I just think it’s good to have your luggage stolen every once in a while. What would you do if your passport was inside? Say you don’t have lodging for a night. You’re renting an apartment and you don’t have hot water so you have to go and talk to your landlord, but the guy doesn’t speak Japanese. Those experiences build character. When face with a challenge, you’re struck with the feeling of conquering the world. You feel like you can do anything, like a new seed has sprung up inside you. You seen afraid of things you can’t do, like speaking a different language. Your little comfort zone break down, and you begin to think before you act so you won’t wind up doing something foolish. You stop panicking as much. It’s a good thing.
Amrita, by Yoshimoto Banana (214)
My first day in Vietnam was spent in Hanoi (at least the part not spent in the airport), wandering the streets, getting a feel for the country, and seeing a few of the city’s major sights.
One of the highlights of the city is the Temple of Literature, the site of the first Confucian university in the country. The grounds are beautifully manicured, the buildings open air stone chambers designed to catch the breeze. To western viewers, the temple hardly resembles a college, and of course it is no longer used as such, but it is still the site of many special events. The day I was there, both a photo exhibition and a graduation were making use of the space!
Hanoi is the capitol of Vietnam. It’s a small and bustling city, surrounded on all sides by water: a lake and river meet, with the city in the fertile crook. It’s also centered around a pond, with the old town sprawling out from it. I was reading Dune while traveling, and the way life in the novel is focused on water I saw reflected in the city’s orientation around water, although obviously water is anything but scarce in tropical Vietnam.
The city still contains many buildings built in the colonial French architectural style. Walking the streets was a joy in and of itself. They overflowed with markets, plants, animals, motos, of course, all going about their everyday life in a harmony that seems impossible for a city so bursting with activity.
2013 was filled with travel for me, and if I have any say about it 2014 will be more of the same: in that spirit, I passed the new year in Vietnam!
Temple of Literature – Hanoi
Vietnam was a completely wonderful and fascinating time, and I can’t wait to tell about it in the upcoming weeks. Before diving into more details (and of course pictures), I just want to lay out some basics of my itinerary. I was in Vietnam a total of ten days. Here’s a rough outline of where I spent them.
Day 1 – Hanoi
Day 2-3 Ha Long Bay
Day 4-5 Hue
Day 6-7 Hoi An
Day 8-10 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Generally speaking, I was pretty happy with this schedule, although I would have loved to have had more time almost everywhere. Why are trips always too short?
Burial Mounds in downtown Gyeongju