Hanoi traffic

The first impressions as we drove into Hanoi from the airport in a taxi was of the miles and miles of rice fields filled with human labor and water buffalo. It seemed a huge and industrious population was hard at work on these fields, cultivating and harvesting and nowhere did we see any machinery other than water buffalo and plows. The next impression we had as we entered the outskirts of Hanoi was the tremendous number of bicycles and motorbikes and relatively ordered chaos in the streets. While there were lines in the middle of the road, presumably separating lanes, no one paid them much attention. They appeared to be only recommendations for you could drive on either side of the street and most people did, depending on the traffic. Vehicles were about evenly divided between bicycles and motorbikes with a sprinkling of cars (mostly taxis) There were very few traffic lights so coming to intersections was a real sight as people slowed down and weaved between the crossing traffic. We saw entire families of 4 and 5 people on these motor bikes with the littlest children squeezed between the adults. There were motor bikes with live pigs strapped on the back, and baskets full of chickens, ducks, and even puppies! All were going to market. In all the time we were in Vietnam, I saw only 1 slight collision which was not even enough for the two people to bother stopping to discuss it. We also saw very few police and presumed that traffic citations were unheard of.
Our first day in Vietnam was an intense overload of emotional experience. We were trying out for the first time our plan to arrive in each location without reservations and we were feeling some insecurity as we got to our hotel which was in a very busy and central part of Hanoi, down a narrow, highly congested street, filled with motorbikes, cyclos (three wheeled bicycles) and pedestrians. Our street had numerous bars and eateries, art galleries, CD shops and even a couple of internet cafes. Arising from the taxi and bounding into the hotel to find out if they had a room we were, in a flash, moving into our room which was large, with lots of windows and light and a balcony overlooking the street. But within a few minutes our excitement turned to dismay as we realized one of our bags was missing--the bag that contained ALL of our guidebooks. This was a crises!! We thought of everything--had the taxi driver mistakenly left it in the trunk of his taxi? Had he or someone on the street stolen it in the midst of the confusion of getting our bags in the hotel? Had we left it at the airport? The least likely scenario, we thought. With this bit of bad news we decided to change the subject and take a walk around the neighborhood and see the lake which was but a block away. We were immediately accosted by numerous youngsters--hawking postcards and books to any willing tourist. Some were polite and some were quite pushy and insistent. After parting with quite a few dollars and discovering that the more we bought, the more hawkers we were attracting, Tina had the flash of insight to get into a cyclo to get away. It worked. Later we met another lad, selling postcards and books whom we declined to buy from but offered to buy him a dinner . This was an opportunity to communicate as best we could and learn what we could about life on the streets for these youngsters. It seemed they all had unhappy stories of poverty--some without families, some having moved to Hanoi from the countryside to try to earn money. In this lad's case, he was 18, hoping to earn enough money to go to a cooking school and was all alone in Hanoi, having come here from the countryside. Rudimentary English is the second language of these street hawkers. Some of the best English we heard in Hanoi were from youngsters learning it on the street as a means to an end of selling this or that tourist item. We told him of our plight and he had a solution. He told us he could get us illegal copies of Lonely Planet Guides. We were incredulous! But he told us to wait and within 5 minutes he returned with perfect copies of the guides we had just lost, brand new and looking like the original thing and cheaper than US prices. We were still holding out hope that perhaps the bag would be found at the airport so we promised we would let him know the next evening if we would need his books. He was very excited and was counting already on a big sale!! Well, the following day we called the airport and were excited to learn that indeed our bag was there. Another $16 round-trip by taxi later and we had our bag. As for the young lad who lost the sale, Tina agreed to buy a cook book from him of Vietnamese dishes which was a consolation prize. This was the first thing we had lost and then found and we found this to become a recurring story--some item temporarily lost, misplaced or mis-packed. But with unerring consistency, we found that every item we were convinced had been lost later turned up somewhere in our belongings. The only thing that we left by accident back in California was my mask and snorkel.
During the 2 plus weeks we stayed in Hanoi and the surrounding area, we came to know the hotel staff at the Win Hotel quite well. And they took very good care of us. Every morning, we would call down to order our breakfast which would be delivered to our room or taken in the lobby as we pleased. The standard western breakfast all over Vietnam is choice of fried eggs, omelet or banana pancake served with baguette and choice of butter or jam with coffee or juice. We saw this menu everywhere!! Jam was not always available. In the afternoons when we straggled into the hotel, the staff would prepare some kind of fruit plate and juice for us and they were always eager to practice their English. We learned that two of the staff were recent college graduates and had been at this job for less than a year. Lam was a linguistics major and told us only 30% of college graduates find work in their field of study. Unemployment is high. Wages are low. He was earning $50 per month, working 7 days a week and had only 2 days off since he started this job. The average age of the Vietnamese appeared very low--the streets filled with people who appeared 25 or younger. They didn't project any hostility toward Americans--too young to have any direct experience with the war and what we found over and over was curiosity and interest. Of course, there is the obvious and natural interest in having us part with money. The streets of Vietnam are filled with entrepreneurs, not communists. It seems almost everyone is operating some kind of small enterprise from their front porch.

