Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back on the Ground in Hanoi

If I were to say that we just popped over to Viet Nam and here I am, that might seem a little casual, yet, to describe what really went on is a little hard to do. On one hand, a fragile aluminum and composite machine almost completely loaded with explosive fuel and an amazing amount of stuff meant for the Philippines. ..not to mention 300 odd people (figure 8 across by at least 42 rows plus whomever they were pampering up there in First Class). . .that machine, guided by radio signals bounced off of multiple satellites and fiddled by a bank of electronics (made in China do you think?) streaked through the day almost seven miles above the Ocean (by which I mean to include a bit of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, so rather a bitter cold and stormy ocean at that), come to think of it, we endured temperatures of 60 degrees below zero and a head wind approaching 100 mph. . .crossed bits of Russia and China
and did an end run around the northern edge of North Korea (Nukes and Migs!!)and finally they put us on the ground within five minutes of when they were supposed to. . .eleven hours and a bit after leaving Seattle. Or, looked at from my view point, I ate three meals (Korean for two and "Western??" for the other, watched 3 movies (what a selection, everybody in the airplane was watching something else. . .Korean movies with your choice of five languages for subtitles, Chinese and Japanese movies with Korean subtitles, American stuff with your choice of English or Korean audio and subtitles in Japanese and Chinese. . .not to mention shorts of all sorts. . .what did you want to know about the Bugati super car? Golf? Sky diving? Whatever. Who me? Oh. . .well, I tried the White Snake and the Herbalist (Chinese with Korean subtitles, flying dragons, enormous crumbling winter mountain ranges and a sexy lady (the snake no less). . .lasted five minutes, couldn't handle the flying sorcerer with the big pitchfork arrangement). But no matter, three movies. In one sitting. Yikes. The Korean one with the tangled romances (five of them I think, depending on how you count romances versus catastrophes) was probably the most fun. Gee. I got a short nap too. Real high adventure in the Arctic Sky, sort of like a cross between Lindbergh and Scott, or would that be Amundson. ..Bering maybe? And that was just the first leg!! Seoul was a 2 hour layover, most of which was spent waiting my turn to go through security with my SHOES ON. And nobody hijacked the plane either. The second leg, on down to Hanoi, was a mere five hour jaunt across China. Somehow or another we arrived in Hanoi at ten thirty at night. The arithmetic doesn't work as far as I can see, but there's the International Date Line in there somewhere and a good number of time zones. Take my word for it, it was late. Note to Self: They have two baggage carousels in Hanoi now. Check the other one sooner next time. So I snagged the next to the last taxi with my seat mate Steve and we made it to our hotels seconds before midnight. Mr. Khoi was waiting up for me and opened the door and the iron grillage just as the cabby was about to decide he was not going to leave me at a dentist's office. The dentist-daughters of the household obviously won the battle of the new sign, it really looks a lot like a dentist's premises from the street now, with just a bit of a "Guest House" sign above. No matter, before One o'clock I was unpacked and wound down in my GROUND FLOOR room (they not only threw out whoever was in it last week, they painted it the day before I arrived, all sparkly clean and nice). Next thing I knew it was six thirty in the morning and my body thought we should be up and about. Not my eyes or my head mind you, the eyes were scratchy and the head was still six or eight time zones off somewhere, but the other two hundred pounds of me wanted up and away. Some things have been going very well in the meantime. I talked to Mr. Dung (say that "Zoong", the Northern pronunciation, not "Yoong" as it would be in the South, and certainly not "DUNG"). Excuse the digression, but we needed to cover that. In any event, I spoke with him last week and asked him to get my bike out of storage and give it a once over. She was sitting on the sidewalk in front of the shop when I turned up. Er, well, I didn't just turn up. I was hoofing it along the street a couple of blocks from the shop when yet another pesky motorbike taxi guy asked if I wanted a ride. . .to the shop. . .it was Dung (Zoong) himself, back from a parts run. How do you suppose he knew it was me?? H'mm. I guess I'm something of an elephant locally even if I'm not on a motorbike. Anyway, I arrived in style riding pillion (I won't use the b__ word in a family blog) behind Dung. She has a new oil change, a couple of new scratches,
a new chain, new rubber blocks in the rear hub, about a thousand kilometers she didn't have before (he was SUPPOSED to ride her a bit to keep her fluids circulating) and maybe three tablespoons of fuel. At a guess. We got her some more a short time later. So, not needing to waste a week hunting for a bike to buy and getting paperwork done and so forth, I'm ready to go as soon as my jet lag seems manageabgle. I've been walking for hours both days so I'll sleep more or less when everybody else does. . .and taking lots of photos. . .and throwing most of them away. However, there are a few you might like, cute kids, traffic in the streets, odd shots of the citizenry in general, a hike over the old Long Bien bridge (that's the one we bombed the bejeezus out of during the war, so although it was designed by the same fellow who did the Eiffel Tower, 112 years ago, and pre-fabbed in Paris. . .it's kind of lumpy these days). All the war damage was repaired with simple truss girders instead of the pretty arches. Oh well. You can sort of extrapolate how it was if you stand off at a distance. Helps if you can buy an old French post card though. It's late and I still have to upload some photos.


  1. God, it's so great to be back! I can't believe I get to go there and not have to do anything strenuous. It's really not fair at all but I so love it. Also, I want anyone who follows this blog to be aware that they can click on any photo and it will expand, giving superb resolution and marvelous detail! Thank you! Take care! -allen

  2. commented on this this morning , but gone now.
    Good to see you back in VN. Wish I was there.
    Enjoy your trip