This morning I woke up in Hanoi and went to work developing the photos I had meant to develop before I laid down. Around 7am I went upstairs and ate breakfast by myself. I peeled a banana for myself and thought about meals with Tien.
I looked around the building tops and noticed that the clean lines of the architecture were more prominent without fire escapes. I haven't seen a single one since I've been here.
At checkout I caught up on some internet stuff on the lobby. My brother says he probably won't come to Bangkok, which is pretty disappointing. I really need to find a traveling companion.
The tour split into two groups, and unbeknownst to me I would not see many of them again. I lost the English speaking couple from Miami and my two favorite children. I ended up with the brat, but also with the Parisian couple. We piled into an SUV and headed out.
I saw a girl on the back of a scooter with a cute backpack on her lap and a crowbar in her left hand.
I saw soldiers doing target practice with rifles on the side of a city street.
We went to the capital campus. Here we entered an area where no cameras, water or cell phones were allowed. No talking, no hands in pockets. Lots of soldiers standing at attention. We were a large group of tourists walking silently on a red path through a huge building that looked like a CTF flag area. Instead there was the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh himself, laying in a glass box in a dark room with 4 soldiers posted around him. I was trying to stay close to the Parisians and for some reason all I could think of was the word "morte" as said by the frail man in Amelie. Morte indeed, but he looked just asleep, laying there with even his beard still in tact.
We left and the tour guide gave me my gear back, the we went the Presidential Palace is, which is the equivalent of the Whitehouse, and a few other places that were packed with us lemmings. Some of the Vietnamese people looked at me as much as the sights. There were a lot of white people and it was weird. I think I just hate to be associated with the mainstream American ideal and all the white people reminded me of that.
There was a place called the house on stilts that wouldve been awesome to stay in. There were too many people so I didnt bother taking a picture. Outside the house there were a dozen people standing around a sign that was in French, Vietnamese and English: Do not stand here.
Like a million other placess in Vietnam this place had a shrine. Like other shrines and temples, outside of it were loud children and pedalers. Vietnam is definitely a religious country and the business minded people are monetizing that. I've never seen this in America. Nobody set up an ice cream cart and a religious souvenir shop outside of a cathedral in any city I've been to in America.
We left the capital and headed to the largest market in the city, both indoor and outdoor. I walked in and out, through streets and up stairs and down small ailes and down stairs. I thought "what the hell is there for me in a place like this?" Then I wondered why I had come on this trip in the first place. Feeling the need to have a purpose I have settled on photography as my primary purpose. Photojournalism, I guess. So with that in mind I began taking photos and wished I had my 10-20mm lens on me.
I saw a dozen k ock-off apple products. They put the apple backwards though. I almost decided to buy a knock-off iPhone just to see what it was like.
I found an ATM and pulled out 2,500,000 to pay the tour guide back the money I owed him and have some left over.
Iistened and thought about bow much easier Vietnamese is than Chinese. For one thing, when I ask what something is called people don't get into an argument about exactly what it's called in whatever dialect, they just answer. There is the intonation thing still, which makes sense thinking back to all the VN people I worked with at Actiontec. I think Vietnamese is much prettier when it's spoken clearly.
It was down to just me and the Parisians on the tour now. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where the hostesses had tropical patterned shirts emblazoned with the names of placess not on this continent, like Jamaica. As we had only a few words of common language between their broken English and my broken French, we ate in silence and listened to the swank jazz music playing in the nearly empty restaurant.
We talked a little towards the end. They recommended Da Lat like the Couple from Florida had.
On the way to the airport I thought about how the scooter makes the dynamic of the cities here so much different. I wonder what SF would be like with thousands of electric scooters. I thought about what it would be like to roll up to The Irish Bank and just park in the alley, and then I realized that I hadn't seen a "no parking" sign anywhere in Vietnam, nor parking meters, just garages an paid parking lots.
I saw a banner ad for a resort and golf club and thought about how playing golf in Vietnam is good enough for some people. I wonder what is good enough for me.
I saw an ad for Ford SUVs and thought "who the hell over here would buy a Ford?" I looked at the steering wheel of the SUV I was in and found the answer.
At check in I said good bye to the nice Parisian couple who was finishing off a 40 day tour. On the wall behind the check in counter there was a stencil of Santa Clause which may have been the first graffiti I had seen on the trip yet. There was also a man in shined shoes, pressed slacks, a striped button down shirt and a bright green baseball cap with the word "groove" on it.
I saw a Windows XP terminal and wondered how on earth these people could afford XP Pro, especially with Linux as an alternative. I guess it's bundled with the PC like in the US, and that's still expensive.
In the airport I heard English announcements with English accents. I found the business lounge that had internet and food for $10, which is just too much so internet will have to wait. Instead I sat down and wrote this on my iPhone then went and had my first taste of whiskey in Vietnam and listened to Kaskade, got on my plane and flew away.