Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taipei, then on to Hanoi

I spent a quiet night sleeping on a couch in the Taipei airport, well worth saving the $89 to stay at the airport hotel.

In the morning, after watching a bit of the election news on CNN, I walked to my terminal from where I will fly to Vietnam. Many flights from this terminal go to Bangkok and other Asian cities, and I was struck by how many middle-aged creepy-looking American men were in the terminal. They were either traveling alone or with other men, but not with women. They look nothing like the backpackers I usually encounter in my travels, and I can't help but wonder whether they are engaging in sex tourism, or going to meet prospective mail order brides.

I arrived at the Hanoi airport and withdrew two million Vietnamese dong, or just a little over US $100, from an ATM. I took a taxi to the hotel, where Itsumi was waiting, and the first thing she told me was that Obama won!!!

Hanoi reminds me of Bolivia in many ways: the motorcycles and bicycles piled high with people (up to four or maybe more), chickens, construction materials, you name it; the street vendors, and the crazy traffic! Lonely Planet gives this advice on crossing the street:

"Wait for a break in traffic and slowly make your way across. It used to be that a slow and confident walk into the constant stream of motorbikes was like parting the Red Sea, but now with the occasional and oft-ignored cross walks and pedestrian signals in many cities, motorists are downright resentful. If you lack the nerve, look for locals crossing the street and creep behind."

This is actually true, and when we want to cross the street we just step out into oncoming traffic and trust the motorbike drivers to weave around us. So far, they have!

Motorbikes and scooters are everywhere here. Some backpackers even buy them (for as little as a few hundred dollars) and drive them around southeast Asia. I'll pass on that, but I'd like to rent a bicycle while I'm here!

Vietnam is a vibrant country, in rapid economic transition, and Itsumi says it reminds her of Japan 30 years ago. I'll spend three weeks here before returning to Japan in late November.

No comments: