10 things you need to know before visiting hanoi vietnam

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Living in Hanoi for some reasonable number of years, I’ve been one of the refuge of all the Whys and How comes of my friends who just came in either to work or travel here. It’s quite funny for me to hear the same stories of culture differences and the likes. I’ve got used to almost all of these and so I don’t mind giving advice and sharing my own experience.

All of the things I’m about to share are based on my own experience. Some tourists and immigrants may have other opinions and I respect all of those.

I’ll only talk about Hanoi since I haven’t been to all provinces here in Vietnam.

1. VEGGIES EVERYWHERE

Every food has vegetables. Vietnamese people are health conscious individuals. It’s already part of their system to include vegetables in every meal. I don’t mind seeing pieces of green leafy somethings on my plate but there was a time when I ordered spaghetti carbonara in an Italian restaurant. I was so surprised to see cucumber slices on the pasta.

I was kind of disappointed, assuming that the taste would be different from the usual carbonara. Fortunately,  the taste was no different.

2. NO PLACE FOR TURTLES

If you are the take-your-time kind of person, you’d better not take a bus  here or you’ll end up falling from the bus before you can properly get off. The bus driver,won’t wait for you to properly get off. It’s the same thing as in getting on the bus.

3. EXCUSE ME

I was in a supermarket on a Saturday night and as expected there are a lot of weekend shoppers. As I was  deciding on what shampoo to use for my frizzy hair, I felt someone’s hand on my hip and at the same time I was shoved off from my position. Ready to punch that rude person,  I turned around and saw an elderly woman trying to reach for a shampoo on the upper shelves. Instead of getting annoyed, I took pity on the old lady and helped her get it.

The next day I related the supermarket incident to my Vietnamese colleague. She said it is normal to get shoved off in crowded places without saying excuse. They think that people in crowded places are all busy so it is expected that  you’ll get bumped or even shoved off by others. Shoving other people out your way isn’t rude at all.

We’ll, I still have to get used to that.

4. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

It wouldn’t hurt to learn a couple of Vietnamese phrases, specially if you are planning to stay longer. I would advice to first learn how they say their numbers and the phrase how much, in their language.

No matter how long you stay here, it is inevitable that you’ll make purchases for your everyday needs. It is very helpful to learn those words and phrases as not to get ripped off which is common in local supermarkets around the globe.

5. BREAD ON THE STREETS

Don’t be surprised if you see sticks of bread or better known as Baguettes sold along the streets, despite exhaust emitted by passing vehicles. It’s probably very surprising but I’m sure you’ll get used to it.

6. I’ll HAND it to you

Not sure on what to eat for breakfast in a foreign country, I took a trip to a nearby bakeshop.

After pinpointing a pastry from the display, the shop assistant took it with his bare hands and  put it in a plastic bag.

“Oh my! Does he expect me to eat that pastry  after  grabbing it with his hands?” I thought to myself. I found out later that it’s a usual site to see sellers use their hands to pick up bread, even ice cubes.

7. FRIENDLY or NOSEY

Vietnamese people are quite friendly. Two complete strangers in a bus stop can have a long friendly conversation.

A friend of mine was in her hostel room with her door slightly open, when a lady from the the room beside her entered and iniated a friendly conversation. My friend was dumbfounded!

One time, I took a two hour bus trip to visit my friend. I prepared earphones and  reading materials to keep me busy throughout the trip. Suddenly the person beside, tapped me and started a conversation. I hoped I understood what she was saying but I got a few hints after she showed the stuffs she bought from somewhere. I wasn’t annoyed. I was amused.

8. KNOCK KNOCK

Better lock your doors, if you don’t want anyone barging in.

How do you react when school staff suddenly barged in your classroom in the middle of a class?

Answer: Smile and tell her to knock next time.

9. DOGS in the market

Like some other Asian nations, Vietnamese people eat dogs, not all though.  Some of my students say that eating dog meat is an option.

If the site of a dog carcass grosses you out then stay away from meat markets.

10. AM I IN A TOILET?

In some small eateries,it’s quite a site to see table napkins on the floor, making it look like a toilet with no bins.

Well in fact there are trash bins just below the table. You just have to pop it into the trash bin, it won’t take 2 seconds. I just don’t understand why some people  still throw it outside the bin.

These are some of the things you need to know before going around Hanoi. It’ll be fun to experience them first hand.

Other than the things above, Hanoi is a very safe place to travel. As I mentioned, the people are friendly and quite approachable, you just have to use your sign language skills if you don’t know any Vietnamese phrases.

