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By Dan | June 24, 2007

Well, evening feeding went pretty well considering. Both awoke 2 hours late and were obviously a mess for it. Vinh took his and with about 40 minutes of fussing was back asleep. Not ideal, but an improvement over many cycles. Thanh was ready to play and played for about 90 minutes before getting fussy and tired. It would be nice if he would realize that when he is tired he should just go to sleep. It is really hard to determine when we need to comfort him and when we need to leave him settle down by himself when putting him down. Sometimes (like this time) it seems all the comforting in the world does nothing, and as soon as we get frustrated and walk away he is fine. Other times he will go forever and all he needs is a few minutes to calm him down. Sooner or later we will figure it out (and he will figure out us), but sooner would be nice.

I don’t think I have written about Hanoi yet. Hanoi is a more classic, yet more modern city than HCMC. My categorization of much of the architecture in HCMC would be crumbling shantytown, with lots of makeshift and tin roof construction and an occasional reasonably built commercial building, but Hanoi seems to be better built (for example, more tile roofs) and mostly more modern, at least based on the view from our hotel room window. At the same time, when you are at street level the building facades, streets and sidewalks are also a bit torn – not as badly as HCMC where navigating with a stroller was almost impossible, but enough that you have to watch your step. There isn’t as much traffic and more traffic controls, at least here, but the characteristics are much the same – mostly motor scooters, only occasionally obeying the controls. The lights here also have a second mode where cars are stopped but scooters allowed to go through the intersection. I’m not sure what the logic of that is. The air is also cleaner here, as are facades. I think I would like Hanoi if we had more time to play tourist, but we will say that I’m not sure that a return to HCMC would necessarily be a priority. HCMC was not as clean or bright, although some of the areas seemed to have potential for wonderful flowers and gardening in the right seasons. While we were in Vung Tau, we noticed miles and miles of perfectly manicured formal landscaping along the road that leads in and out by skirting the peninsula. Gardening like this is apparently one of the things the Vietnamese take pride in, at least in the south. (I haven’t noticed it as much in Hanoi.)

In both locations, the people take an immense pride in the appearance of whatever they are responsible for however. I noticed people hosing down the street outside our hotel daily in HCMC shortly before sunrise, and almost every shopkeeper keeps their wares in immaculate order – every box perfectly square, every stack perfectly straight. In the grocery store in HCMC it appeared that there was an employee assigned to every aisle whose only job was to ensure that displays were kept neat and orderly. There is an additional formality when in business contact. Things like offering all documents (including currency and receipts) with two hands and a slight bow of the head. They are forgiving of us brash tourists who do not follow the formalities, but nevertheless do not often fail to observe them on their part. I’m guessing that the fact that we are in mostly tourist areas is what catches us some slack, but it’s hard to say.

I also forgot to write about an incident we had at the hotel in HCMC. We were in the lobby on Wednesday (?) to fill out some paperwork, having just returned from wherever we were and a man was there absolutely having a fit about something. He was swearing and using racial slurs and bringing up the war (he might have been a vet, I couldn’t understand everything he was saying tho). He was probably from the US (unfortunately) judging by his accent (I’m guessing mid-Atlantic, but hard to say) and references to the war. Through all of this, several hotel staff members had collected at the desk to either observe or address the situation. The man wanted his money back for some reason, and the hotel was not interested in doing so. Through all of this man’s tirade, none of the hotel staff lost their cool… No raising of voices, no curt response, not so much as a flinch that we observed. Eventually the police arrived (they are never far away in that part of town, no more than a block) and the man was escorted into the lounge, and we do not know how the incident was eventually resolved. The brash American in me hopes that they hauled him off, but I’m guessing that they continued to be patient with the man until eventually realized that he was better of getting to the airport and leaving on time than pushing the matter into a sticky situation. Only a guess tho.

Tomorrow we have our Visa interview at 2pm, and we should have Visa in hand after 3pm on Tuesday. We will find out tomorrow what the details are for Tuesday. I’m starting to get nervous about the trip home. It will be a very, very long trip if the boys act the way they did on the trip up from HCMC. I understand they were very extenuating circumstances, but I don’t want a repeat of those circumstances, and the conditions at some point in the trip will almost certainly be right for it to occur. How the trip goes may well be the final determining factor of whether we go to my cousin Susan’s wedding in 10 days as well, as I have not yet rescheduled the tickets.

We are also still trying to determine whether or not we are going to go to the beach this year. Some may be determined by what state the office is in when I return, as well as obviously what state the boys are in. We may not have much of a choice tho as everyone else is still going, and we may need the help by then. I’m not sure that another change so soon is necessarily the best for the boys tho (same logic for Susan’s wedding), so I really want to play it by ear.

Anyway, everyone is asleep, so I guess I should join them.

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