Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good Morning Vietnam

After traveling for 24 hours, we arrived safely in Hanoi, Vietnam!  We left Philadelphia on what I'll now consider a short flight to Atlanta.  Then it was time to get comfy for the 15 hour flight to Seoul, South Korea.  Let's just say that 15 hours is a LONG time to be sitting on a plane and no amount of music, movies, games or sleep makes it go by any quicker.  After a short layover, we boarded our last flight bound for Hanoi.  Then came the real fun...baggage claim!  What a wild experience!  I was thrilled beyond words to see the first of our 3 suitcases come rolling down the conveyor belt, but that was short lived when I realized that the one I was missing contained every pair of shoes that I'd packed.  Noooooo!!!  Thankfully, it arrived about 10 minutes later with the last of the luggage...whew, crisis averted! Here are a few pictures from our travels. 

This plane was HUGE!  336 seats and a crew of 15 flight attendants.

Every flight attendant was impeccably dressed with matching hair, nails, makeup and jewelry. 

Daddy and I just after takeoff from Atlanta.  Those are our before the 15 hour flight smiles.  :) 
Lunch on board Korean Air ~ Bibimbap, seaweed soup, pickled vegetables, fruit and free wine!
Cruising at 40,000 ft high above Alaska

The mountain views were amazing! 

The glaciers streams created this cool mountain pattern.

A glacier lake

So close, yet so far away!  We still had 3 hours to go at this point.
Meet Hoang!  He is a summer intern at the International School of Vietnam (ISV).  He met us inside the arrival hall after we collected all of our luggage.  I loved the sign!

The Noi Bai airport in Hanoi is a wild place!  There are people everywhere.  Apparently 4 international flights all landed at the same time and it created a mob scene.  This is when I realized that I'm living in a developing country.  There were people going in a million different directions and scooters weaving in and out of traffic with reckless abandon.  Little did I know, that this was calm by Vietnam standards! 

After a good nights sleep, I opened the curtains to get my first glimpse of Hanoi in the daylight!  Take a good look because there is a lot to take in.  The houses are incredibly narrow and tall.  There is a house behind our hotel that is 6 stories tall. 
 Day 1
We ventured out to the bank to exchange money.  Boy was that an experience!!  It's going to take a while to get used to currency conversion.  1 USD=2,204.73 VND  The banknotes come in denominations of 5,000 ($.25), 10,000 ($.47), 20,000 ($.94), 50,000 ($2.36), 100,000 ($4.72), 200,000 ($9.43) and 500,000 ($23.58).  I miss round numbers already!!  Not to mention that the currency rate changes daily so that'll be interesting!  

I had read about the traffic in Hanoi and watched a few videos on youtube, but NOTHING can prepare you for the experience in real life!!  I'm not sure which is worse; walking or riding in a cab.  Either way, there is a real possibility of bodily harm.  I'm absolutely stunned that we haven't witnessed an accident just yet.  The people on the motor scooters far outnumber the cars and bicycles are for the very brave at heart. 
This intersection has a traffic light and people are actually stopped...for now!  That's not to say that they won't just go once they feel like they've waited long enough. 

There are cars and motorbikes going every which direction.  People weave in and out of tiny alleys and make left hand turns from the right side of the road.  Did I mention that there are no lane lines...make your own

I took this picture for my Mom.  This is certainly not my salon in Greenville, DE. 

Dad and I had lunch in the hotel restaurant.  Pan fried rice noodles with chicken and vegetables.  It was divine!! Then it was off to the US Embassy, just so I know where it is.  Yikes, more traffic!  On the way there we saw countless women riding side saddle on the backs of motor scooters texting and chatting on the phone.  Hello!!  Hold on!!
Mmmm, noodles! 

Riding on the sidewalk is perfectly acceptable here. 

The women ride their scooters in heels.  We even saw a woman holding a baby in her arms.  At least they all wear helmets. 

The US Embassy in Hanoi

Overall, it's been a great first day.  The language barrier is intense, but the staff at the hotel is very helpful.  I really need to get a Vietnamese simm card for my phone so that I'll have my translator for the times when we aren't at the hotel.  I'm certainly glad that my Dad came along for the trip he's great company!  We're going to do some sightseeing tomorrow and then we'll meet with the realtor to start the apartment search by the end of the week.  Stay tuned.