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.