Good morning Vietnam

We arrived in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, after two days of travel and a harrowing bus ride.  Our bus was more like a large minivan with a space in the back for luggage.  After the isles were lined with sacs of rice, wooden boards were placed on top of them so that we could fit one more person between the seats to have five bodies per row.  This bus, which was crossing an international border, also carried some strange cargo including five exotic birds in cages, a sac with a live rat in it, styrofoam crates with chickens on ice and large bags of shoes, dishes and an assortment of other things.  Needless to say, some of the cargo began to smell (and pee) on the bus.  The cramped space, winding roads and animal cargo was too much for some people and caused two passengers to throw up.  Our driver seemed to find this hilarious.

We finally arrived in Hanoi and are excited to announce that the city really feels like Asia.  The streets are packed with exotic fruits and overburdened motorcycles, the smell of incense and spices are common and everywhere you turn there’s something new or unusual around.  The French influence can be seen mostly in the extremely complicated winding backstreets, the excellent coffee and the obnoxious cigarette culture.  We are thoroughly enjoying a change of cuisine and have tried some great pho and bun cha.  For the most part everyone we’ve met has been friendly but speaks very little English.  Vietnamese is a tonal language meaning that the intonation changes the meaning of the words, so it’s hard to learn just by looking at a phrase book.  When we return to Hanoi after visiting Halong Bay in the northeast, we plan to take a few classes to learn some of the basics for conversation.