There are a lot of places to visit, a lot of food to eat  and more things to experience

Enjoy your trip to the City of Lakes.

Reckless BUS drivers on the loose

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I’ve been keeping mum about this matter for a long time now! I’ve been a victim of those reckless drivers myself  but I’m not the type to complain about everything that doesn’t seem right as long as I’m still alive and breathing! That’s what important anyways! Plus, this place isn’t my country.

But this time they just got me. I’m so pissed off and my patience just reached it’s limit.

Got back from the capital today  after strolling around with my friend.

If my memory serves me right, it was her third time to visit the city. We had a long day and finally decided to go back home.

I had to take her to the bus station for her to go back to a  province which is a 3 hour ride from the capital.

As for me, I got back in my Hostel, dead tired.  Few hours later, I woke up to a text message from my friend that she had an accident.

As she was getting off the bus, it suddenly started off without the driver checking if his passenger was able to get off safely.

My friend fell flat on the ground. She’s  got cuts and grazes and a big wound on her knee. She was in panic seeing her leg bleed like crazy. Damn that driver!!!!

The driver stopped his bus and looked out of the window. The bus conductor got off and asked my friend in their language. But since they couldn’t understand each other, the bus left, leaving my friend on the road! The nerve!

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Yesterday, we rode the bus to transfer from different points in the city. That feeling when you want to enjoy a day off from work and experience the life of the local people so we decided to go around on buses.

There was this incident that we almost got killed by this reckless beings. When we were getting on the bus on the door at the driver’s side, he suddenly closed the door and started off leaving some people, including me and my friend, sweeping at the ground with one hand on the sliding door handle just to get a ride.

Are you guys bored? Do you want to see passengers fall from the bus? Does that really make you feel good?

Remember your job is to take the people from a place to another place SAFE! And that means leaving a happy passenger, who wants to ride the public transport again because they had such a nice experience.

Well, I’m not saying that all drivers in the city and the provinces here are alike, there’s always an exemption.

Honestly, I don’t know how to end this rant. I’m just really furious as of the moment!

Ninh Binh City, Vietnam

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This is my third post for today! WHEEE! I made a record!

I got nothing to do for today so I decided to share my adventure in Ninh Binh.

If you want to go on a two day trip with less budget and sure to have a good time, just follow what my two friends and I did! It’s all worth the effort! You’ll surely love it! Take my advice on that!

Exactly a year ago, my colleagues and I decided to go on a two-day trip away from the noisy and busy Hanoi.

First, we got on a bus going to Nam Dinh at a bus station in My Dinh, Hanoi. It took us three hours from Hanoi to Nam Dinh City.

Upon arrival we left our bags in another friend’s flat. But if you don’t know anyone in the city, you can find a Hotel nearby. There are small, cheap but comfortable hotels. Vietnamese people call them ” khách sạn” pronounced as /kaksan/. You just have to show your passports or a residence visa if you have one.

Then we had lunch at “Big C”- a supermarket her in Nam Dinh. Since, the trip is exhausting and it definitely makes you hungry, a fast food would be a good choice. I recommend trying an ice cold “nuoc mia“-sugarcane juice. It’s totally refreshing.

Right after lunch, we went around the supermarket to buy stuffs for our day trip tomorrow. I would recommend to buy the following:

1.  a bottled water (one for each person)

2. a biscuit or something to munch on

3. a wide brimmed hat

4. sunblock (a must if you don’t want to go back to the city soot black)

5. comfortable shoes and clothes if you don’t have one

After all the shopping, it’s time for some relaxing time so we got our teeth cleaned in a humble dental clinic in Truong Chinh St.. It’s very cheap about 50, 000 VND. But don’t expect a super white teeth after, you got what’s worth your pay. (wink)

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Not far from the dental clinic, there is another supermarket (apologies for not remembering the name) . But surely you can’t miss it if you ask. The people are really approachable.

On the top floor of the supermarket, there are bump cars.

It’s time to let out that inner child in you! Time to ride bump cars!

Guess what?

I did just that! It really feels good! ^^

And on the same floor, you’ve got to try their 5D movie theater which movies’ only last for ten minutes. The chairs will just shake you a bit, but it isn’t that bad! ^^

Third thing to do for the day is to reward yourself with a sumptuous meal after releasing that child in you. LOL

There’s only one Korean Restaurant in the City. I personally know  the owner, he is  one accommodating guy. The “samgyupsal” – grilled meat is just so filling!

