So, we are in Vietnam….and I am in search of good ICE coffee!…it is necessary to put up with these CRAZIES!

We are only staying in Northern Vietnam for this quick 10d Asia “culture shock” for the kids!  I have been to Thailand before and Rich and I went to SIngapore on our last trip…but all in all I haven’t been impressed with Southeast Asia.  SO many of our friends LOVE it…and continue to try to convince us to try.  So….with the help of our handy dandy AMAZING neighbours Evelynn and Larry (who spent a few months around here last year)…we have planned our 10d return to Asia.  Hold on tight kids!

First, we begin in Hanoi…and first impressions are very favourable.  Despite the ATM not taking the bank card and therefore we exchanged some of our American $ we have from our “payoff” in Tanzania with Warrior Trails.  Again, I have to get used to being a multimillionaire!  One US dollar is about 25000 Vietnamese Dong!  With money safely in purse…we gather our stuff and head out to pole #10 where someone from LaSelva Hotel is to meet us.  Lo and behold…there he is.  He is pleasant and quickly gets us and our things into a nice air conditioned van and we are off to the city.  It is a busy city…but not CRAZY!

LaSelva Hotel is a great find.  The family room has two twins and a double, air conditioning, a balcony and pretty good free wifi.  The staff are tremendously friendly and very fluent in English.

We find our way to our rooms for a NAP because flying all night SUCKS!  and some of us (Wilson) got no sleep because Singapore airline is AMAZING and it has not only a screen with endless movies and shows and podcasts and music etc etc on it….it has a gaming console!  Wilson was in heaven…aka…NO SLEEP.  After our nap we make our way outside to attempt our first ROAD CROSSING….I think we needed some help from the Serengeti zebras!  It is hilarious really.  I guess the tourists are so bad at crossing the road that the hotel gives out a “how to cross the road” guide when you check in!  The idiots guide is 1)stick together (ie. grab a child by the hand)…..2) LOOK the approaching vehicle driver (car, truck, bus, scooter, motorcycle) or bike rider or COW in the EYE….3)COMMIT TO IT….4)GO FOR IT!!!  5)Walk swiftly across to the other side all the while making eye contact and NEVER hesitate and NEVER NEVER turn back!  And it works!  You see, there are really only a few traffic lights in Hanoi and the ones that are there (busy intersections) are only for the buses and trucks and cars.  Motorcycles, scooters, bikes, pedestrians and cows……they don’t follow the road signals…..sheer CHAOS!

We head to see the water puppet show…interesting…if not for the screaming/kicking/yelling child behind me!  and all in Vietnamese….so…we didn’t really understand the story (more to come on that when we finally get some insight).

Then walking to find the “best” Bun Cha in the Old Quarter (leave it to Rich to be already researching interesting restaurants to hit!).  We wander through the walking street (one of the main streets around the lake is closed down on the w/e from traffic…so just pedestrians….it was very nice to see families out wandering, kids playing local games, entertainers, etc.  We feel very safe and there is NO hasselling (like in Thailand).

remote control cars that parents sit their kids in…then control them!

We find the restaurant…..aptly named Bun Cha Ta..and order spring rolls and bun cha.  A very tasty meal #1…but no ice coffee yet!

Day #2 was a busy one.  We started off with bfast on the rooftop terrace!  They do Western and Vietnamese bfast.  Wilson had spring rolls (his new fave food!) and some eggs, Lulu and I had pancake (with maple syrup even!…YUM!) and ….frosted flakes….oh ya!  Rich had Pho (Vietnamese soup with beef and noodles)….and we had some good coffee (but not ICE coffee).

Our guides from HanoiKids walking tours were waiting for us when we got downstairs.  HanoiKids is an organization that trains local students to be “tour companions” with tourists…for FREE!  The kids practice their English and the tourists get a tour.  A donation is made at the end to the organization…..a great idea.  Our guides were lovely girls…Anh and Vu…both in University.

We walked the walking street…and saw the Pagoda.  There were more people out here during the day.  Some dressed up and taking pictures (weddings, graduations etc) and some just playing games.  We were stopped a number of times and asked if we could spare 5 minutes to speak to youngsters in English. (I am not sure if this was their teacher asking….or a parent…but we stopped a few times (we couldn’t have stopped every time or we would have made it no where on our own tour!)) . The Vietnamese are friendly and very appreciative.

The girls pointed out some coffee places and encouraged us to try EGG coffee….seriously….sounds gross.  They weren’t so sure where I would find ice coffee…at least not cold coffee without an egg in it!  They were pointing out the Cong Cafe (there are many of them around the city).  Cong —means “communist” (an aha moment for me!).  The cafe front is painted army green….interesting.  So -maybe when I am warm this afternoon I will find a Cong Cafe to try to find the ice coffee!

We visited a church (French catholic…but most Vietnamese worship their ancestors and are generally non-secular.  If they follow religion – 70% are Buddhist) and a prison.  It was here in this prison that John McCain (US senator) was imprisoned during the war with the USA.  It was interesting to hear the girls summary of the many conflicts and many rulers and many occupying countries (France, Japan, China etc).  My dumbed down version of it (b/c that is all I can try to understand)….is that the French did a lot of good here to keep the Chinese out but the French came and went (esp with the World Wars)…..French left a lot of buildings and infrastructure behind….Chinese tried to influence/take over Vietnam with their language (characters) etc…but it didn’t work….Vietnamese are VERY PROUD people and very proud to have their small peaceful country…”with no terrorism” they say proudly….they love “Uncle Ho” (aka Ho Chi Minh) as he was wise and brought peace and democracy to their nation….and their only expressed trepidation lies with the future of their small country and it’s proximity to China (esp the norther border)…..China is a POWERHOUSE neighbour with government that can’t be trusted (hmmmm….sounds like our Canadian neighbours! YIKES).

Wilson teaches the girls “HeadBanz” while waiting for us in the loo at the prison!

The weather is beautiful here (25deg and humid).  The girls introduced us to local icecream…and it is CHEAP (9000dong/bar).  Wilson tried the lemon/menthol, I tried the egg banana, Rich tried coconut milk and Lulu – well….she had chocolate or Socola (in Vietnamese)!

All in all a great morning….and the girls gave us some advice about lunch near the hotel.  A local sandwich type meal called …Bahn Mi. (not as good as Bun Cha in my humble opinion…but edible)

“LOVE” little hearts…the girls taught us.

NEXT UP….the first of the scooter tours!…..but I will write that next… (sorry… wordy today!)..and no ice coffee YET!