December 2011 Part 1- Off to Hanoi

I love decembers.

Ever since boo came along, he has made decembers my favourite month of the year. This year wasn’t an exception.

Started of december with a trip to Vietnam. It was an eye-opener. I witnessed lots of different sights both beautiful and ones I wished I didn’t lay my eyes on. We headed to Halong Bay, Sapa and ended the trip at Hanoi. During the trip, we met and talked to a lot of other travellers and learnt a whole lot about the different nations along the way.

At Halong Bay, we met a couple from Sweden (Chris and Tara) and they shared with us that the sun sets at 3pm during winters, making the country rather depressing during these months. It is interesting talking to them as they shed some light about what “hippies” do and think. They are not that concerned about the future and live in the moment. Chris and Tara make ends meet by  bartending and waiteressing. I wonder if I would ever have the courage to do that.

Another couple- a pilot and a professor from the US, provided some insights into how to become a professor in the US what the Americans think of their political system.

We met a couple from Spain on the ride from Sapa to Hanoi. Boo and I were keen to know more about the Euro-zone situation and how the Spainards were coping with the situation. The construction sector was what kept the Spain economy going over the last few years. Fresh graduates were able to command a pay of Euro3-4k a month and many were driving luxury cars. This sector has since died down considerably and unemployment rate is now close to 10%.

It’s really funny as Boo and I were always so curious and keen to know about other people’s lives and experiences. Others would probably coin as us the “Curious Asians”.

Moving on to the key takeaways from the trip:

1. Don’t be shy to start a conversation with someone new. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn just by saying “Hi!”. It’s way faster than reading a book anyway.

2. It’ll be good to catch up on your reading during the trip so remember to bring several books to read.

Halong Bay: Over-rated, would not rate it as one of the 7 wonders of the world

1. It’ll be better to book a new junk than old. There’ll be rats scurrying around in the latter.

2. Take a room away from the engine and exhaust, preferably on the higher level.

Sapa: Beautiful scenery, worth checking out

1.  If you are joining one of the hikes, would recommend that you buy a “kampong adidas” from the market for S$4-6 bucks rather than trek with the shoes you have.

2. Bring a hat along if you are not that fond of the sun.

3. Be prepared to be swarmed by women and children asking you to buy their wares. Keep your loose change for this trip.

4. Garlic butter fries are absolutely yummy!

Hanoi:

1. Hotel to recommend: Rising Dragon. You should book your day trips through Rising dragon as they will let you have a rest in their room if you arrive at ungodly hours.

Exceptional service. You’ll be amazed how far they will go to ensure that you are happy.

2. Another hotel that we stayed in was The Somerset residence. The service is not as good but the apartments are. We stayed in a 2room apartment with a kitchen that Boo cooked breakfast in. The american breakfast made by Boo was the best i’ve eaten.

3. There’s a food place near Somerset residence that has a concept similar to “marche”. The pancakes and dried noodles there are good. Ask the staff to recommend you some dishes.

4. Don’t order crabs when they are not in season.

5. Don’t carry a longchamp bag in Vietnam least your bag gets cut open. Put all your valuables in a pouch or close to your body.

6. Lastly, remember to buy insurance when you visit a developing country!

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