Hanoi eatery This was the view from our balcony every morning. A small noodle and rice shop that served breakfast to hordes of young people who drove up and parked their motorbikes. They had a special person designated to keep all the motor bikes parked neatly and tightly together. The proprietress, in pink blouse, is seated at her stool with a full array of ingredients and flavorings to add to the bowls of rice or noodles and she prepares to your order. The most traditional and commonly ordered breakfast was pho ga, which was a chicken noodle soup made with rice noodles. She was virtually a one woman show, preparing your food with her hands and collecting your money. After collecting your bowl of soup you would step inside to sit on very low stools and sit at equally low tables.

gas pumps Because motorbikes were the most common motorized form of transportation and the amount of gasoline needed was small, setting up your own gas station was a very common business and we saw lots of these, set up in front of a small mom and pop business selling sodas or snacks. Two different octane ratings. A pattern we noticed again and again was the concentration of like minded businesses in a certain section of town. E.g. furniture, books, CD music, clothing, electronics. You would see store after store, selling virtually the same merchandise, with little to distinguish store A from store B from store Z. This might even be duplicated in street side stands, one after another selling the same items. When we got to Saigon we saw the local cyclo overnight parking lot right across from our balcony. When the last cyclo rider had gone home there were all the cyclo drivers, sleeping in their cyclos till dawn, parked on a sidewalk or corner. We were told that these were the men from outside of town who had no other place to live or store their most prized possession and means of livelihood. It was clear to us that for many eking out a livelihood was a real struggle. With no public toilet facilities and literally thousands of people living on the streets of Saigon it was something of a problem and we saw many examples of men relieving themselves on the streets. We didn't see this in Hanoi though we did see plenty of poverty. On our wanderings we saw the massive Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Inside and against his wishes, is "Uncle Ho's" body on display. He is still considered the father of Vietnam, loved by all, and his picture hangs in virtually every home and business. By nature, he was a modest man, refusing to live in the existing presidential palace, and instead built himself a small raised house on the grounds. He never married and considered all Vietnamese to be his children.

Cat-Ba Harbor This was the view from our balcony at Cat-Ba Harbor in HaLong Bay, a busy fishing village that also played host to the famous limestone islands known as Halong Bay. We were taking the economy Sinh Cafe trip which cost us $52 total for 3 days and 2 nights but which unfortunately had some shortcomings where the hotel was concerned. Tiny room, tiny towels, no soap, rabbit ear TV (which included one French language channel), and a spartan breakfast of egg, bread, butter (but no jam) and coffee. Because of the world situation we found ourselves ever hungry for and yet depressed by world news. We complained of news overload when we had CNN but also complained when we didn't have it.

Halong Bay On our bus ride to Halong Bay we met some interesting people, young and old. In addition to a student from the University of Edinburgh, and another from Belgium, we met The Spaniard. He was about 45, had wild black shoulder length hair, rolled his own cigarettes and walked with a limp from an old accident. All he needed was an eye patch and he would have been the perfect pirate! We could imagine him on his pirate ship, hiding out among the scattered islands.... But in reality, he was a very gentle, quiet man. One day we took a boat trip to Monkey Island, and enjoyed both the monkeys and the water there. As we passed some of the little villages, we noticed that many of the boats, large and small, were made of woven palm leaves covered with pitch. In fact, many of the upper portions of the house boats were made in the same way. Sadly, as beautiful as Halong Bay is, there is a problem of air and water pollution that screams for attention. Vietnam will need to give this serious attention in the future or it will have a diminishing tourist attraction on its hands.

