A Guest Blog!
Written by Caitlin Robinson and Ashley Nel
My fiancé and I were lucky enough to visit the lovely Hanoi in the middle of the year for a couple of weeks visiting my parents, sister and her boyfriend (now fiancé) who currently live in Tay Ho which is situated just outside Old Quarter in Hanoi.
The one very prominent thing that stood out to us what the fact that the Vietnamese will not be limited by anything or anyone and I will explain this in full:
Let’s start at the beginning of our trip, we arrived at Hanoi International Airport and were greeted by a very friendly Vietnamese driver who was going to take us to our family and this brings us to your first DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE point.
- The roads and traffic: In the Vietnamese culture they are very fast thinkers and are extremely patient. They will not be limited by the lines on the road or even the side of the road on which to drive. They generally drive on the right hand side of the road by if they feel the need for more space they will go over to the left hand side and if there happens to be someone coming in that lane they will just have to move! The lines on the road are just a formality because they actually mean nothing!!!! We had a few heart attacks getting used to this but this is how they get around and it’s not a problem for them at all. Do Not Limit the drivers in Hanoi to one lane!
We then arrived at my parents’ apartment and they then took us to our backpackers in Old Quarter Hanoi. Once they had left us to settle in our first order of business was a shower…… and this brings us to our second DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE point.
- Vietnamese showers: A typical Vietnamese bathroom/WC (water closet) consists of a toilet, basin and a shower head attached to the wall somewhere in there and then a drain in the corner of the bathroom. The Vietnamese will not be limited by walls, doors or even shower curtains. We discovered that we just stand and shower at any place in the room you like, just make sure to close the toilet lid… The only problem we found with this was that once you have showered if you need the loo anytime in the next hour or so you will be walking on a wet floor… We actually really enjoyed these showers as we could dance around and move a lot more than in our small shower that we have at home.
- The bum gun: As one does, we need the toilet like normal people and upon sitting on the thrown I discovered this smaller shower hose next to the toilet…. due to the sewage systems in Vietnam not being too great they try and avoid putting toilet paper down the toilets so we were introduced to the ‘bum gun’ as my father says. Once you are done with your business you spray yourself with the ‘gun’ and simply dry with the toilet paper and then throw that in the dustbin next to the toilet. It sounds easy enough if you are good at physics…. Getting the correct angle of the spraying water is the real challenge. The Vietnamese will not be limited by the way in which to use a toilet/ WC.
We then decided to go and experience the Vietnamese culture and have a little explore around Old Quarter and see some of the culture, foods and shops that are available. As we walked around we noticed how a lot of the restaurants and bars/Bia Hoi (meaning fresh beer) operate. Bringing us to our fourth DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE point.
- As you walk around you notice that everyone is sitting on the sidewalks outside the restaurant or bars and if need be even in the street. They sit on these tiny chairs where ever they find a space. The Vietnamese will not be limited by the doors of their establishments! This is how they socialise and if they are working hard and making money then why be limited so a certain number of people and have those people subjected to just looking at the four walls in you establishment when they can sit in the street and take in the culture and the people all around them. It is actually very awesome!
Whilst walking around we found it quite difficult to walk on the sidewalks for a number of reasons, the first one being the food and beverages establishments and the second being the scooters parking everywhere!!!!! Bringing us to point number 5 of DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE.
- If you drive a scooter in Vietnam which 90% of people do you will notice that you never see a scooter parked in the road especially in Old Quarter. They park on the sidewalks or sometimes inside the establishment. The Vietnamese will not be limited to parking spaces. I was actually in the salon getting my mani pedi done and next thing the door opened and the lady working there drove her scooter straight in the door and through the middle of her salon to the back to park. I suppose it is very handy having a small vehicle!
Once we had slept our first couple nights and settled after the long flights we decided we need to go do some shopping and experience the haggling of prices or as I like to call it Price Wars!! Bringing us to the sixth DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE point.
- The first couple of shops we went into we noticed that nothing has a price tag on it…… So straight away you know that the battle is about to commence! In most cases the shop owner will tell you the prices is actually double of what she actually would like e.g. A t-shirt that she will actually sell for VND35.000 she will ask upwards of VND80.000 to try her luck at ripping the foreigners off which I can also understand as they are trying to make a living and make some money and as much as they can if possible which any human would do. The Vietnamese will not be limited by a price or price tag! Anything is purchasable at the right price.
As we spent a lot of time walking around and submerging ourselves in the Vietnamese culture we really got to see the true lifestyle of the Vietnamese and how they will do anything and work as hard as they possibly can to get the job done and make their money for the day. We went for lunch in Old Quarter and on our way back to Blues Hostel we notices something happening across the road so we stopped and watched what was going on, we actually witnessed an old man who had just bought himself a new fridge (full size with freezer at the bottom) try and load this fridge onto the back of his scooter. This brings me to my next point number seven DO NOT LIMIT THE VIETNAMESE TO THE SIZE OF THEIR SCOOTER….
- While walking around in Vietnam you notice how people will pile whatever they can on their scooters and they actually customize and personalise their scooters to what they want to carry around. We saw a scooter with about 6 cages or chickens on them, we saw a man with 6 gas canisters on the sides of his scooter which must have been extremely heavy, often you see an actual florist with all of her flowers and stock stacked round her scooter the most amazing was the portable aquarium/pet shop.
The best for me though was the amount of family members that could be loaded onto ONE scooter. We actually saw a family of 5 once. They have very cute booster seats for babies which go on the foot area of the scooter which has a little chair for a small child. Often you would just see a pair of arms sticking out in between 2 adults and you would know there was a little one in there. It is amazing to see what they can do with what they have. The Vietnamese will not be limited by the size of their scooter!
Our time in Vietnam was an amazing one and we never stopped learning about their way of living and opening our eyes to what can really be done with what you have. This blog only mentioned a few of the amazing things we experienced and we cannot wait to go back and experience more.
Vietnam you beauty!!!!