Vietnam Part 1: Old Quarter Charm

I stayed in the Old Quarter area in Hanoi during my trip. I had the opportunity to walk around a lot and see the many streets and sites of this part of town. There was a lot of flavor and charm in this part of the town from the busy streets, to the markets, old buildings and all the people. I tried to capture some of it on camera, the rest you’ll just have to see for yourself!

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More photos of the food and Halong Bay coming soon!

A Life on Water

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #31

After a week in Vietnam, there were many eye opening moments and memories. One of the lasting things from the trip, besides crossing the scooter filled streets everyday, was seeing the fishing villages in Halong Bay. Halong bay in itself was a beautiful natural wonder. I had no idea that it would be so big and that there were so many boats there filled with tourists.

On the first day of our boat cruise, we got to go kayaking around one of the fishing villages. We kayaked around and through their village and  I felt like I was intruding. They were probably used to all these tourists kayaking through their village every day. Yet, I felt like I got a small peek of their life. Their houses which were floating on top of the water with boats parked next to them I saw dogs outside, kids playing, women cooking food and people just sitting in their homes.

Afterwards, I had so many questions racing through my mind. What would it be like to be grow up pretty much living on water instead of land? How often did they get a chance to go on land? Did they interact often with other fishing villages? Did they go swimming often in the water? Where did they go to the bathroom?  How close of a community were the people in the fishing village? How did the kids go to school? How did they feel about all these tourists kayaking through their village every day?

I just couldn’t imagine growing up in a fishing village and living on the water. I did a bit more research and found an informative article on the history of these fishing villages here. I also found out that they are trying to get the people in these villages to move onto the mainland. I still find it incredibly fascinating that these people have been living on the water for many generations, making a living off the fishing that they do.

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More photos to come on my trip to Vietnam! Stay tuned… 

the art of crossing

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #30

The Art of Crossing

In NYC, you cross the street by looking both ways and if the street is clear of cars, buses, taxis or buses, you cross. A true New Yorker doesn’t pay much attention to weather the pedestrian crossing sign is red or green. New Yorkers are always busy and have some place to go.

In Seoul, you cross the street  by looking at the pedestrian crossing sign. Jaywalking is not as common as people will usually wait to cross.

In Singapore, you cross the street by looking to your left first, then to your right, since they drive on the left side of the road. I definitely had a few close encounters of looking at the wrong side when I first arrived. People tend to wait for the crosswalk sign to turn green. Singapore is pretty strict with their laws here! 🙂

In Hanoi, you look to check there are no cars coming right away then you just cross the street, not paying too much attention to the hundreds of scooters (motor bikes) coming your way. Our tour guide told us that there are about 1-3 scooters per person. When there are more than 6 million people in Hanoi,  that is a a lot of scooters on the narrow streets.

We quickly learned the art of crossing the street here after a week. You would very rarely see pedestrian crossing signs on the streets in the old quarter. Our technique worked quite well. You crossed quickly and looked straight ahead, without making eye contact with the mass of scooters and cars coming your way. It was easier for the scooters to weave around you as you walk then you stopping and waiting for the scooters to cease. The fact was, the scooters coming down the street were endless. You would be waiting all day to cross the street.

We were able to cross efficiently and safely using our method, even though most times inside I felt incredibly terrified that I would get hit.  Hanoi was definitely the only city I’ve been to where all the rules to crossing the street were completely opposite than what I was used to.

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Arrival in Vietnam

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #25

After a comfortable 3 hour flight from Singapore to Vietnam, we arrived at the airport in Hanoi. We had gotten our visa forms filled out electronically before leaving. It wasn’t the actual visa, but we would pick up our visa upon arrival at the airport.

My friend and I saw the sign for the place to pick up visa’s upon arrival. There was a line that was already formed and very slowly moving. As we got closer to the front, we realized that people were picking up their passport from the man in the front. Yet, the sign said visas upon arrival so we thought this was the right line. We finally got to the front of the line and he told us with a few hand gestures to go to the other booth on the inside. This was where we had to drop off our passport first. Feeling a bit frustrated that we waited for no reason,we went to the other side. There was no line on the other side. We tried to ask a few questions, but the guy just took our visas and our papers. No explanation.