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Back to the room……..sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep~

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Day 2

We rode the bus going to Ninh Binh City at 6 in the morning.

It takes about an hour from Nam Dinh City.

When we got to the place, we got on a small boat which will cruise you around the river and through the small caves and back.

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The cruise will take about 3 hours. There’ll be some Pagoda/Temple’s to visit along the way.

You have to be prepared to climb long steps to enjoy the place.

Be sure to buy scorched rice which is a specialty of Ninh Binh City. It’s crunchy and savory. It’ll be a good gift to friends when you get back in the city.

For lunch, you have to ride a taxi and ask the driver to take you to a nearby restaurant, about 5 minutes from the river. It is owned by a local family. It’s actually a house, where they use an extra space for the restaurant.

You’ll be given a menu but I suggest ordering the honey chicken they got. I find it really tasty and it suits foreign taste buds, if you are not used to Vietnamese food yet.

The owner of the restaurant is really accommodating, and they offered to let us take a nap in a spare room they got next to their house for free. ^^

After the relaxing nap, it’s time to get our bodies moving and prepare to climb the hundred steps going to the biggest Buddhist temple in Vietnam.The Bai Dinh Temple is one great temple. On the way to temple, you’ve got to climb a hundred steps and along the stairs are giant Buddha statues. There are about 500 of them.

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After visiting the temple, it’s time to treat yourself with the favorite dessert of Vietnamese people – ice cream.You can get one in the city center. I just love Vietnamese ice cream! It’s not too sweet but it’s got that  kick in it!

From the city center, you can hail a taxi or a bus to Nam Dinh City.

We got to Nam Dinh at half past eight. It was so tiring but really worth the walk not to mention the climb. ^^

For dinner, it’s good to enjoy “Bun Cha”- the very famous rice noodle of Vietnam. There is one in Truong Chinh St.

The best way to end the day is a relaxing bath in the hotel.^^

Day 3

Time to go back to the capital. You can catch a bus at Nam Dinh Bus Station. There is a sign board that says Hanoi in front of the bus.

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If you decide to do the trip, leave me a comment, I’ll be glad to help.

HANOI – A Province like city

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*everything I write here is based solely on my opinion

On my way home from school,  just finished one class in the morning…my bag on one hand and a plastic full of Chinese cabbage. 

Yes! You read it right! A plastic full of Chinese cabbage from school!! My employer gave it to me. They got a couple beds of Chinese cabbage right at their backyard.

It was just the other week when I went home with a plastic full of ‘manila’ clams, from school. Of course, clams don’t grow in the backyard, it was brought by the mother of my employer, and so she gave me some.

And not just two times but a lot of times when I go home with a plastic full of watchamacallits! There were even some days when my boss visits me with a meal for dinner or lunch, sometimes the office staff had to take care of me when I got sick and had a porridge ready. I’m totally speechless!

‘Your like a sister’, “Your family’s not here, no one will take care of you”, “It’s nothing, everyone would do the same thing’. These are some of their answers when asked ‘Why are you doing this”?

I’m very grateful for everything they have done without hesitations and a thought of something in return. Though someone is a foreigner, Vietnamese people treat you like your a local person but with a little bit of TLC [Tender Loving Care).

These instances rarely happen in the city.  Back in my country, in the provinces, people know almost everyone.  They live a simple life, where everybody cares for their neighbor. Whereas in the city, almost everyone is indifferent. All people are just so occupied of making money and living their dreams and a couple of friends is just enough to share your thoughts with.

Hence, one could say,Hanoi is a city-like-province.  They share food, clothes, and other stuffs. Individualism is a rare thing here.

But sometimes a foreigner like me would have this feeling of awkwardness.

There just too much closeness at work that there is a need to draw a borderline and it’s called professionalism.

A friend of mine who lives in a dorm at school, complains about the staff ‘s rudeness. Opening someone’s door without knocking, opening the grocery bag which you brought from the grocers, calling you at the wee hours, ..and other things that are not that big of a matter but makes you annoyed.

I know the office staff and other students don’t mean any harm to my friend because they think of her like their close friend.

However it should be understood that foreigners are FOREIGN. They are people who have different cultures and values.

What upsets others, might not upset you or what makes people happy, might just be a corny joke to you. But there is a need to respect that difference!

I’m not saying that the people here are rude. There are advantages and disadvantages to a place. I’ve meet really amazing people, my boss and my students are really nice. They’ve been very good since I came here. I love the culture and their traditions. I respect their faith and principles.

