Day #1 – Arriving in Hanoi
Before leaving Sydney I was lucky enough to be introduced to some people who were frequent travelers to Vietnam. They gave me lots of good advice – about the food, the weather (who knew it was deathly cold in Hanoi this time if year), the customs – but one of the best bits of information they gave me was the name of the most reliable taxi companies in the city.
This small piece if advice made arriving a much more relaxed experience. After passing the uniformed guards at passport control, locating my luggage and clearing customs I was relieved to spy one of the green and white Mai Linh taxis as I walked out of the terminal. I had written down the name and address of my hotel, as suggested, so all I had to do was point, see the driver to nod, and I could sit back and enjoy the ride to town.
As expected the traffic was chaotic from the outset, with my driver leaning heavily on the horn for the majority of the journey. But he never lost his cool as he dodged trucks full of livestock and motorbikes stacked with all kinds of goods.
As I looked out the window I immediately saw the collision between Vietnam’s past and present. Giant billboards touting a mix of Western and local products overshadowed fields being hoed by hand. Whole families piled onto rusty old scooters were overtaken by luxury foreign cars.
My first impression is that Hanoi is going to be a city full of juxtaposition.
Day #2 – Hanoi, a city of learning
Today we visited two Hanoi landmarks that celebrate learning.
The Temple of the Jade Mountain on Hanoi’s famous Hoan Kiem Lake is a celebration of Confucian and Taoist scholarship.
The Temple of Literature is the site of Hanoi’s first university, the Imperial Academy. It was originally built in 1070 and it remains and important site for students, who go there to pray for success in their exams.
Today was also the official first day of our program and it was great to begin with a reminder of who important knowledge and learning are.
This is an excerpt from Dan’s blog 17 Days in Hanoi. Check it out to read more about her experience in Vietnam on the Poverty Reduction through Microfinance program.