Sunday, September 4, 2011

First day in Viet Nam

          Well, at time that I am writing this, I have successfully made it through my first full day in Vietnam! It was a very busy and long day; so long in fact that I actually thought that what we did this morning took place yesterday.

          We awoke early, around 5:30, it was pretty rough, especially since we had been traveling for so long the day before, but the reason that we woke up so early was because we were going to a lake near our hotel where many people go in the early morning to exercise and just relax, because after about 10 am it gets unbearably hot out. So after a quick walk through the already packed streets of old Hanoi (which celebrated it’s 1000th anniversary just last year), we arrived at the lake, it was not very big, an easy 20 minute walk to completely circle it. The first thing that I noticed was the large amount of people exercising; there would be large groups of people doing choreographed moves, and that was pretty cool to watch. It was nice to walk around in the morning because it was still relatively nice temperature out compared to what it was going to be later in the day. Next was a major event in our trip, our first bowl of Pho! We went to a smaller shop to have it, and it was very good, for those of you reading this who doesn’t know what it is, it is a traditional Vietnamese soup with noodles, beef or really any meat, and there are different things that you can add if you want like lime and hot sauce. So following our breakfast we walked back through the even more crowded streets to our hotel and had our first Vietnamese language lesson.

We learned basic things like greetings, how to count, and how to buy things and bargain, which would be very useful a little later on in the day. Vietnamese is a very interesting language, unlike English, Spanish or French, which have multiple tenses for a verb, Vietnamese has only one, and you just change what you put before it to change it, for example, the verb ‘eat’, in the present you would say, “we eat”, but if you wanted to say that you ate last night, you just say, “last night we eat”. So it may seem easy, but the funky part is the pronunciation, there are 5 different accents that change the way a word is said, and one word that is spelled the same could have up to five different means, that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. So I can already tell that is going to be confusing. So after our lesson, we had a short walk over to lunch. It was a traditional Vietnamese meal with noodles, beef, soup and vegetables, it was great. I also got to order my first thing in Vietnamese! It was only a bottle of water, but it was a start. On our way back to the hotel, I was walking in a group, and a few people bought some of the iconic cone hats, but that’s not the main part of this story, the problem with buying anything from a walking street vendor, is that once you buy one thing, you are basically painting a large ‘X marks the spot’ on your back and we were immediately surrounded by vendors trying to sell us anything from hats to fruit. One guy who was a shoe shiner came up to me and said “you need you shoes shined”, but I only got these shoes two days before I left and there was hardly a speck of dirt on them, and even though I said no, he just started cleaning my show anyway, and knowing the antics of the vendors, even if you say no, they will keep doing what they’re doing and try and charge you for it, so the only way to stop them is to walk away, and not try to reason with them, because they aren’t listening. When we returned to the hotel, we had a few hours to rest before we met again, and I spent some time writing and working on editing my first movie, which I hope to upload to the blog in the next few days. Then at 3:30, we met in the lobby of the hotel, where we played some games to get to know each other better, and then we were split into groups for a scavenger hunt around old Hanoi. There were three groups and three different places to go and buy something from that area, and we only had one hour to do it. Our group, team one, started off strong and we easily found the first place, which was a large market, there we were told to buy some candy that can’t be found in the US, and after some hardcore negotiating we took our candy and were off, the next one wasn’t so easy, we had to buy a toy that has to do with the mid- autumn festival, which is a festival for the children, but we had to buy it from a specific street. For a while we were pretty confused, but thanks to a local on a motorcycle we soon found a toy and closing in on the final stretch towards the finish line. Last, but not least, we had to buy fruit from a square close to our hotel, and right around the time we were buying the fruit, we passed the other two groups, who were heading towards their last spot, but we were already the sure winners, and after struggling for a while to find our hotel, we crossed the finish line victorious! Unfortunately though we came in second place due to some errors in the number of fruit purchased, but we still won because we got out of the heat first.
People exercising early in the morning 
Soon after we finished our hunt we strolled over to the Water Puppet theater, which was an easy 5 minute walk from our hotel, the water puppets were pretty impressive, and also the band that played there was amazing as well. The way that they work is there is a giant pool instead of a stage, and a curtain hanging behind the pool, and behind the curtain are the puppeteers, who use long poles to control the puppets. It takes an incredible amount of strength to control the puppets as they move through the water, and at the same time also controlling the puppets arms. Afterword we were invited to go backstage and see what it was like behind the scenes. It was even more impressive seeing the backstage, because while they are controlling the puppets, they are also stand waist deep in water, freezing cold water too.

          From the theater we took a few cabs and went to dinner, we drove a while out to a hotel at an amusement park, similar to a Disney world resort, where they had one of the largest restaurants I’ve ever seen, it was massive, and the buffet was gargantuan, it was insane. They had literally every type of Asian food you could possible imagine, sushi, dim sum, Vietnamese, Chinese, and much more. They even had pizza, or as they misspelled it, Piza. After dinner we got back in the taxis and sped on back to the hotel, tired and ready for a goods night sleep. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your language lesson and look forward to your first film! Also, it's really interesting hearing about the food -- I remember one of the journals you wrote on a family trip and you were always so descriptive about the meals.
    lol mm