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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Then and now

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 10 January 2006 | Views [1631] | Comments [2]

Pollution is perhaps the least welcome aspect of rapid development ...

Pollution is perhaps the least welcome aspect of rapid development ...

Inevitably returning after 15 years we are making comparisons. It's impossible to say better or worse; just that things have changed. Some things we miss, others we don't (definitely!)

Probably the biggest single difference is the noise and pollution. When we were here before there were few motorcycles and cars were almost non-existent, people either walked or cycled and Cyclos were used to transport commercial goods around the city. Now there is a plague of motorcycles with the associate noise and air pollution and Cyclo's only carry tourists around. This brings subtle social and cultural change. When we were here before the sidewalks of the old quarter were full of people selling stuff, of drivers asleep in Cyclos waiting for passengers, of women with those bamboo baskets full of Pho and other goods. Now the sidewalks are simply full of parked motorcycles and people have been squeezed back into their shops or elsewhere.

It also makes getting around (with children anyway) nigh impossible. We brought two strollers and a baby backpack, but trial and error seems to suggest the best combination for our circumstances is the 1 year old tightly strapped into the backpack and our 3 year old in a stroller. Having said that, getting around Hanoi is somewhere between barely possible and simply impossible. We were just up near the markets walking around when a couple of men wresting to get some stuff onto the back of a motorcycle (engine running) lost control of it. As it lunged forward, I somehow caught it in my peripheral rear vision (which seems to be such an essential component arond here), and shoved the stroller forward so that the bike missed Riu in the stroller by a whisker, missed me by another whisker, and missed Yuki with Kai on here back by yet another. All I ended up with was a bruised foot as the bike landed on my feet, but it could have been SO much worse. I read many of the travel claims that come in of such incidents ... this was another one of those 'could have been horrendous but wasn't' incidents.

The other problem we have encountered is that we get to see bugger all! We spend 110% of every minute either running around after our kids or simply looking around keeping them out of trouble (rther than being able to 'see'). Mmmmmm ....

But, for our kids, the simple lessons are the best:

  1. Day 1: Riu wasn't so keen to eat very much
  2. Day 2: Availed himself of rice and a few noodles
  3. Day 3: ate every last scrap of whatever was available, even the crusts on the bread at breakfast.

Wonder if it will last once we get home?

Yesterday we took a long day trip out to Halong Bay on an organised tour. Not surprisingly, a handful of boats siddle up and try to flog you bananas or fish or anything they can. On one was a woman with a little boy about Riu's age, although pretty hungry looking as were were in the middle of lunch. Riu kept saying 'come in', so even he noticed somthing there. One of the other tourists gave him a piece of tofu from the dish on the table, and you would have expected him to scoff it whole from the look of him ... but he scampered back to his Mum, gave her the tofu, and she put it in a small box at her feet presumably as part of the nights diner.

Makes you reflect on the wasted food we take for granted.

Tags: adventures, culture, cyclo, memories, pollution, travel tips, travel with children




I hope you've got a few spare secs to take some photos! I'd love to compare the Then and Now shots of Hanoi. The pix in your Vietnam gallery are full of people though - and those smiling faces probably still look pretty much the same.

  crustyadventures Jan 11, 2006 10:33 AM


I'd love to, but I can't get the images off the iPod yet. No PC's seem to connect to it automatically and it just asks me if I want to format the hardrive. We're off to Danang and Hoi An tomorrow, so will try from a Netcafe there ...

  simonm Jan 11, 2006 11:47 PM

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