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City of the Soaring Dragon

Hanoi, Vietnam


Hanoi is the capital and also the largest city in northern Vietnam with 7 million people. Ruthlessly crowded with motorbikes, people and goods-for-sale along the tiny winding roads, my first impression was that this city was completely nuts. Coming from the jungles and mountains, I felt overwhelmed at first by the congestion, claustrophobia, and from crossing the street even in this super-dense city. Nor would it be considered a particularly pretty city; there aren't many parks and exhaust fumes tend to discolor most of the buildings, and the weather is gray cloudy most of the year.

Things are even CHEAPER in Hanoi though, than from the rest of the cities I have been in thus far! I am constantly amazed to see how cheap things are and am just surprised they can go lower than Bangkok or Chiang Mai. DVD's were only $1.75 and entire shows or sets of movies could be purchased for $5. Movies and TV shows are categorized completely differently than they would be in a Blockbuster or Best Buy back in America, they are organized by actor, director and show, not by genre. There are set compilations offering all movies by a certain actor such as Brad Pitt, or all the seasons of The Simpsons in a little box. And yes, they all work.

Our Pacific Discovery group also had the privilege of visiting both the 'Temple of Literature' and a prison used for the imprisonment of American's during the Vietnam War. The Temple of Literature was slightly interesting, it was Vietnams first university and founded almost 1000 years ago. A little band played ethnic Vietnamese music which made it worth it for my easily-bored self. The prison was more interesting, it housed John McCain during his time as a P.O.W. The walls and the cells looked haunting (pictures to come soon, bad internet here...) and the aura of the atrocious conditions made everyones mood very weary. The text along the walls explaining both the French treatment of Vietnamese prisoners and the Vietnamese treatment of American prisoners painted completely different stories, and was obviously mostly propaganda. I somehow doubt the Americans received 3 healthy meals a day and mostly played chess, basketball, and helped plant trees.

The Vietnamese tend to like Americans, and I have not encountered any situation during my time here to suggest otherwise. The population is mostly young and under 35, and American's were part of a long chain of attackers in the quest for a sovereign nation including France, Japan, and China. By the time we had come along, war was a very ingrained part of their world. Their war was not about communism, as we believed, but about independence and local rule. Ho Chi Minh simply chose communism because it provided the most distinct roadmap for economic, social, and political processes for the founding of an entirely new nation. The Vietnamese did not hold to any ideals other than a Vietnamese nation, communism was an easy path of action and nationalism to rally people under. The Communist experiment failed by the mid to late 80s in Vietnam, perhaps quickened by the West's embargo against the nation. It now seems to be a very capitalist society, allows foreign ownership of businesses, houses, etc, and actively courts foreign investment for factories. Its chief export is oil, and is the 3rd largest rice-exporter, just behind the US.

I will post more analysis of the situation here in my next post, when I am able to upload more pictures. I am currently in Saigon (in the south) and my next post will be from Cambodia. All the best!

The Lego House in Hanoi

People park their motorbikes on the sidewalk so most of the time you have to walk on the street.

A woman at the market wearing a funny t-shirt "Hunk if you (heart) my body!" They sell alot of t-shirts and jeans with misspelled words or meaningless English on them which usually turns out to be pretty funny.

A FOUR story KFC in Hanoi. Order on the first floor, recieve food on second, sit on 2, 3 or 4. Symbolically American food chains such as McDonald's or 7-11 haven't been allowed in Vietnam because of the war, although even these restrictions are starting to loosen as time goes by




permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 27, 2009 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Temple, Vietnam, Hanoi, JackCrestani, Johncrestani, Prison and Johnmccain

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