboard. We couldn’t even borrow their playing cards without forking up a few bucks.

We were able to make the most of it, and all of the travelers on the boat were really pleasant. We went to the caves and did the included kayaking. (Which they were going to skip until a guy from Italy forced them into it. Then we got a solid 25 minutes.)

 

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend going to Halong Bay unless you do a booze cruise. We aren’t the biggest drinkers, especially while on this trip, and a booze cruise didn’t sound attractive at all, but when comparing the stories of each type of trip, they definitely had more fun. More people on the boats, cheaper food and drinks on board, friendly staff and crew, real guides, and a party environment. They had included rock climbing and hiking as well.

Back in the city we comforted ourselves with the delightful street food, and the knowledge that soon enough we’d be comfortable at my sister’s apartment in Hong Kong.

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Categories: Asia, Hanoi, Travel, Vietnam | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Hanoi'd

  1. haha.. vietnamese rude?? NO! jk oh, sorry, thinking of my own family. I’m really curious to go myself as a half asian. My own family is rude but I feel like in general asian culture would appear rude to any american. while very strict in family respect, there are many social things where asians are standoffish and cold. I almost feel lke you could say the same of the french though. They aren’t too welcoming to visitors. :oP

    • Caitlin

      In my short time there, I’d have to agree with that. We met a girl who did a homestay, and even though she thought many locals were really rude, she found them polite and friendly once they’d warmed up to her while making her dinner and preparing a room for her. I should have mentioned that – and that they seem almost as rude to each other as they do to foreigners. Lots of other countries find Americans, and even the Brits, to be too polite, not in a good way. It makes me want to learn more about the differing cultures and social structures. Regardless, it was difficult to accept and adapt to the pushy behavior of locals. And for you, unless you speak the language, they assume you’re 100% foreign. But you should still go for yourself!

  2. robin kercher

    Ive enjoyed following your experiences so much, though I have to say that this last one I enjoyed because of what you are learning….about people I mean…….Im sorry for the bad experience, but to read your words Caitlin Im learning about you , how you think and such and I very much like your strength of character …..I hear your frustration, wanting to know more about differing cultures and social structures….to understand why people are the way they are…..you’re growing into a very cool individuals….thanks for sharing!!!!!

    • Caitlin

      Thanks, Robin! The experiences with the people set the tone for every day on the trip. It’s something that probably happens everywhere, but you just don’t notice it when you’re plugged into your smartphone and strutting down the street it your own town. Even in the modern world, I think differences in cultural behaviors run much deeper than we realize.

  3. Kathy Heisey

    Caitlin, once again you’ve written a great blog. We could feel your feelings and hear your thoughts very well. What a shame you had rude locals while in such a pretty setting. The Cathedral picture is magnificent! Also the islands in the background of the kayak picture look amazing. I’m guessing you are getting the real feel of it all opposed to just the tourist resort view which wouldn’t be true.

    Be well we love you guys
    Scott and Kathy

  4. Mama Jo

    Hi Caitlin and Zacky-zac, Thanks Caitlin, as always, for the “visuals” . Jess and I also enjoy the pictures very much. one of my favorites is the one of you two in the kayak, what a backdrop!! What a great shot of that cathedral too. I loved it. It was unfortunate that you had to meet someone like Banana, but worse- that his name was Banana! With his stinky ugly attitude, it shouldve been Durian, which is certainly at first whiff- disagreeable- DOWN RIGHT SMELLY!!! goes to show that prejudice is everywhere, although part of me agrees with Zac. Ignorance is a dangerous thing.. All part of the experience guys. keep your blogs coming….. stay safe and keep experiencing.
    love you guys,
    Mama Jo and Jesse

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