Dale near CatCat Falls The next excursion from Hanoi was to the hill tribe country of Sapa and Bac-ha. This proved to be a memorable train journey as we learned about the night train and "soft" and "hard" sleepers. This was a 10 hour train excursion from Hanoi, starting at about 7 pm. Though we thought we were ready for the wily ways of pick-pockets we were out-witted. First, the hard sleeper is just what it sounds like, a hard bunkbed surface to lie on, though our hotel staff had graciously arranged to have us take foam mattresses to lay on top to cushion the surface. This proved invaluable for our older bones. As soon as we arrived at the train station, we were greeted by young men eager to help us find our berth. Though I anticipated this would in the end cost us something I was unprepared for how much. After repeatedly grabbing at my ticket and bags to "help" me I was finally led to the proper berth. Tina and I were joined in the small compartment by our two friends who kept "helping" us and trying to sell us water and snacks. They created such a commotion and distraction that I did not notice at exactly which moment my train ticket disappeared. Tina, thinking on her feet, finally pushed them out of the compartment and closed the door behind them. It was not until we had some peace and quiet that I realized my train ticket had disappeared. The next couple to join us in our compartment were accompanied by a Vietnamese guide, fluent in English, whom I explained my plight to since the conductor spoke no English, though we later learned was excellent at pantomiming instructions for the window, air-conditioning, and water. The guide took our problem to the conductor who was obviously quite annoyed at me for allowing this to happen and informed us that I could keep my berth but would have to pay for the ticket again. But just minutes later, the guide returned to our compartment to inform us that "someone" had found our ticket outside on the ground but that they wanted a reward of 50,000 dong. I was advised that it was better to pay the reward rather than 5 times that amount to buy a new ticket. When I went out to claim my ticket and pay the reward who did I see but the same young man whom we had just thrown out of our compartment who was shouting and carrying on, seemingly upset that someone may have accused him of stealing the ticket. It seemed we slept very little but were exhilarated to arrive in Sapa and then took a shuttle to our hotel. We immediately headed off to a local tribal village called CatCat village. Along the way we ran into a young couple traveling from Israel. We seemed immediately attracted to one another, perhaps because of shared experiences with terrorism and a certain political isolation. They were a delightful couple who had a lot of traveling experience and we talked for a long time on that grassy hill. We shared travel stories and consoled one another about the horrors of terrorism. They were the first people we met with whom we felt we could freely talk to about the events of Sept. 11, and it helped us feel a little less alone in Asia.
Pillow purchase from Hmong people We also ran into a few entrepreneurs from the local Hmong tribal village. They were all determined to sell us something and we couldn't decide who to buy from so we decided to buy a pillow cover from each of them--all at the same negotiated price. This was acceptable to everyone. We continued to see these children everyday while we were in Sapa and ended up purchasing not only pillow covers, but friendship bracelets and mouth harps. Saturday and Sunday were the big market days in Sapa, when tribal people came from miles around to buy supplies, visit friends, and for young sweethearts to meet. All were dressed in traditional clothing and the atmosphere was of a time in the distant past. The smell of incense and smoky fires filled the air. The chatter of gossip and bartering and the sweet, high-pitched voices of the tribal women singing was of another innocent world.

Water buffalo in Ban-Pho While we were in Sapa we decided to take a one day excursion by Russian jeep to the northern boundary of Vietnam where you could actually see the Chinese boundary. We had heard of Bac-Ha which was famous for its Sunday market which attracted villagers from various tribes in the vicinity. Each tribe has a distinctive style of dress and headgear which are usually quite colorful. The women, as a rule, are much more colorfully dressed than the men. We went by jeep and with a guide and fortunately so because the roads were treacherous. The picture at right was the main thoroughfare of this village--used by buffalo and humans alike. The children tend to the buffalo here and in most villages--notice the girl hopping on the back of one buffalo to catch a ride.

