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Crashing a communist party.

VIETNAM | Thursday, 14 October 2010 | Views [779]

A solemn communist monument & Hoan Kiem Lake's tortoise tower go all discotheque

A solemn communist monument & Hoan Kiem Lake's tortoise tower go all discotheque

Hanoi had been planning my welcoming party for months and the city was awash with red and yellow flags and banners. Every shop front, street sign and forehead spoke of the 1,000 year prophesy of my arrival. I had been warned that I would be swarmed over like a liberating conqueror as people clamoured for the honour of relieving me of all of my money. Hanoi's 6 million or so residents had swelled considerably for the celebrations and made an already overflowing tide of humanity turn into an ark-worthy flood.

Conforming to fashionable protocol, I showed up 7 days late for the 10 day party and was disappointed to find that Hanoi was actually celebrating 1,000 years as the capital of Vietnam. It seemed far less important than me coming to town, but as a first time visitor, I can't claim to understand the Vietnamese mindset any more than I understand the female way of reading a map. It would explain why only two motorbike drivers politely offered their services upon arriving in the old quarter; four times no less. With no pseudo proletarians to carry me to my hotel on a throne, I opted to walk the 500 metres or so.

Even though the party wasn't in my honour, the hotel receptionist knew my name like I had just walked into the Cheers Bar. Booking ahead meant I wasn't fighting a drunk hobo for a park bench when hotels were already inundated with patriotic out-of-towners. The room itself was pretty steep at $17US a night, but I more than compensated for that by giving their wifi such a raping, their great grand-children will be associating my name with debt collectors and poor credit ratings.

Overlooking the trouble I brought upon myself booking the flight, Bangkok to Hanoi had only cost $140AUS. The time between passport control and checking in for your first night in a new country is normally the time you spend a third of your total budget. The airport minibus had cost me $3US, and thankfully I had more than $9US to spend in Vietnam. My new travel partner was not so lucky.

Lindsay is a Dutch girl I worked with in Matsos last year. Her Australian visa ran out in August so she ran to the nearest port in Asia. Her journey to Hanoi started in Don Det, Laos and involved no less than 9 buses and 2 boats for 48 hours straight. One leg of the journey had squashed fruit and water dripping constantly onto her from the overhead luggage rack. Another bus took off while she answered natures call in the bushes. A motorbike chased the bus down with her probably still answering the call on the back of the bike. In Hanoi, my party people stopped her from being dropped off at the hotel and she had to make the last part of the trip without a map. Not that a map would have helped anyway, probably serving more to confuse than enlighten.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Hanoi is like after everyone has decided my presence is not worth trashing the whole city for. A simple stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake took over an hour battling through the crowds and resulting party detritus. Crossing the road is supposed to be a holy experience normally, entreaties made to numerous deities midway and faith in divine providence completely restored if the other side is reached. That was no less adrenalising than what I had heard so perhaps 6 million locals is enough to make every chicken lay a few eggs before it attempts a crossing.

The Vietnamese way of partying seemed to be wandering around buying candy floss and cheap crap with flashing lights. Or proving your mastery of English to your friends by saying hello to a Westerner. There were stages set up for various shows but the human fog was too thick to bother getting close to. Any attempt meant that every person behind my 186cm frame had no chance of seeing anything other than my shoulder blades. On the whole, Vietnamese people don't seem to make it much higher than that on me. At 160cm's, Lindsay is at a distinct disadvantage and seems to attract far more unwanted attention than I do. Still nowhere near what we had been warned to expect. Perhaps looking like we had raided Brotherhood bins before leaving home gives greedy eyes the impression we are paupers ourselves. And after another round of idiocy to be detailed in the next journal, it's not that far from the truth.

Tags: celebration, people

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