We went back to the other side and waited by the front of the booth this time. There was a long line, but actually no point in waiting in the line, since the one guy working at the booth would just hold up the passports and call out names from behind the glass. You had to be paying close attention or near the front. So we waited by the front,  with a group of foreigners feeling frustrated by this unclear process. We waited and our names got called pretty quickly. We picked up our passports with the visa inside.

We paid the $45 and handed in our passport photo as well. Then, we had to wait on the immigration line and figure out where our luggage was. It made me miss the quick and efficient airport service I was used to in Singapore and Korea. Luckily our driver was waiting for us outside the gate and we arrived to our hotel safely! Stay tuned for more adventures from Vietnam…

Unprepared

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #23

It was 9:50pm. I had gotten home a little while ago and I started packing for my trip to Vietnam tomorrow morning. Of course, I left the packing to the last minute. I found my print outs of my flight reservation and two different hotel reservations. I scrambled around and looked through my folders, drawers and bag for my visa confirmation letter. I didn’t see it anywhere. I thought I had printed it out. I’m usually not that forgetful. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I really thought that I printed it out and put the letter in my folder. Maybe I was just imagining things? Where did I put it? Did I leave it in my classroom?

It was time to come up with plan B. Since I didn’t have a printer at home and didn’t know of any printing places that would be open early on Sunday morning, I would have to go all the way to school in the morning with my luggage and print out another copy of my visa confirmation letter. Then, I would have to get a taxi from my school to the airport. I’ve definitely learned a few important lessons. I’ll make sure to have all of the required documents printed and check for them, before I leave school next time.

Last Minute Frenzy

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #22

As the teachers were anxiously counting down the minutes left until spring break starts, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. Once my students had left and I was left alone in the classroom, I did not feel as relieved as I should. I still had a lot of work to get done. Work that I didn’t want to think about during the vacation.

I needed to finish my lesson plans for the following week and try to organize my thoughts and prepare for a few new units coming up. Originally, I thought I could leave right after school ends. Unfortunately, there always seems to be tasks that come up at the end of the school day. Two hours later, I got to pack up my things and finally leave school.  I packed a few teacher books, some student work and a children’s book I’m hoping to read over break. I realize that I am probably being over ambitious considering I will be in Vietnam for most of my break.  2 more days until I leave for Hanoi! Hopefully I’ll be able to slice from there. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyone else doing something exciting for their spring break? 🙂

Nothing to Write

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Slice of Life Challenge Day #21

11pm. My legs felt itchy. Had I been bitten again? I was too tired to look down at my legs. All of a sudden I saw something black and small flying around. It slowly landed on the bottom of my laptop on the flat part. I quickly smashed the tiny sucker. I took off my hand slowly, and saw a pindrop of blood in addition to the flattened mosquito.

I was feeling to tired to get off of my bed to get a tissue to wipe it off at that moment. I looked at the open Internet window to my blog. An empty page except the slice of life turquoise button that I had inserted. What to write? I went through the different things that happened that day. Should I write about the weather that seems to be getting even hotter (93 degrees F) here in Singapore? Or should I write about the fun I had reading all my students slices about our “cockroach incident”? Or, maybe I’ll write about what I’m thankful on this lovely Thursday.

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!!

I groggily look over to my iphone and shutdown the alarm. It was 5:30am. The first alarm had gone off. I looked over to my left and see my silver macbook pro with the screen open at 90 degrees and the blank blog post page. It was too bad I wasn’t a sleep writer. I had fallen asleep while trying to write my blog post.  I looked carefully at the keyboard, and quickly spotted the squished mosquito with the spot of blood, which probably belonged to me. I grabbed a tissue and wiped it off. Now I had something to write about.