Sweat a lot this week while trying to find my stride here in Vietnam. The heat/humidity is no joke. Also had my favorite meal of the year!

Cultural Notes

  1. The word for beer here is ‘Bia’ which ironically sounds a lot like a person from Boston saying the word beer. Can I get a bia?!
  2. Ôi trời ơi! Is my favorite phrase. It’s oh my God and pronounced “Oh zoy oy!”
  3. Ever wonder why everyone’s last name is Nguyen? It’s because the last dynasty of Vietnam was the Nguyen dynasty. A

    Just squeeeeezing through

    lot of people changed their last name to be closer to the family.

  4. They call the Vietnam War “The American War”. According to our city team leader “Do we have animosity towards Americans? No! Cuz we won!”
  5. We (Remote Year) are not allowed to have overnight guests for fear that we will bring home prostitutes. Wonder what made this a thing?
  6. Sometimes men here are more in danger of being pickpocketed because there are women on the street who will target them. Haven’t experienced it yet *knock on wood*
  7. To use hot water, we have to turn on a black switch on the wall 15ish minutes before use. Once again, all these countries have energy savers in place and we got nada. So simple!
  8. There are different streets for selling/buying different things. I.e. Silk Street, Shoe Street, one near me with a bunch of car parts and tires, another one with a bunch of houseware, one for party supplies. I mean I guess there is a method to the madness that is Hanoi.
  9. Best meal of the year so far had at a vegetarian restaurant. There are a lot of them here because everyone eats vegetarian on the 1st and 15th of the lunar month.

Week Summary (finally slowed down a little…just a little :P)

Views from Temple of Jade Mountain

  • Rest all day Monday
  • Free lunch on Tuesday from Cơm 123, super good rice box lunches!
  • Make rice noodles for myself for the first time. They cook really fast and I didn’t do anything but cook them so they were pretty bland.
  • On a quick walk around the block, I noted that these are the things that you almost run into: people sitting on stools, motorbikes (moving, parked, parked with people taking naps on them), live (and dead) chickens/roosters, dogs, people playing shuttlecock, buses, women with bikes selling fruit, giant pots of noodles, clothing racks, other Remote Year people, oh and cars.
  • Saw a motorbike with 6 people on it!! Parents and 4 kids.
  • Morning walk and shopping on Thursday. Visit the Temple of the Jade Mountain (Đền Ngọc Sơn). Sweat my butt off, literally. Throwback to the times I didn’t go through two outfits a day.
  • Another peek into life in Hanoi: was waiting at the crosswalk for the green walk sign to come on. It did and I cautiously proceeded to walk. Then the cars and bikes sitting at the red light start honking and moving THROUGH the red light. So ya, green, yellow, and red all mean go.

    Best Banana Ice Cream

  • Remote Year Dinner around the world on Thursday night! Twice a year, Remote Year chooses a night and RY people all around the world come together and share a dinner wherever they are. It’s really cool to see all of the reshared images on RY’s Instagram. There must have been near 40 groups featured, some active groups, some citizens.
  • Our dinner around the world was at Sadhu Vegetarian Restaurant. It is a MUST go place in Hanoi. Seriously so delicious. Go with a big group because it’s all you can eat (just order dishes to the table) and that way you can try lots of things. Unlike what I picture vegetarian restaurants to be like, it’s not a lot of tofu, more mushrooms, well-cooked veggies, and rice everything. Tried banana fruit plant, lotus, lime cinnamon juice, fresh mint in spring rolls, friend eggplant, rice custard, and THE BEST banana ice cream with toasted coconut and peanuts on top.
  • Friday was a calm day although normal things like going to the gym continue to be an experience.

Saturday- Tracks by day, Karaoke by night

  • Remote Year Track Event: Vroom Vroom- a 5 hour tour on the back of motorbikes

    Noms before bikes

  • First stop: yummy lunch at Pho Cuon 31. One thing I appreciate about Vietnam is food comes fast.
  • Take first ride into the farm area of Hanoi. Turn down a dirt road and ride through the banana fields for a quick pit stop to see a floating village. The village was made up of a dozen or so homes with no electricity, running water, or bathrooms. Large class difference between this area and the old quarter where we live. Also a lot of trash lining the dirt path, but the farms were beautiful.
  • Next stop was the oldest bridge in Hanoi: Long Bien. It has two lanes, one each direction, and a railroad track through the middle. To maintain the balance of the track over the years, they change the direction that cars/motorbikes drive on. At the time of day we went, we drove on the left side of the road! Took some cool photos on the railroad part too.
  • Another quick stop for coffee at a recycled café (Hidden Gem) before things got wild. My driver was a little guy, spoke no English, but we both had a good laugh as we wound through the city.

    Vietnamese Wedding Cake, can’t you tell?

  • Take a left into the SMALLEST alley, barely wide enough for the bike to fit through with the mirrors, then rode THROUGH the ‘black market’ of Hanoi. It’s a crowded street market reselling used parts and hard metals, among other things. I’m telling you, the whole scene was crazy. Some of the taller people in the group had to nearly stand so their knees wouldn’t get skinned by walls or people.
  • Another stop for street food that I passed on. Then on to the French quarter where we walked through more alleys and were treated to Vietnamese wedding cake. Ever seen bright green slime that kids play with? Ya, that’s what this cake looks like. The ‘cake’ is really made when you stack boxes of this green stuff into a cake shape. The goo itself is “Banh Phu The”, a mixture of tapioca flour, pandan, mung bean paste, sugar, sesame seeds and coconut milk.
  • Last stop of the day was for fresh, homemade beer before another spin around the city and back home. Very overstimulating but fun afternoon.
  • Short rest before hitting a karaoke bar with RY. My first time going to one. We got a private room and by far the best performance of the night was my friends doing “My Heart Will Go On”
  • Headed to Beer Street after for a peek at the night life. Beer Street is lined with pubs, clubs, and bars and is packed with people most nights. Wild…like everything else here.

Sunday- Treat yo’self

Hard to capture how packed this market was

  • Lazy Sunday morning then long walk around the city by myself. Destination was the Dong Xuan Market, a local wholesale market. Ya, not worth the visit unless you want to walk through 3 floors packed with people and goods.
  • I have to say, everything is really cheap here but I find it really hard to shop. There are clothing stores every few store fronts, but they all sell the same things.
  • Then got a 60 minute massage and pedicure at one of many spas down the street. Relaxing.
  • Finished the week with a Murder Mystery Dinner party with Remote Year. We all got assigned characters in the murder story and we had to complete a series of tasks to try to solve the case. GREAT way to bring people together and we had lots of laughs despite not a single person correctly guessing the murderer.

This week felt like a mental win for me. Learning a hell of a lot. And hey, saw some blue sky!