Flower Hmong family We were invited into the home of this family as we were walking through the village. Inside, we sat on tiny stools, no higher than four inches off the ground. The floor was hard packed dirt which was gently rippled with age and polished smooth by bare feet. The sleeping platform for some of the family was in the corner of the main room and raised off the floor about two feet. In rafters above, ears of husked corn were stacked to dry, and massive woven baskets held the rice. There was a fire pit in the main room, but cooking was done in another room of the house. It was fairly dark inside, and lanterns were used at night. With our best efforts at sign language we managed to share an animated and fascinating "conversation."We learned that we parents were all about the same age, and I decided to bring out our family pictures to share, which was an instant ice breaker! While at first we sat only with the father of the family, when the pictures came out, the mother, daughters, son and women friends were crowding around for a look. We gave the father and mother reading glasses we had brought and explained what they were for, and how we too, needed them! We gave the children pens, pencils note pads, and safety pins , as we had heard these were useful gifts. Before we were done, the head of the household brought out a bottle of "home brewed rice liquor" and proceeded to refill our glasses repeatedly and even offered the rest of the bottle to take with us when we had to go.

Sharing of pictures Everywhere we went, everyone, old and young , was curious and most interested in seeing our family pictures. These children wanted to know who each person was, and what their relation was to us. Somehow, with animated sign language, we were able to point out our son, daughter and parents so that they understood. They would laugh when they recognized Dale or me in the picture, Clearly pictures of any kind were a novelty.

Flower Hmong girls This is a picture of a group of lovely Flower Hmong girls at the large market in Bac-Ha. They are listening to a series of home-made tapes of tribal songs for sale. In the market, we virtually disappeared among the masses of local people crowding their way through the narrow aisles. The smell of smoke, roasting meats, incense, tobacco and humanity swirled through the warm air. The sounds were of gentle voices bargaining, animated greetings among friends, babies occasionally crying and the favorite tunes played on tape players. Many tribes from all over came to this weekend market. Some brought clothing, textiles, jewelry, baskets, food, produce, animals, what ever they had to sell. Others came to buy supplies and all came to socialize. There were plenty of food stalls, and even a hooka stand for a smoke! Part of the market area had a roof structure, but the rest was strung with ropes and plastic sheeting to protect from rain. The tribal people are very petite, so the head clearance was about five feet or so. Tall visitors like Dale kept having to duck down, or get tangled in everything. Ah, I'd found my people! I never had to duck. Below the main market was one of two areas devoted to livestock. . Buffalo, goats, pigs, sheep, dogs, ducks and chickens were bought and sold here. To one side there was a blacksmith, clanging away, working with iron. Huge woven baskets, six feet in diameter and four to five feet deep were also for sale. In an upper field, horses and donkeys were traded. This was market day in Bac-Ha.

Perfume River The trip to the Perfume Pagoda was a one day excursion out of Hanoi, partly by bus and partly by sampan. We were rowed for perhaps an hour through this enchanting rural countryside. The limestone rock formations were similar to those in Halong Bay except not set on water. We had arranged a Sinh Cafe trip and our guide for the day was very knowledgeable, spoke English quite well and was eager to fill us in on the history of Buddhism in Vietnam. We were told that this pagoda was the most famous in all of Vietnam and people journeyed from all over the country and Asian region to venerate the Buddha here especially during the festival months of March and April. The Perfume Pagoda gets its name from the plumeria trees which scent the air. After we disembarked from our sampans we walked up a long wet, rocky path for another hour before reaching the grotto where the pilgrims come to worship. Our guide demonstrated "how" to pray at a Buddhist temple or pagoda and now we can do a pretty good job of looking like we know what we're doing. Meanwhile, I have been reading up on Buddhism, thanks to a book that Mary Ann, one of my work colleagues gave me just before we left. Buddhism is hugely important in Vietnam as well as many of the other countries in Asia that we will be visiting.

