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Old 21st July 2010, 22:51   #1
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Default VietNam - A BackPacker's view

Ha Noi - Vietnam

The flight from Singapore to Ha Noi in Vietnam takes a good 3 Hours. As the flight starts to decend, you could see below , beautiful paddy fields, which stretch till the oblivion, dotted with numerous lakes, wooded areas. Tall and narrow houses , mostly with red tiles on the slopped roofs.

All this looked very magical, very much Asian, very much Vietnamese. Nothing like what i had seen before.
I say to myself, Vietnam, here i come.

Until then, there was this feeling of going to an unknown communist country, not knowing how to what to expect, how to handle the language barrier, how to go manage 3 months in a new land . Here i am, looking at the simple locals, working over the green wet paddy fields, with their unique and very common, Vietnamese cone hats on their head, to protect themselves from the insecent rains which lash these lands, most days of the rainy months. All these scenes made me feel that, i am not too far from my home firstly... Then, the feeling of getting into a land which isnt that very different from wat i am used to. The language may be different, the food may be extreme, we may look different, but the connection of being Asians exists - to my surprise.

The flight lands on a rather old, battered air strip, with some really old war time planes stranded on the corners. I am sure those planes and jets are from the infamous Vietnam War of the 70s. More popularly called in Vietnam as “The War of American crimes”.
(A Note : In Ho Chi Minh City, there is a Museum. A few years back , it was called the “American War crimes Museum”. A number of tourists from USA kept visiting Vietnam. And Looks like, the Vietnamese sensed the discomfort what an American may go through, seeing that title. It was renamed. The War remnant Museum.)

I hire a taxi for $30 from the Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and it takes us an hour to reach Xieu Dui road , Fraser suites Hotel. The road takes us through vast stretches of paddy fields, and other agricultural lands. The roads are dotted with locals carrying flowers, and other stuff on their bi-cycles. Amazing sights, all these...
I settle down on the 14th floor, in a 3 bedroom 4* suite, overlooking the West lake and the "Old Quarters" of Hanoi from the long French glasses. On one side is the “Red River”, which flows down from the North Western Hills, through Hanoi, into the South China sea. On the other side, is this huge lake.

Local Life, Street Life.
Hanoi is a charming city. The old charm. The narrow lanes. Numerous shops, tugged beside each other, like the chickpet and cottonpet of Bangalore. But much much more colourful for sure. Friendly locals.
Street food is a religion here, i guess. The whole population here depends on street food. Whether a person driving a Q6 or riding a Vespa (lots of them here ), will stop over the street side, for a bowl of Pho’. Pho is a Vietnam invention. Its a bowl of Noodle soup with meet and greens. It is usually had with fish sauce, oyster sauce and other condiments.

Anthony Bourdain calls it “The food porn”!

Some snaps to start with.

Home Suite - Living Area.
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Pool at the Hotel

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Pool at the Hotel -- That pool side relaxing bed is one awesome place for me to spend a day when my customer doesnt plan to bother me.

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A small lake seen from my room.
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The West Lake.
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Al-Fresco -- This Eatout is one amazing place. Be it Mexican, Sizzlers, Pizzas, Italian. slurrp!
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Street side Eatery
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Pho Vendor on the street side. U can see the rice noodles in the basket. U pay 20,000 Vietnamese Dong for a bowl of soup. 18,500 VND = 1 USD.
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A Pagoda in Hanoi city. They are always Buddist worship places. The Serenity, the silence at these places just amaze me, every time i visit one.
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Vietnamese Dancing girls.
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Lots and Lots more to come,.

Last edited by pramod : 21st July 2010 at 22:54.
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Old 21st July 2010, 23:00   #2
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This country could be a serious challenger to India in IT/ITES in future

i am very much interested to know more. As you are currently in Vietnam, i look forward to learn first hand view of life there.
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Old 21st July 2010, 23:06   #3
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This blog cannot be complete without speaking about the History of Vietnam. There has been lots of it. Pretty recent ones, at that.

French had occupied Vietnam till the 60s. And they have literally left their foot print in everything here. Be it, the food. The architecture. The french Bakeries, restaurants....

