Wednesday, 30 April 2008

From Bangkok's Blandness to Hanoi Heaven

I'm doing my best to see a bit of the world I have always wanted to travel to, and today it feels like I hit the big league.  If I'm honest, Bangkok was a bit of a damp squid, a very large damp squid.  The city is far from the glamorous vision of the East I had.  True, it served as a great introduction and a good place to acclimatize to the urban intensity in this part of the world. But, it's usefulness ended there.  Some beautiful temples were on offer and they proved a great calming relief to the cities heat, and it's noise.  And yes, there will be many a voice that disagrees with me, but Bangkok  is just not fun.  The depravity of the sex scene was on the one hand quite amazing, but at the same time, incredibly creepy. You'll find the Nana 'Entertainment' plaza at the heart of Bangkok's largest tourist area.  See it, but perhaps only in daylight. You can have fun in Bangkok, but limit yourself to 2-3 days, anything more is better spent in other parts of Thailand.


So, now I find myself in Hanoi's Old Quarter on the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake. The Lake of the Returned Sword, and its rarely seen population of giant tortoise, enigmatic as they are.  I do not know how to say this any more forcefully, COME HERE AND COME HERE NOW.  It has been mere hours, but I am already in love. 

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The chaos and noise combines perfectly with the old colonial architecture and the cities symbols of socialism.  The first and perhaps scariest test of any Westerner in this city is the dreaded need to cross the road.  You can wait for the traffic to stop, but believe me, your  visa will have expired by then and immigration officials will be looking for you.  Step into the road, put one foot in front of the other and go.  Hesitate at your peril though.  Move confidently and the hordes of motorcycles and cars will move  around you like a  water coursing down a river.  Get over that ordeal and your task is simple, enjoy yourself.

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It helps that I arrived on a night when stages appeared around the lake.  No dilly dallying here, the stage I'm watching form a terrace bar only went up about 4 hours ago.  The general impact on traffic seems irrelevant as acts from military choirs to aerobatic performers delight the gathered ranks of mopeds and their seemingly unwitting passengers.  It only serves however, to reinforce the fact that after years in the hinterland, Vietnam is waking up and the deep pockets of the west should take notice.  In my very short time here I have come to one conclusion, this place is a jewel if ever there was one.

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5 comments:

Rosemary said...

I have one word to say to you ... MALAPROPISM!!! heh heh heh :-)

iamscoby said...

I dare say madame, them's fighting words!

TheKenster said...

fight! fight! kill! KILL!

Jennifer said...

Hey Scobes, loving your work......but have to admire Rosemary for trying to keep you on the straight and narrow gramatically! Fantastic photos and am glad you're having fun....meanwhile back home we're all lazing about in the sun ( strange but true..) Wonder where you're going next.....xx

Rosemary said...

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!