Vietnam: Heading North

Following a brief visit to Saigon / HCMC, we travelled to Da Nang, which is a city approximately half way between HCMC and Ha Noi. Da Nang is close to another town named Hoi An, which is known for being home to some of the best tailors in Vietnam.

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Arriving at the airport after a short flight, we were soon beckoned forth by one of approximately 40 very eager taxi drivers to give us a ride. After being assured that his pricing would be spot on we asked him to take us to our guest house. Shortly after, however, we realised that we were being taken on a tiki-tour of the city. We took a look at the meter, which was currently reading around three times the price of what the total fare should have been. After confronting the driver, who suddenly lost his ability to understand English, we ended up going into our guest house once we arrived where our host played translator. Eventually the driver sheepishly admitted his fault, apologised and went on his way. That is the first time that’s happened to me; I wonder how often they get away with it.

As per the norm, we hired scooters from our guest house and set about exploring the surrounding area. Here’s another classic Vietnamese road-block.

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It’s not uncommon to see goats chilling on the side of the road.

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Riding over this mountain meant going through some clouds. The roads are rather fun; it would be rad to tackle them with something a little more exciting than a 110cc scooter.

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On top of the mountain were some old bunkers, left over from the war.

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I pulled over to take a photo of a Vietnamese fishing net. They dip these in the water and pull a rope to lift them up once it’s full of fish.

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We went to a place called Marble Mountain, and went trekking through some caves. Unfortunately I spent the rest of my time in Da Nang in bed with what I’m 90% sure was Dengue Fever contracted after a mosquito assault. I didn’t have the energy to leave the room and I wanted to be on form for beginning my volunteering in Ha Noi, so I took it easy!

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Here’s a photo of a classic Vietnamese motorcycle repair shop. It makes that backyard mechanic in South Auckland look like a Porsche Workshop.

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Once I got back on my feet we headed up to Hanoi, where I was to be situated for a month or so. I’m going to make a couple more posts about my time in Hanoi as a lot has gone on!

This is the main roundabout next to the lake in the Old Quarter, Hanoi. The Old Quarter is where most tourists hang out in this city. It’s home to a lot of old colonial buildings from the French era and has pretty much everything you could need. This photo makes the place seem relatively calm; it’s usually rather chaotic.

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Know those scale machines that weight you and check your height, then tell you if you need to hit the gym, or eat a little more? Here’s one being lugged around the Old Quarter on the back of a scooter.

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After a couple of months in Asia, Phil left to head back to New Zealand on the 20th of January. On the same day, I made my way to what would be my home for the next month or so, an apartment out of the centre of Ha Noi, where I would teach English. Here is my current home! I’ll touch on this a bit more in my next post.

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And my current steed. I rented this scooter for 800,000 Dong (around $50NZD) for the month. Automatic, 110CC. Technically illegal to ride around if you don’t have a license but I’m yet to find someone who cares.

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As mentioned above, since the 20th of January I’ve been living in Hanoi and teaching English in return for board and food. There are between 6-8 other volunteers staying here at any one time; all from different countries and backgrounds. It’s been a great environment to make some new friends and travel buddies. Ms Hay, the manager of the centre, which offers affordable learning opportunities due to the volunteer system, is an excellent cook and one of the friendliest people you will meet.

Using Tic-Tac-Toe to nail home some vocabulary.

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If you’re wondering whether I have any teaching experience, the answer is no, I do not. However, combined with a good understanding of English, there is enough material and ideas around to structure a lesson and most of the lessons are taught with someone else also, which takes the pressure off slightly. Together, we’ll plan a lesson and teach it over the course of a couple of hours, including games and discussions. It’s working well; the kids enjoy it and it’s quite rewarding watching progress and interaction improve over the course of several weeks.

In a previous post, I explained how difficult it was to buy jandals or shoes my size in Cambodia. it turns out that throughout Vietnam, the same can be said for clothes in general. My plan was to buy warmer clothes as I need them throughout the trip. Being tall, I envisioned that buying clothes in Vietnam was always going to be a challenge, but I didn’t realise that it would be downright impossible. You see, it got cold, pretty quick (as in, 30 degrees in Saigon, to -1 in Hanoi on some days). I actually ended up asking my family to send me some warmer clothes from New Zealand, which got sent at the same time as a new laptop (thanks again Rob!), both via DHL. Guess which one got here first?

It turns out that Vietnam have a LAW against importing used clothing to the country. I don’t understand how a second hand laptop can make its way through to me unscathed but my bloody pants get held up at customs. They ended up being held for around a week, and I’m still not really sure how I managed to get them through. A combination of complaining and enthusiastically chasing up as well as reproducing an invoice which declared the clothes as new in order to circumvent the law (which meant re-declaring??) got them to me eventually. Vietnam. Don’t try and understand it, is what I’ve learned.

Here are some photos of a typical meal had here in the apartment. I’ll never get sick of Vietnamese spring rolls.

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This was a ‘hot-pot’ meal, which we had in celebration of the lunar New Year. You cook all the ingredients in the stew as you go, it’s delicious.

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Thanks for reading what turned out to be a ‘bridging’ post between cities in Vietnam. Next up I think I’ll compile a post with several weird and humorous occurrences I’ve come across, as well as some other stories about things I’ve been getting up to in this city of madness.

Damo

 

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