A Travellerspoint blog

First impressions of Hanoi

Hanoi is a city in constant motion and somewhat chaotic. I have been here for almost 48 hours and I am now just acclimating to my surroundings. Getting lost is a way of life, trust me, I have gotten lost twice. Although this blog only grazes the surface of my experience here so far, here goes ...

I arrived in Hanoi under grey skies and a light rain with the temperature at 21 C or 70 F. I caught a taxi from the airport which is about 45 minutes from Hanoi and cost about $10. The exchange rate is pretty comedic, $1 = 15000 dong. I exchanged $100 and I was an instant millionaire. I knew I would be someday ...

The "highway" into the city is flanked on both sides by patty fields filled with local Vietnamese working their crops as large advertising billboards tower above them. The billboards advertise big screen TV's and plush golf courses while the people below toil to make a living, a dichotomy of new world advances and the reality of everyday life. The road itself is filled with cars, trucks and a thousand mopeds with one, two, three or four people on them. The traffic in the city is chaos times thousand - scooters driving the wrong way on one-way streets and red lights are mere warning signs. The pedestrian is barely a rung on the hierarchy of the road. And the rules for crossing the street - walk slowly and don't run and cross at your own risk.

I am staying at a European-style hostel for $7 a night which is a bit expensive but they have free internet, free breakfast and a common area which makes meeting people really easy. I have already met a plethora of people while I have been here. My first night in town I hung out with an English girl, a Mexican guy and a Irish couple and we threw down a couple of tasty beverages and played a bit of pool.

The cost of living here is really cheap and I am paying "foreignor" prices. A beer in a bar cost between 12,000 - 20,000 dong or $.80 - $1.33 and food costs around $15,000 - $40,000 dong or $1 - $2.75. If you eat at a local place a meal cost around 7,000 dong or $.50. You could easily live on $20 a day and much less if you find the right places. Like most developing countries everything is negotiable. A ride on the back of scooter (definitely something you have to experience) can be done for about 10,000 - 20,000 dong or $.75 - $1.33 depending on your prowess as an negoiator ( Even less if you are good).

Although I just got here, I look forward to experiencing life in the major cities and outside of them. As I have said before, if you have the chance to travel whether in Vietnam or elsewhere, you should definitely do it - the world is an amazing place.

Posted by ejgalang 00:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Popeye, Hong Kong and the road continues ...

Okay I just ate Popeye's Chicken in the Hong Kong Airport on my way to Vietnam. I am not sure if it gets any better than that. (Maybe Roscoe's chicken and waffles late night or the Waffle House).

I am about 10 days into my trip and things are moving right along. The first real part of my trip begins in Vietnam because I am flying solo like Buck Rogers or Cane from Kung Fu, etc, etc, etc.

Not much more to say about Shanghai except that I took the Magnetic Train from Shanghai to the airport. It was pretty cool. It took exactly seven minutes to go 30 KM or 16.6 miles and tops out at 431 KM/hr or about 270 Miles/hr and it cost a meager 40 Yuan or $5. Not too bad.

Here are my trip highlights for Hong Kong which is a great city to visit. We hit some great weather too!

We visited Lamma Island which is about a 30 minute ferry ride from the city. It is a small quaint island with small shops and beaches. The firemen ride around on ATVs and there are even mini-ambulances to navigate the small streets. While we were there, we visited a local organic bookstore, had some homemade cheesecake and chilled at the beach for a bit. Not a bad day.

We went up to the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and hiked around the peak during the sunset. We got a great view of Honk Kong island.

We visited Kowloon which is across the bay from Hong Kong city. At night, there is a night market which sells everything from head bands to Formula One race jackets. Kowloon is supposed to be the most densely populated area in the world. Also, there is an old ferry service from Hong Kong city to Kowloon which has run for a very long time (don't know exactly how long but long) and cost a mere $2.2 HK or about $0.25 US.

