We arrived safely in the City of Hanoi, our gateway to Vietnam. We have embraced the jet lag and are in the midst of the culture shock. Hanoi is a bustling city where it seems there are no rules on the road but millions of motorbikes with one to four people piled on along with their groceries, garden plants and kitchen sinks....literally! Crossing the street here is an experience as traffic doesn't stop and you have to trust that as you walk across the road that you will not get hit. So far so good! We have had some exposure to the culture with a long wander thru the old quarter where the vibrant streets are loaded with shops, food carts, and plastic stools that you can squat on with your fifty cent beer. We came across several instances where young adults were dressed in traditional dresses and having photo shoots for Their graduation as well as young lovers having what looked like engagement photos. We also visited HoChiMin's home and mausoleum and the temple of literature which is 1000 year old university where The teachings of Confucius were embraced. The gardens here are beautiful and lush. The people are friendly, the food is fresh and the casual culture is welcoming.
We also had an experience at a local hospital when I realized the pain and rash I had was growing more angry and painful. Our hotel recommended a hospital nearby with English speaking staff and we were ushered in by sweet nurses in pink candy striped scrubs with little hats. Within ten minutes of paying a fee ($16can) I was seen by a dermatologist and had a translator. They determined this was Zona Virus which is Shingles. Five prescriptions and thirty dollars later we walked out of the hospital with all that I would need. I was amazed seeing as I spent nine hours in my local hospital only weeks ago and the service here was above and beyond! It was very civilized and I witnessed people being cared for very well.
Our time here has been slowed down a little as we adjust and I heal. But Hanoi was a great place to get started for our two weeks in Vietnam. We are now crammed into a sleeper bus for the six hour bus ride to Sapa. Stay tuned!