Khai Dinh Mauseleum The ancient city of Hue was the next stop in our journey after leaving Hanoi. We had looked into the prospects of taking what is known as the Sinh Cafe Open Tour Bus which runs from Hanoi to Saigon with several stops along the way and permits you to get on and get off according to your own schedule. This permits for a leisurely or spontaneous change of plans--just the kind of trip we wanted to have. But the first leg of the trip from Hanoi to Hue was a killer of 14 hours in a bus which we decided to forego and take by plane. We booked the bus tour to start in Hue and continue down to Saigon, with stop overs in Hoi An and Nha Trang. Hue was the capitol of all of Vietnam from 1802 till 1945 when the last emperor, Bao Dai abdicated his throne and retreated to France. The French were already very active through the missionaries in the early 1800's and the influence is clearly felt in this city of Hue. But also is felt the Chinese influence. We had a one day whirl-wind tour of the city, escorted by a Vietnamese guide who was very fluent in English, having been to the US and Canada several times. She provided us an interesting glimpse into modern day Vietnamese life through the eyes of someone who was quite ambitious and frustrated by what she was confronted with. She told us that most of the jobs in Hue were government jobs and that there was actually very little work to do. She worked in urban planning but had previously been a government tour guide. She was called up to be our tour guide as a "side job". Because there was so little work to do at her regular job she had an arrangement to take off time when she wanted to. It supplemented her income and she confided to us that she was laughing and talking so much more than she would normally do at her regular job while she was giving tours. She had an 8 year old daughter, a college degree and was married to a Ph.D. candidate in literary criticism. She had been to North America several times including a two year stay in Canada somewhat recently. This had clearly been a source of tension and conflict with her husband. She told us that they hadn't talked in several days after an argument over the World Trade Center bombing and American reactions to it. She apparently voiced sympathy with the US and her husband accused of being changed by her stay abroad. She went on to say that Hue was the wrong place for her to live, that she needed a city like Saigon, more open-minded where a woman could start a business. In fact, we talked at one point about various business ideas and marketing strategies and she was very eager for our ideas. She was a fount of knowledge also about the history of Hue and the sites we went there to see. She told us that she very nearly got to be the tour guide for Bill Clinton last year but due to the bad weather in Hue, his itinerary changed and bypassed Hue. The picture above is of one of several mausoleums for emperors which we visited. This mausoleum was built to hold the remains of Emperor Khai Dinh. It was built between 1920-31 and I'm standing amidst his mandarins in the courtyard. It was really quite ornate and, as you might expect, reflected heavy French influence inside in the mosaic work.

Hoi-An The first leg of our bus tour took us from Hue to Hoi An. This is a view of the Thu Bon River from the center of old Hoi An. This beautiful, ancient city dates back to the sixteenth century as a center for trade between Europe, China, Japan and Vietnam. Notice the eye on the bows of the boats? We understand this is to guard against evil spirits. These eyes are also found over the entrances of many buildings in town, for the same purpose. Today, tourism is one of the most important sources of income for the people of Hoi An. If you want a suit or dress custom made, you have many dozens of tailor shops to choose from. In fact, we didn't see how all of these shops could stay in business, there were so many.

Cantonese Assembly Hall This is the Chinese Assembly Hall. It was built in 1776 as a meeting place for the numerous Chinese merchant families living in Hoi An, as well as a place of worship. There are also quite a few homes and businesses dating from the mid seventeenth century on, that are constructed of teak wood, and largely unchanged in appearance. Some descendants of the original families still live in these buildings! We rented bicycles to get around town, and they worked very well, since the streets were quite narrow, and there were almost no cars. During the heat of the day, the town was fairly quiet. But at night, when it cooled down, the streets came alive. Food stands and many shops opened up, with their proprietors standing in the doorways, inviting every passerby into their stores. The narrow streets were teeming with pedestrians, dogs, bicycles and motorbikes. Hoi An was one of the prettiest little towns we visited in Vietnam.
We left Hoi An on the Sinh Cafe overnight bus for Nha Trang. We were told we would be able to sleep in our seats, and it wouldn't be too bad......WRONG! We started out on our 12 hour journey with high hopes, as each of us had a double seat. Quickly it became apparent we had a pair of characters for drivers. With numerous no smoking signs posted, our driver made it quite clear he was a chain smoker. He would open his side window every time he lit up, which was every hour like clockwork, effectively spreading his massive tobacco cloud evenly throughout the bus. The next thing we discovered was that he liked to drive FAST. The roads in that area are riddled with massive pot holes, and there were construction projects all along the way. Add to that the large amount of traffic in the form of other trucks and busses, cars, bicycles, horse drawn carts, pedestrians, dogs, chickens, etc....You get the picture, it was an obstacle course. Our driver drove as fast as he could until the moment before impact, then he'd slam on the brakes and swerve, just missing his target. We would be thrown to the left, thrown to the right, slammed against the seat, then dumped towards the floor. And this went on for 12 action packed hours! We were quickly reduced to a pathetic state of tortured insomnia, knowing there was nothing we could do. But for me and the rest of the women on the bus, it only go worse. As a result of the French occupation, there is one word every person knows, and that is "toilet". Several hours into the trip, the bus stopped and both drivers left the bus and relieved themselves in the road next to the bus. I don't mean in the bushes, which is common, but right out there with all the headlights illuminating every detail of the event for all to see. When we told the drivers we needed the "toilet", they smiled and motioned for us to go out in the street too! One brave, desperate young woman managed it, but the rest of us refused. So, off we roared into the night, our well relieved, nicotine saturated drivers in a total control. Several requests for a "toilet" were brushed aside with the promise to stop "soon". An eternity later, we did stop, at our drivers favorite noodle stand, where his apparent girlfriend worked. We asked in utter desperation where the "toilet" was and were directed to the dark recesses of the junkyard out back. Some never found it in time....

