Maya Warrier, 9, satisfies a little of her wanderlust when she journeys across the world to Vietnam.
I was really excited to go to Vietnam because at home I had done lots of research which suggested it was an incredible place for everyone!
I hoped it was as good in person (close up) as it was on the Internet! But I was a little worried that my little sister would cry through the whole 10-hour flight, making it an unpleasant experience for all of us. Knock on wood… er, plastic.
Disaster! On the flight, I was not able to fall asleep, because my head was telling me it was five in the evening when it was not. To pass the time, I read some of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers, and then watched a movie called The Bad Guys.
Finally, we were in Vietnam.
I noticed that people in Vietnam were very friendly, though I had only been there for just over two hours! First, the cabin crew on the plane helped us get all of our stuff out (we had a lot, most of which was my little sister’s), once we landed.
Secondly, the taxi driver who picked us up, helped load the nearly 100 kg (!) of luggage into the taxi.
And thirdly, the receptionist at Mia Casa by Satori, the hotel we were staying at, gave us a temporary room to sleep in, while housekeeping was cleaning the room we had booked.
Not only that, the landscape was breathtaking. For instance, when I looked out from the large windows of the airport, I saw healthy palm trees swaying majestically in the wind.
The first day in Vietnam started quite good (and educational) for me. We went on a walking tour which I thought was informative and very interesting, but everyone else thought our guide talked too much. Ah well, each to their own. Though I must say the tour went through a wet market that stank of rotten meat. That put a damper on things, but I stayed positive!
Kind Vietnam struck again. We met a super friendly waitress called Alison at a place called the Met where we had delicious breakfast.
But what happened after that shocked me. I went on a cycle rickshaw with Nana Jillian. When we got out, a group of women rushed up to us. One of them started taking out pop-up cards from her handbag. But I chose a fan and Nana Jillian gave 200,000 dong to the woman. (I know, Vietnamese currency has lots of zeroes). The woman pocketed the money and then told Nana Jillian to pay another 200,000 dong when she had already paid it!
An argument followed, she in Vietnamese and Nana Jillian in English. Finally, she had to give up and walk away with only the amount she truthfully got hold of. That was not Kind Vietnam.
We then went into the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university, we walked in exhaustedly, sharing an audio guide. I thought how symmetrical the Temple of Literature was.
The best of all the days of our whole trip was when we went on a long tour of Ninh Bính with an amazing tour guide Mai who, unlike our first tour guide in Vietnam, just told us the key facts and let us make our own memories.
To start off the fantastic day, we went to a pagoda in the high hills that honoured two kings of ancient Vietnam. There we fed some fish in a small pond. I was in hysterics over how they all swarmed around and fought over the crumbs of the food we threw in.
Next, we climbed up a whole bunch of steep stairs (more than 1,000, I think) up a hill to Hang Mua Peak, at the top of which was another pagoda. I was shocked to find out that there could be so many steps anywhere on the planet! After the long and tiring walk, we relaxed and had a hearty meal at a local eatery.
To finish the day off, we went on a boat ride in Trang An, where we even went through a cave. My grandmother described the ride as “heavenly.” I had to agree with her; that part of the tour was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
On our hotel receptionist Lian’s recommendation, we went to Hoan Kiem Lake as it was pedestrianised on the weekends. Lian was correct about the lake. It was beautiful! The streets were full of laughter and joy. I even saw people getting their portraits dones, and they were ever so realistic. Acha (my father) got me a super cute cat balloon.
The next day we went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where the body of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam, is preserved). But unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside because it was a Monday and closed to the public!
Later, we strolled to a restaurant called Hanoi Food Culture in the old quarter, where, strangely enough, I had Italian carbonara! In the evening, we went to watch water puppetry. This is a traditional Vietnamese art form that has been going on since the 11th century. I found that there was no real plot to the puppetry; it was just about the lives of people in rural Vietnam.
But the visit to the Museum of Ethnology where we saw many different types of traditional northern Vietnamese houses, was very interesting for me.
More interesting were the facts I read there:
- If a man wanted to marry a woman from another village, he would have to gift bricks to the woman’s village!
- A married woman would have to wake up before the rest of her family and get warm milk and breakfast for her parents-in-law!
The day we were leaving for London, the weather wasn’t much of a morale booster; it was raining heavily. We went to a place called Namaste Hanoi for lunch, where we had amazing authentic food (Yes, Indian food in Vietnam!).
Hanoi is an incredible city, but here are some tips to make sure you enjoy yourself safely:
- Do not ever drink tap water under any circumstances!
- How to cross the road in Hanoi:
- Never stop walking.
- Walk at an even pace.
- Watch out for buses and cars (they may come from anywhere!).
- Put your hand in the air (like you just don’t care, because they don’t) and proceed.
- Don’t let honking put you off.
- On weekends, I highly recommend going to Hoan Kiem Lake; it’s pedestrianised, so there’s no need to take your life in your hands when you cross the road.
- Motorcycles will sometimes go on the pavement, so watch out for the rogue ones.
- On Mondays, most museums are closed.
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