Earlier , it was North Vietnam and South Vietnam. They were ruled seperately by 2 independent governing bodies. The Northern part had a strong influence of communism from across the border (China). And the South had been more or less Democracy. This led to numerous differences between the North and South.
And As always, there was United States of America, which had to come in as an external entity to Vietnam initially, to support the cause of democracy in the South. The Northerns had other ideas. They wanted to take over the whole of Vietnam into the communalistic clutches.
The war was fought initially between the Democratic South and the Communist North, lead by Mr.Ho Chi Minh.
Looking at the poor state and the incapability of the southerns, America decided to bring in land forces onto the Vietnamese soil.
And then the air force.

They bombarded the country with bombs, mines, Chemical weaponry.
They pledged to bombard Northerns back to stone age.
USA regrets their mistake to this day.
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Old 21st July 2010, 23:06   #4
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Hi Pramod,
This looks interesting. Saw Vietnam only in American War movies. Looking forward to more pics.
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Old 21st July 2010, 23:15   #5
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StarVegabond -- You are perfectly right.
Vietnam is the 2nd fastest growing Economy in the world today. The Country is growing economically. It is growing in confidence, wat with 70% youth population. All in their 20s.

Sami - I wil try to give a fair idea of this place. But dont expect SLR snaps this time, as my Canon EOS utility isnt working on the new Windows7 :(
---------------------

I am here for :

I had returned from Dallas in Early March. The hot bangalore summer passed by. And i was all set to welcome the Monsoons. But then, a business travel is always around. 23rd May, i had to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Country largest Mobile Operator is a military run organization. And our customer for their 3G and related services launch. I am here to help them launch it, from Messaging perspective.
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Old 21st July 2010, 23:38   #6
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Default Local life Contd.

The city of Hanoi is famous for its "Old Quarters". This is basically a set of 36 streets. Each street famous for and sells 1 item. There could be 50 shops on a single road, all selling shoes and chappals. Then, the next road would be full of tailors.
So Each street is famous for a specific comodity. Silk, dry fruits, cotton are famouns here.

Visiting Hanoi cannot be complete without walking these narrow lanes of insanely crowded shopping area. You get anything from a french bread loaf to a BMW here!

Every lane will more or less have a handful of cafes. Cafes here, dont really mean a CCD sort. It would be a 5 foot * 5 foot place, with 5 to 6 short plastic chairs.

We 6 footers would find it difficult to manage on these pretty short seating position! You can have a ice cold lemon tea or a strong cold coffee with bare minimum cream.

You may also come across some locals playing chinese chekkar (spelling?) in the adjacent cafe. i wonder, would they ever work.

Buying a car for a middle class Vietnamese is out of bounds. He would buy a Honda blaze or a Vespa. All these look like M80s. You know what i mean. There arent ANY conventional bikes around. Girls always wear helmets. And these helmets are always color co-ordinated with the bike. It could vary from pink to bright green. Fashionable hats and these colorful helmets all sell in the same shop.

Some snaps. Random though.

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Old 22nd July 2010, 00:15   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pramod View Post
And As always, there was United States of America, which had to come in as an external entity to Vietnam initially, to support the cause of democracy in the South. The Northerns had other ideas. They wanted to take over the whole of Vietnam into the communalistic clutches.
The war was fought initially between the Democratic South and the Communist North, lead by Mr.Ho Chi Minh.
Looking at the poor state and the incapability of the southerns, America decided to bring in land forces onto the Vietnamese soil.
And then the air force.

They bombarded the country with bombs, mines, Chemical weaponry.
They pledged to bombard Northerns back to stone age.
USA regrets their mistake to this day.
Actually the leader of the so called Democratic south Vietnam was a despot, very unpopular among his subjects. Ho Chi Minh was popular in both parts of Vietnam and his efforts to unify Vietnam scared the south Vietnam leader (I forget his name, don't want to google) to go crying to USA to save his sham democracy. Since it was the cold war era, America did look at world as black & white. So they blindly supported a very unpopular leader in the name of saving democracy in Vietnam. Therefore they ended up fighting the very people they thought they were protecting.
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Old 22nd July 2010, 00:39   #8
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Great pics. Very rare travelogue. Do you have any idea on the hotel rates, food, transportation expenses etc?
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Old 22nd July 2010, 00:50   #9
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Nice start. A deep dive into a new country, will be all ears.

