From Vietnam with love: it's all about people - Dal Vietnam con amore:la gente soprattutto

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Some first Impressions...

June 13. Our third day! I haven't seen a lot of the city yet - basically the walk from ourtemporary apartment to Marco's office and back. Mostly because of the weather. I thought I knew hot and humid from Washington and Norfolk, but if you multiply that by 100 you start to get an idea of what it's like here...Walking around the first day I felt dizzy and Maia seemed in a daze. Now I know to go out only in the morning and at night and not at all from noon onward. Although today I foolishly mistimed things (I went to the US consulate to register myself and Maia and then to the grocery store, and it got later than I realized)and had to shlep back to the apartment with Maia in the heat o’ the day and then had to lie down for a little while. Another thing I realized: I should just take a taxi to the grocery store! It would cost a fraction of a dollar, well worth it. It doesn't seem that there's ever a break from the heat, since the temperatures are HIGHER in the dry season. At least now it cools off after it rains, which it does at least once a day usually in the pm. I feel very unglamourous, walking around soaking wet with sweat while the tidy, beautiful Vietnamese women never seem to sweat at all.The city is not as sleek and concrete-buildinged as Bangkok and the traffic, while very loud and constant, is different - it's almost entirely motorbikes, and it doesn't move that fast. I guess the fact that there are fewer cars to hit will make it safer to drive, once we get the car. It is tricky to cross the street since the traffic never actually stops but it does slow down enough. You see entire families on motorbikes and people carrying awkard objects, and many women dressed elegantly in the traditional silk garments, always withbandanas around their noses and mouths, putting along.It's clearly a poor city, with run-down buildings and a shabby look, but developing quickly, as evidenced by the skyscrapers under construction. Surprisingly, though, you can find anything you want in the market, including wine - even Rosso Piceno! – olives, capers, feta cheese, etc. It seems that the country opened up for trade quickly and the economy has yet to catch up, since you find these things in the dingiest run-down supermarkets.We (Maia and I) also went to the zoo which as you can imagine was very depressing, with people taunting and throwing things at the poor animals stuck in small, smelly cages. But at least the gardens around there are pretty and it's right near the hotel. Not that I want to go back.We haven't eaten anything overly impressive yet (except for one good steamed fish) which I think is because we are going to restaurants that are too fancy. My experience in Thailand was that the less expensive places had much better food since they don't water down the dishes for foreigners' tastes. There are some areas of town I'd like to explore for dinner later on. I should also go there maybe in the morning, with Maia, or take her to one of the water parks.Next week I'll start looking at houses, which will also give me a chance to see more parts of the city and suburbs. A lot of families live where we currently are permanently, but I would be vaguely depressed to live in such a soulless place. Most of the families are rich Asians, and it's funny to hear them speak English with each other, which of course they do since they're from different countries. The kids go to the international schools and are mostly older than Maia so she doesn't have anyone to play with, poor bebby.She's had a hard time adjusting, and is fussier than usual and is exceptionally very shy around kids AND adults, who just come over and pick her up and cuddle her, which scares her even though they mean well. Whenever we go out we are stopped every few steps by people who want to see her and although I'm proud that she's so cute, I think it's overwhelming for her. (As is this whole major change, I'm sure). Recently a toothless ancient vendor woman in a conical straw hat grabbed her and she cried for a long time. They are especially amazed by her curly hair, and the stroller too – they don't use them here at all so people come out to stare at it. Neither do they use umbrellas. They use ponchos instead, which are more convenient for riding the motorbike. Maybe that’s why women always wear pants rather than skirts or dresses. A lot of women wear the traditional long tunic over loose pants.


  • Hi Tamara and Marco and Maia. I love these stories. I wish I could read Italian. Nice to see that you are settling in bit by bit. It sounds like a great adventure. The food sounds delicious for the most part and the spa sounded glorious. I will check in form time to time to read more about your adventures. I may also be there later this year. I will keep you informed.

    all the best. love from Bayo


    By Blogger Funke, at 5:49 AM  

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