We took a super fast ferry to Macao where you can gamble. It was once a Portugese province but it is now part of China. The US casinos are now just beginning to build casinos in Macao. There are a plethora of games to gamble on including blackjack (a bit different from the US), carribean stud, three-card poker and many other games that I could not decipher. But they lacked the game of games, craps - Yo Eleven! I do not think anywhere compares to Vegas, baby, Vegas. And just like Vegas, there were no winners in our group. Good times, Good times!

We also went to races. Nothing like gambing on the ponies. Although it did take a bit to understand their terms but gambling is like riding bike. My friend and I did not do that well but it was fun anyways.

Well, this blog is pretty long and I need to catch my plane to Vietnam. I have no reservations for a place to say, not much of an agenda but I am living the life... My next blog and/or emaill with be from Vietnam.

Posted by ejgalang 00:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Chillin' in Shanghai

I have been in Shanghai for 4 days now and things are good. The city is bustling with activity as part of the celebration of the Chinese New Year which was January 29. Most Chinese have the week off to celebrate the New Year. One of the traditions of the Chinese New Year is to use fireworks to celebrate. So on Wednesday, the night before the the fifth day of the Chinese New Year celebration which is called Po Woo, the Chinese light off fireworks for good luck. Now I have seen a fair share of firework shows in my lifetime but this celebration takes the cake. The best way to describe it is as follows: Think of the best fireworks show that you have seen, add muscle enhancing drugs, throw in non-regulated fireworks and mix-in a popluation of 17 million citizens of Shanghai who weren't allowed to light fireworks until this year, wow!

Other than that I have been pretty much just hanging out with my friends. I think the two most important questions of day have been "what do you want to eat?" and "what dvd do you want to watch?" Tough decisions especially since my friend has 400+ DVDs and going out to eat requires venturing out in near freezing weather. [ Cold weather makes Edwin unhappy ]

A couple of notes about Shanghai and China. The money is called a Yuan, or a RMB or a Kuai (pronounce -> Kwa-why ) The current exchange rate is about 8 RMB to $1 which makes it relatively inexpensive to live here. For example a bottle of beer at the market costs about 4 RMB or $.50 and a cab ride averages about 10 - 15 RMB or $2. Of course if you go out to a club or bar a beer costs about 40 RMB or so I have heard. Also, if you visit China, you should exchange your money here because the exchange rate is better than most places and although the number of English speaking Chinese has increased since my last visit two years ago, it can still be challenging getting around without a basic knowledge of the language. With that said, I would recommend a visit to Shanghai because it's a city on the rise ...

That's all I have to say about that, I have to get back to watching season 8 of South Park ...


Next stop: Hong Kong - 2/5

On deck: Ha noi, Vietnam - 2/9

Posted by ejgalang 00:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Introduction: Leaving on a jet plane ...

Well only a couple more hours left before I leave. It has been a busy last couple of weeks. Before I ramble on [ packing plus lack of sleep tends to cause this], I would to thank everyone who has wished me well for my trip, it makes coming back that much more sweeter. For those of you who don't know, I have packed a backpack full of clothes and I am going tobackpack around the world for a year or so. In order to accomplish this feat - I quit my job, packed up all my belongings in nine boxes [ not too shabby ], sold my car, and I got vaccinated for almost all diseases known to man [ My doctor started calling me pincushion and my last shot on Friday made me hisall-time shot taker - maybe he should call me Kobe,nice ].

My trip begins with a one-way flight to Shanghai today, then on to Honk Kong, then Vietnam. I will be plodding around Asia for a while, then I will head south to New Zealand and Australia, then through Africa, and then across Europe. During mymisadventures around the world I will be sending periodic emails about my comings and goings and in the next coming days I will try to set up a site on this thing called the Internet so you can track my progress.

So will that, I will quote Confucius who said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So barring any wrong turns, delays, traffic stops, security checks, etc, etc, that first step wil lbe today at 12:25 pm and my next email will be from across that big pond they call the Pacific Ocean.

Posted by ejgalang 00:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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