It’s just that sometimes we have to consider that we live in a vast world. We meet different people from different backgrounds and we should respect that.

Hanoi Diaries 1

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Happy New Year everyone!!

I haven’t done a lot of writing lately. I’m having trouble with net connection since I moved to my new room.

Yes. New Year, New room, quite  fit for a new start.

I’m staying in  a flat alone, yes a bit lonely for the beginning of the year. I’m still in Hanoi but quite far from the city center and I have to travel for 40 minutes by car or ‘xeom’- a motorbike for hire.

I did a lot of organizing of this and that for the last few days. Boy! I’m glad that I’m back in front of my laptop again and typing this post. WHEEEEE!!!~

Anyway, after my daily routine ;wake up (at noon ^^)-eat lunch-have a class-go back to my room, I decided to go for a walk since I’m not very familiar with the town yet.

Supposedly, I was trying to find a fruit stand for my midnight munch but most stores are closed but it was still late 8. Most stores in Hanoi close early at night. I already mentioned that before in some of my reposts from blogger.

Going back to the story, I went quite far and found a lady  fanning a corn on a grill. I’ve been craving for grilled corns since I came here, but my friends advised not to buy one because they usually sell it outside with all the smog from the thousands of motorbikes and cars that pass ever minute. Nevertheless I bought one and I think there isn’t much pollution in this part of town so, it may be a little cleaner than the ones in the city center.

Then I asked her to give me one piece in their language, which I really gave my best effort so she will think I’m Vietnamese (to avoid being ripped off; few vendors do that to foreigners) but I guessed it didn’t work and asked if I’m from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city).

I explained that I’m from the Philippines and couldn’t understand much, then she got excited and started asking questions in Vietnamese. I don’t know why they do that, even though I say ‘keum-hyeo’ which means I don’t understand. It happened many times and I got a way to make them stop, by nodding my way out and thanking them for what I bought. Fortunately, I was given my exact change.

On my way back home, I realized that I overlooked a small fruit stand at the corner. I was so happy to find one and decided to check on some apples. The vendor was an old man, he looked haggard. At first I was scared to buy because he started saying somethings and then laugh but then again I thought I was lucky enough that there is  an open fruit store.

The fruits, especially some of the apples he was selling were soiled but were still good enough so I bought two. I handed 50 VND to him and he’s supposed to give me 32 VND for a change. But he gave me 0ne 20 VND and three 10 VND bills. So I explained that I gave him 50, then he said sorry and gave me two 10 VND bills,  70 VND in all.  He was apologizing. I was so confused and annoyed.

I showed him again the the 50 bill on his hand, the one I gave him, and pointed that he gave me 70 VND. He’s expression changed and he was saying sorry repeatedly.But he gave me another 10 VND , two 2 VND  and other bills.

That moment  I felt pity. I feel so sorry for him. I got 32 VND from the money he gave me and handed the rest, thanked him and said goodbye. He looked at the money I gave him and maybe from that moment he realized that he gave me extra. He SMILED. I could never forget that smile. A genuine one. He thanked me like how he apologized repeatedly awhile ago.

I feel happy to see his smile.

I feel guilty for thinking that all vendors are bad and they rip off every foreign customer.

I hope he won’t get cheated by chance takers out there. That’s some realization for the start of 2013. ^^

God Bless us all!

..Thai Express**

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

thai*

Sunday morning, hear at Thai Express..waiting for a former colleague.

It’s my Sunday morning routine.. attend church at ten and eat somewhere with
former colleagues. Sounds fun right? Well, actually it is..hmm.. except for the fact that I have to hurry just to be at the center before one.
I would really want to enjoy my Sunday morning. The only day where I get to have a day off!
…WAIT..is it really a day off? How can a morning off be a day off, if I have a class in the afternoon.
Alright enough with that thinking..I don’t want today’s post be another rant..^^..what’s important is I’m doing great.

Now, let’s talk about this restaurant where I am in. This is one of the famous chains here in Hanoi and probably around the world coz’ it sounds so familiar..I’m pretty sure one branch of this can be found in my country.

It’s my second time here and the place is really great. They serve good food and definitely comfortable. It is located near the famous Hoan Kiem Lake.

ReALLY comfy huh,,I want to write more about it ..but I might do it later…have to start eating..before everything gets cold…forget about my former colleague, she’ll get here when everything on my plate is gone..hahaha

*this picture is from google. I didn’t take one when I was there.

** this was a posts from my Blogger(google) account.