Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vietnam Reflections

I just posted our events from Vietnam, but I wanted to also share our reflections on the trip, not just what we did. I learned so much during these 4 days and my perspective on things changed too.

First, let me say, Vietnam is NOT Thailand.  Sure they are neighboring countries, but that is the extent of their similarities.  I guess to be fair, we did go from a semi-small city to a large bustling city, but still. VERY different places.  I assumed that since we have been in Thailand for awhile Vietnam would not be that bad/different... WRONG.

As soon as we stepped out of the airport we knew we were no longer in Thailand.  People were honking their horns (never happens here), yelling (not here), and traffic was flying.  We also noticed that people drive on the right side of the road rather than the left, and drive much faster.  Immediate culture shock.

Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, is a mixture of French and Chinese culture.  There were dragons and Chinese architecture mixed in with European colors and arches.  Baguettes were sold almost everywhere.  The variety of food was amazing.  And the buildings were beautiful.

Also, USD was commonly discussed which was bizarre for us.  People would give us prices for things in USD and we would have no clue what that meant.  We had Vietnamese Dong, which is crazy prices.  1 USD = 21000 VND roughly.  Since USD was used things would actually be in American prices too. So a bottle of water would be 2 dollars, whereas in Thailand it is like 20cents.  We were spending 400,000 dong on dinners.  That is almost 20 USD.  We are NOT used to this.  So that was a change and a challenge for us.

Motorbikes were everywhere, again because the city was so much bigger I understand that. One of our tour guides was explaining that cars cost significantly more in Vietnam than elsewhere because the government does not want people to own cars.  The motorbikes do not have rear-view mirrors because they stick out and get in the way.  People park and drive very close together so there is no extra space.  Plus, most drivers do not wear helmets and those that do only cover the tops of their heads. A lot of people in Thailand wear whole face covering helmets.

People on the streets were haggling us and following us trying to get us to buy their things. One man tried to pull Moes shoe off his foot to fix it.  The pressure and nagging is definitely not done in Chiang Mai.  It was new to us, but again, might be a result of the large city.  It was yet another reminder of how different the world is.

For me, I realized that no 2 places are the same.  Sure every place has similarities. Some of the people we met in Vietnam were amazing just like the people here.  Our tour guide in Ha Long Bay, and our hotel man at Hanoi were both amazingly kind, helpful, and generous.  I was truly amazed at how different the places were.  I guess I was ignorant about it but my desire to travel has only increased because of this new perspective.  I now cant say well Laos is right next door so I dont want to go there because it is the same.  Even in America, each place has a uniqueness of its own that is waiting to be shared with visitors.  I hope to continue to explore the world and learn from each new place that I visit.

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