As we prepare for our whirlwind tour of Halong Bay tomorrow we planned to take a more casual plan of action today. Well sometimes plans just don't work out the way you want. Don't get me wrong our experiences today were just as awe inspiring as yesterday, there is a lot to take in and see in Hanoi.
I'm continually amazed at the different feeling you get from traveling throughout Hanoi compared to a large city in America. Very little need to overwhelm ones senses with bright lights, invasive advertising, or big store presence; in Hanoi you are thrust into a culture where your neighbor street vendor is not your fierce competitor but a respected trades-person. Quite different from the multitude of coffee shops or large department stores causing the smaller mom and pop shops to close. I asked Jessica how vendors that are right next to each other selling almost the same things survive. She pointed out that many times, especially for a tourist, you make an effort to spread the wealth amongst them all. Even if a vendor begins to experience hardship those around will extend a helping hand to make sure they all can survive. And this type of attitude is the norm, not the exception. Quite a powerful experience.
Today we got the experience the more authentic street vendors; those that are really selling to the native population rather than the tourist; of course they still welcome the tourist with open arms. Yet another eye opening experience and I wonder if I could get the same feeling going to more open markets in Portland. Seeing the food prepared as you walk buy, such as meat being cut, vegetables being prepared, etc. probably would not happen as our heath codes probably would restrict someone from cutting a full carcase in the middle of an open market.
I was fortunate today to visit a Budhist temple and see first hand some of the rituals that are done daily. While there was not an actually ceremony taking place within the temple there were those that placed burning incense outside. Inside the temple there were great shrines with extremely intricate carvings throughout. I have seen this before but within the actual setting you just get a powerful, unique and real experience. Quite wonderful.
More shopping was done today and I was able to find a few things that hopefully will give those that stayed behind a taste of Hanoi. After carrying everything I think the shopping experiences are done for this trip. Packing should be interesting. UPS anywhere?
Closing out I have to mention a treat we had today; Vietnamese Coffee. I feel as though I am a pretty good judge on coffee and this I feel was probably the best coffee I have had anywhere. Perhaps it was the use of condensed milk or the environment that added to the euphoric experience, but the actual flavor of the coffee itself was bold yet smooth. Just a treasure.
Tomorrows tour will start early and end late. It should be an experience of a lifetime.
Hanoi Day 3 pictures posted: http://picasaweb.google.com/jsbruner/