Vinny At long last our tortured, sleep deprived bodies were dumped in Nha Trang. It was early in the morning when we checked into our hotel, and overheard the announcement of a bus leaving for the docks. At the docks were the fleet of boats taking people out for snorkeling day- trips.We were beyond tired, but decided to charge ahead and make the most of the day. We chose a day- boat trip with Papa Hahn, and that's where we met Vinny, the Disco Dance Instructor, aka Lehmo, the stand-up comic, from Australia. Lehmo was great fun, and his favorite shirt obviously helped get everyone in the mood. Look at this boy, he does have a good sense of humor, doesn't he?....!Our memories of the night before started melting away. We soon found out we had chosen a party boat with Papa Hahn, aka "Strong Man" as our captain and principle leader. He fed us, took us snorkeling, then the party began. People were soon diving off the upper deck of the boat like lemmings into the sea. With an inter tube rigged up as a floating bar, and "Strong Man", in his leopard print bikini sitting in it's center, everyone was soon floating in their own inter tubes, sipping plum wine, listening to crackling rock 'n roll. One of our fellow shipmates, a self described world traveler and sculptor, shared with us that it was his birthday, and proudly and repeatedly announced "Everyone drink, the drinks are on me!" That was enough for this group. Soon we were singing "national anthems" and bar room favorites of every country represented there, lead perfectly by "Strong Man".In the end, all of us were bonded by our lack of sobriety and matching sun burns. It wasn't planned, but it did more than make up for the night before!

On October 19, we boarded our bus for Saigon, or to be PC, Ho Chi Minh City. Just outside the city, we passed miles of rubber tree plants, part of a very large plantation. Each large tree had spiral cuts in the trunk and a small bucket mounted at the end, to catch the sap. It was the largest single agricultural project we saw. Attached to it was a massive fenced area earmarked for industrial development, though mostly open fields at this point. We arrived at our Sinh Cafe bus stop about 7pm in the downtown area. Everyone grabbed their backpacks and bags and made their way to their hotels in the area, through the crowds of hawkers, local people and mud. We had two possible choices for a hotel, so with Dale watching our bags, I darted off to check both of them out. The Hong Kong family hotel was the best and became our final home in Vietnam. The owner worked for the US during the war, and the whole family was very friendly to us as well as everyone else who stayed there. For about $11 we had a large air conditioned room with hot shower, and full breakfast. Outside though, it was very different. Many cyclo owners would park their precious vehicles across the alley at night and sleep in them until morning. We found out they were very poor and from the country, with no place to sleep in town. And even more disturbing were the number of homeless children roaming the streets, with no apparent government help whatsoever. This was just heartbreaking. We took a cyclo to the heart of the city and saw the famed Rex Hotel, a favorite haunt of journalists in the sixties. Next was the Art Museum, which was housed in a magnificent, French style mansion built by a Chinese merchant at the turn of the century.
Buddha in Saigon Museum There were artifacts from the tenth century on, including this Buddha. One interesting note, was the lack of identification and description of displays in the English language. Most foreign visitors we saw spoke some English, as did many of the people of HCM City. A lack of resources for the museums must, no doubt, be the cause. Vietnam did have a rich, magnificent culture at one time. Daily life in the city began at 5am, with a bustle of people setting up food stands, and everyone grabbing a quick bowl of rice or noodle
s and favorite toppings. In the heat of the afternoon, many would slow down for a leisurely lunch break. Then at about 2pm, it would all start again, and go until late in the night. As our time in Vietnam came to an end the impression left was one of a people challenged with significant poverty, and at the same time a driving determination to develop its way into a modern south-east asian nation. Trade representatives are constantly coming to Vietnam from all over the world and recently passed legislation in the US will open the door to more trade with us. Though sad to be leaving Vietnam, we were keenly looking forward to the next leg of our journey, the Kingdom of Thailand.

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