BTW, does a backpacker stay in a 3 room 4* suite
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Old 22nd July 2010, 03:42   #10
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A very rare travelogue...Vietnam. Man...I am visiting almost every corner of the world through these travelogues...Europe, Egypt, and now Vietnam.

Pramod - do you happen to interact with any Indians living over there? What is the Indian population in Vietnam?

thanks for sharing the pics...
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Old 22nd July 2010, 05:42   #11
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When i was in Thailand, met a guy from US who just landed from Vietnam. Said the place is dirty cheap. is it for him for us too?
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Old 22nd July 2010, 08:17   #12
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New place. And started perfectly well. Vietnam is one of the country who is slowly rising without much news or anything.

Btw, what are they famous for? Usual Electronics like in Taiwan, China etc? Or something special?

Quote:
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When i was in Thailand, met a guy from US who just landed from Vietnam. Said the place is dirty cheap. is it for him for us too?
I am sure it should be certainly cheaper for us too. Especially for people living in Bangy.
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Old 22nd July 2010, 09:01   #13
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Good travelogue, with interesting pictures, you have captured the essence of the city beautifully, do let us know of the travel options and stay facilities.
regards,
hari.
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Old 22nd July 2010, 09:02   #14
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@Samurai - Ngô Đ́nh Nhu was the leader of South Vietnam, who went to US. Even i googled .
As you said, they fought the very people they thought, they were protecting. Americans used Chemicals like "Agent Orange", and sprayed million of litres of it over the Vegetation and water bodies in many parts of Vietnam. They wanted to curb the availability of fresh water to the enemy. These chemicals eventually destroyed close to 15-20% of the forests in Vietnam and got into the food chain. Vietnamese believe that, these chemicals have an impact even to this day, as many children are born with disabilities of high order. Vietnam has a number of social organizations, which take care of such children and provide them health care.

@TaureanBull @deadman - I wont say Vietnam is cheap. I should say there are 2 layers here. The lower layer is the local vietnam. If a person wanna have a lunch in a local hotel, he may end up spending a dollar or 2. But with close to 3.5 million visitors last year and growing, there is another layer created over this old Vietnam. The newer hotels, food joints, diners. They cost almost the same as in US.
A medium pizza cost $10. A plate of rice and curry cost $8. So i dont think its cheap.

Even transportation is of different types and rates. You can take a bike pillion. You are given a helmet too . This is easily the cheapest way to go around. You may end up paying a dollar for a distance of 3 Kms.

Taxis are everywhere. Lots of them. Since buying a car is not easy for middle class here, unlike India, there are a number of taxi operators. Most of them are radio controlled from control room. Electronic metered. $1 dollar for every 1.6 Kms. i still feel, it is not cheap.

@arindamray - I definitely thought about the title for the thread. "Vietnam" was what i initially thought. And then, wanted to add "backpacker's view", as there were a number of snaps and content of local life. Yes, Suite is not a backpacker's option for sure

Here, a 4* costs in the range of $100 to $130 per night.
A decent studio room hotel should cost $80 per night with breakfast.
A Economy hotel/room should cost $20-30 per night. These are not advertised. Lonely planet may help here?

@idleBrain - Indian population is small here. I did meet a few in an Indian Hotel. Btw, there are 3 Indian restaurants in Hanoi city alone. Many more in HCM city i guess.

@mjothi - Thanks. I havent come across a vietnam travelogue on Team-bhp, i guess.
Vietnam is not famous for Electronics, unlike Taiwan.
Vietnam is known more for Rice, Sea produce, Textile (Silk, Cotton), Young Hardworking population and ofcourse some natural wonders like "Halong bay area", "Tam Coc river cruise", Pagodas, and a host of other tourist attractions.
Ho Chi Minh city (formerly called Saigon) is a vibrant city and a very modern city. Known for its Business and commercial advantage for setting up businesses.
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Old 22nd July 2010, 09:38   #15
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Vietnam has potential but a lot needs to be invested in bringing peoples skills up to a global level
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