Last battlefield in Vietnam Dien Bien Phu and Hanoi aka “The Noise”
The first Vietnamese experience was even before I got off the bus. The motorbike touts. They surrounded the bus as we were driving into the bus terminal, already handing out their business cards and asking where you, their new best friend, would want to go. I’ve seen pushy touts before, but none of them can compete with the ones in Vietnam. That said, Vietnam has really shocked and suprised me in the next couple of weeks during my visit. But lets start off in Dien Bien Phu.
Dien Bien Phu – Last battle field with the French
There’s no real reason for stopping by DBP other than a border point between Laos and Vietnam. However I did manage to meet up with a couchsurfer for a day or 2 and he showed around his home town explaining the reminants of the war here fought with the Frenchies. Again, I’m not going to bother explaining the whole history behind this place but apparently this was the last place where the French has occupied Vietnam before “Charlie” managed to kick them out of the country. So to this day, many people still come here every year to commemorate on those events.There are still even some active soldiers stationed here and fine-tuning their skills.
Hanoi aka “The Noise”
When they’re talking about traffic in Asia, I’m probably sure were talking about Vietnam and there is no better example than Hanoi. Traffic is insane and even moreso when you’re in traffic yourself. I took the bus from DBP and got mobbed by a large group of touts at the Hanoi bus terminal, meaning I had to take one of the motorbike taxis to downtown. It’s rather fascination how people manage to stay clear of one and other on the streets filled with motorbikes.Anyway, there are quite a few things to check out when you’re in town. Most of the main attractions I visited by myself, but on 1 occassion I met up with a local couchsurfer and visited the Vietnam museum of Ethnology. To be honest, I was a bit weary about her because she knew just so much about the museum itself and the items on display. She told me her grandfather told her a lot about the different ethnic groups and history of Vietnam. I kinda felt bad because, the whole time I tried looking for hints of a guide-scam where they would ask me money at the end of the “tour”. She told me stuff about living in Hanoi and about life in her hometown, which was pretty sad though. People have it tough, eventhough it may not seem like they do at first sight. In the end, I’m really grateful that she took the time to show me around and shared her lifestories with me. The sights itself were pretty average. I don’t know what it was but after visiting Sapa it wasn’t that special to me to visit these tourist sites in town. But I did visit the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum, St Joseph Cathedral and taken several strolls around the Hoan Kiem lake. I even visited the West Lake (Ho Tay) and met up with a couple of random Vietnamese people who came and talked to me. One of them a professor at the University with like 2-3 doctorates started talking to me about massage boom-boom and how I should definately try them out since it’s part of the culture… Most of these places were just to check them off the list and give me something to do. But the one that stuck by me the most was the Hoa Lo Prison museum. It was disheartening to see how the prisoners were treated back during the war. The fake prisoners in the prison made it easier to imagine the conditions back then and the tools and ways of tortures were quite aweful to say the least. The best thing I liked was how a lot of the actions was on the street. I managed to find a a street filled with stalls for fruit shakes. Simple, but yet so tasty! Small pieces of fruit in a long glass drink with coconut milk and you simple add ice to it and drink up! There are restaurants around but most people just sit around at the stalls eating, drinking and people watching. Doesn’t matter what social class you’re from, people all gather at one of the many stalls. It’s really too bad that I didn’t get much time or wasn’t adventurous enough at the time to go explore the many different eateries. It wasn’t until 2 weeks after I was in Vietnam that I found info about Vietnamese food. I was silly to think that Vietnamese food was only about noodles and spring rolls but I was proven wrong in Ho Chi Minh City. But more on that later. I didn’t spend too much time in Hanoi after I visited the majority of the sights and wanted a change from “the noise”. So I went on to visit Sapa up north to visit the rice paddies and plant some rice.