After a fabulous transition from Nicaragua to a new adventure, we had 3 consecutive family visits to bond with family members on the West Coast.
L.A. gave us the Sandzer connection, (Jacqueline, Chantal, Sophie and Kenny and Rebecca), Portland our first visit to the Sandzer-Bell connection (Ezra of course), and S.F gave us a pre departure dip into Josh’s world. How nice to have a chance to connect, to ground ourselves in our family before launching forward. A month before we got to visit Chicago for the Kaplan side of the family (Stan, Bluma, Adam, Dina and Shani). Meanwhile Oren gave us a great send off from Nicaragua.
Goood morning Vietnam!
While Peta organized the bulk of the Nicaragua departure, Ben’s job was to orchestrate our relocation.
We check in at San Francisco’s China Airline counter, Ben proudly retrieving our Vietnam pre approval visa, photocopies of our passports etc. The glory is shortlived when the check in staff informs us that our one way ticket Vietnam will not do! She informs us that current regulations are that you need to show proof of departure from Vietnam and we need to show a ticket. Sudden scramble before our 1 a.m. flight to book a ticket online immediately as proof of our plan post Vietnam. Of course this will cost a few hundred dollars, so we spend some time next to the front counter, lap top opened, looking at our bus, train or plane options to Laos or Thailand. Peta’s first Asian cultural experience comes next, when after about twenty minutes the China Airline representative says ” I see you are trying very hard to find a ticket, so its okay, you can just tell them when you arrive, you have money to live in Vietnam.. a few hundred dollars.” And poof… because we showed effort, our problem disappeared, as did the fee on Ben’s too heavy bag. Good start!
The flight was surprisingly smooth sailing. We slept well, as did the whole plane…there were only four non Asians on the flight, which made for a very qiuet flight…woke up to a breakfast of Chinese porridge with fish and seaweed and landed in Taipei, Taiwan a few hours later for our connection. Immediately the airport in Taiwan is an insertion into a different universe. From the slick, modern feel, all signs in Chinese, to the living walls of green plants and the “rest area” which includes 3 similar size prayer rooms. Buddhist, Muslim and Christian, as well as massage chairs and masseuse, unfortunately not open before sunrise!
From the plane we get our first sights of Hanoi – a lush green, with many bodies of water, mountains in the distance, and tall red roofed houses. Our hotel has sent a taxi to greet us and we are whisked into the tumultuous, hectic pace of historic old quarters of Hanoi. We have a reservation for two days in a lovely hotel with a huge bed, gorgeous dark wooden floors and all of this for $20 a night. Step out into a new world. Right outside the hotel, motorbikes in a steady fast paced stream whizz by.
Our hotel is not ready yet as its early morning, so we take advantage and walk to the nearest massage center for a full body welcome massage to get out all the travel kinks. Ahhhh!
We come out of our massage and an aroma of savory spices, a smell we know very well, hits our noses and we know that our first bite is very close. The little plastic nursery school type stools around low plastic tables should not deceive that his food is extraordinary! Yummy pieces of grilled meat, huge mound of assorted leaf greens, bean sprouts, noodles greet us. We point to the grill, they point to the table, the food arrives immediately, and this is for sure, the moment we have waited for! Our first meal in Vietnam is memorable and sets the stage for culinary excellence. Cost of meal: 110,000 dongs = $5 for two people.
With our tummys full, we head back to our hotel to check into our room, take a time clock adjustment nap midday, and are ready to stroll our immediate neighborhood at dusk.
|Buying mangosteen fruit. A favorite from Ben’s days in Japan|
|On the way to the night market, which is around the corner from where we are staying|
|Fresh crabs on the street|
|The ubiquitous plastic stools and tables w constant patrons|