Three Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

We catch the A21 daytime bus to the Hong Kong airport. Vietnamese Airlines is a pleasant surprise with roomy seats and check-in luggage allowed. The girl next to me on the plane is decidedly unsmiley, but the rest of the surrounding seats are enthralled with Ryder, who is, at least to me, irresistibly cute because he loves to fly and is thrilled, especially when they bring a large meal. He takes after me in that respect. Not love of flying, but of eating. We get to the airport and still have to wait for a visa on arrival. I chat with a guy from South Africa who’s there to visit his sister and mom, English teachers, he hasn’t seen them for years as he’s from South Africa. He’s encouraging about the safety of visiting his home country.

Once finished, we are led by the hand of one of the airport workers to a golf cart, which will take us to the 17 bus which goes to the Old Quarter downtown. Ryder pretends to drive it while we wait for other passengers to join us.

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I can’t believe we are driving down a major highway on a golf cart, but that’s just the start of the craziest traffic situation perhaps in the world. This is clued in for me when we get to the bus stop, Ryder gets off the golf cart and I order him back in, but he hurries back in saying “Bus!” as one swoops right by. It’s a great introduction and warning to how tightly one should hold onto their children in Vietnam, but the locals seem rather lackadaisical about their children walking around the sea of motorcycles, rickshaws, bulldozers, trucks and smoke-producing buses. They laugh when they see Ryder’s leash, but even with the leash I feel like I can’t keep Ryder close enough in this traffic. I’m amazed at the frenetic energy that pulses through the packed city. The most similar comparison to me would be India. I love places like this, frankly. I have emerged from the love-it-or-hate-it division decidedly on the love it side. We check in to our rather dilapidated but clean hotel, and go out to find dinner.

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit, but after dining on a scrumptious meal of shrimp and octopus noodles,

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seeing thousands of people drinking their 20 cent beers on the tiniest chairs you’ll ever see, exploring an outdoor market and receiving a gift of a squeaky balloon from some friendly locals and their daughter while drinking some flower juice,

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I realize I don’t know the address of our hotel. I try to retrace my steps. It takes a while, but I do find it again after some bewildering wrong turns and asking storekeepers who have no idea. Hanoi is charming, while also alarming (the traffic).

It’s Sunday. Breakfast is really good, though simple-a noodle soup with an herb I don’t recognize and a fried egg. We take a local bus to church. There’s a little boy Ryder’s age sitting with his father. Ryder asks to sit by them. He misses his own dad. Talking with their family in between meetings, they invite us over for Mothers Day dinner. I agree. In Relief Society we are given hair scrunchies for our mothers day gift-more practical than chocolates I would say. They bring sesame crackers and a jar of jam for snacks. I find the Vietnamese people so agreeable-childlike, but sharp. And they love kids. It was only as we were preparing to go that my friend mentions she had her baby in Saudi Arabia, and I have a flashback to another sacrament meeting years ago. I have met this family before-I just don’t remember where. I’m insistent, though several countries fall through. Istanbul? No, never been. Egypt? Yes-that’s it—wait, no, they went at Christmas. Addis Ababa? And there we discover our connection. It’s a small world, especially within the LDS tradition. She doesn’t remember me, but she remembers Jacob-the Jump Man. I’m impressed as they zip around on their motorbikes with their kids. I just call a taxi. I see her art and am inspired that she finds a way to create though living nomadically. Her art is here We have a very pleasant evening and Ryder plays happily with their four children. He’s having too much fun to eat, a more and more common experience these days.

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At breakfast the next day, Ryder makes a new friend. An older black man staying in the dorm room at the hotel invites Ryder to go out on the town with him. “You want to come?” the joker says, “Get a beer with me, and a cigarette, and chase some ladies?” Ryder is grinning and laughing like crazy. He says, “Yeah!” runs up and takes the guys hand. They make off for the door and Ryder turns and says, “Come on, mama!” The guy says, “She can’t come with!” so Ryder comes running back to me.

It’s such a hot day. We grab some Vietnamese pancakes and fish soup-again way too much than we can eat.

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We visit a temple on Hoam Kien Lake that has a massive turtle and statues of tigers and dragons-all favorites of Ryder, then tuck into a smoothie before going to see a water puppet show, a unique form of Vietnamese entertainment. Like many times I take Ryder to such things, I can only half pay attention, while the other half is consumed with keeping him quiet, but I got the gist of it. The puppets are somehow on top of the water. I don’t know how they do it, but since so many Vietnamese live on the water with floating markets and other things it makes sense for their puppets to do so do. The music is live and the singing is beautiful.

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We visit a friend for drinks at her five star hotel afterwards. She happens to be visiting at the same time from Tokyo with her family. Ryder and Brooke have a grand reunion running in circles around the hotel and taking turns crashing into things. Ryder steals her teddy bear in order to convince her to chase him one last time. Then they say goodbye forever.

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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