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Charming Hanoi 6 May 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, only in Vietnam, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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Hanoi is a seductress – and she is putting on the charm.

She knows I am leaving in two months’ time. She knows I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. She knows this and she is not happy.

So she is putting on the charm.

I can smell flowers (for the first time in three years of living here).

The weather is mild, clear, sometimes sunny, but not hot or sticky yet.

The people seem extra friendly; the neighbours are nodding and smiling to me.

I don’t seem to be getting ripped off in taxis or at the market.

I suppose I am projecting. I know I am leaving, so I am enjoying every moment of it. I am still being told that I am fat, tall and a westerner. Yet I am also being told that I am beautiful, which hardly ever happens.

I know going back home, I will miss all the things that have in the past also driven me nuts. The traffic, the noise, the constant people around me.

I will miss the way the Vietnamese spend their lives on the side walks, how they meddle in everyone’s affairs, and how they can be quite in your face.

I am sure there are things I will not miss. But they are already by far being outweighed by the things I will miss.

So I am making lists for all the things I need to/ want to do before I leave. Seeing this museum and that landmark (the famous B52 is a must) eating the last bowl of that food and seeing those friends one more time.

It will be hard to leave.

Most of the time, I am not so bad with goodbyes, because I never feel that it will be “for ever” – a globalised world means that I can keep in touch with the people who matter, and I can see them if we are ever in close proximity again.

However, leaving Vietnam will feel different. Many of the people I know here might never travel, or even own a passport. I feel that unless I return to Vietnam, I truly might not ever see them again. Luckily, they all have Facebook…

So, lovely Hanoi, you are succeeding. I will miss you. But first, I am getting all I can out of the next two months!

Only in Vietnam #16 16 April 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Traffic, Vietnam.
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So, I recently blogged about the lovely young man riding his motorbike along without holding the handlebars, because his hands were in his pockets, which I thought to be the least safe driving I had seen in Vietnam.

Yet only a few weeks ago, this was topped. By far.

I am driving along, minding my own business, when a guy pulls up next to me. He is sitting with his arms crossed, and his left foot is resting on the throttle (yes, that would be the right handle on your handlebar), while his knee is resting on the left side of the handlebar. He is somehow twisting the gas with his toes, while also steering with his knee.

He was a young, perfectly able-bodied man, but he just could not be bothered holding on to the steering of his bike like the rest of us.

At the first opportunity, he cuts me off (he was on my right hand side, he wanted to turn left), to pull in to the perpendicular street. This is in peak hour, and the roads are super busy. Of course, someone is about to pull out of said street, which makes him almost crash into them, so he is forced to quickly sit up and grab his handlebars. Having caught his bike just before toppling over and averted disaster, he has the cheek to throw a dirty as filth look over his shoulder at the other guy that was pulling out of the street! Who was almost standing still! Who was NOT manouvering his bike with his feet… Go figure.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G 21 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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One of my Vietnamese friends has fallen in love with an Australian girl and he recently went to Sydney to visit her. Before he went, he came to see me for a chat, and I was teasing him, by saying

(his name) and (her name), sitting in a tree
Kay-eye-ess-ess-eye-en-gee!! (K-I-S-S-I-N-G)

He thought this was very funny, and I thought it would be a humourous insight into school yard teasing for him. He had a marvellous time, and he posted lots of photos on Facebook, for everyone to enjoy his time with him.

When he came back, I was so pleased for him, and I asked him; “How was your trip?”

He said: “Fantastic, I had such a good time!”

“Great! How was Sydney?”

He went bright red and said “there were a lot of trees everywhere.”

I was initially confused until he reminded me of the previous conversation. In other words, they had found plenty of opportunities for kissing! A gentlemen never kisses and tells, but he can indicate the number of trees he has encountered ūüėČ

Good on him.

Only in Vietnam #15 16 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Travelling, Vietnam.
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So, I ignored all warnings about the weather today, and by the time I reached the office, I was very cold.

But I love the Vietnamese – they are known for giving you all sorts of advice.

Today, a lady I have never seen or spoken to before came up to me and told me with a big smile that two layers for this kind of weather was certainly not enough, and I needed to be careful, because no matter how strong (or “healthy”) I was, I would get sick.

I received at least 3 more such comments along the 20 metres that I walk to get to my office from the motorbike.

Isn’t that just adorable, that the Vietnamese care enough about complete strangers to worry about their health!¬†I love this country. I love the people in my street. I am so lucky to be here.

UPDATE: two days later, all wrapped up in a jacket and wearing earmuffs, I see the same lady again, and she points, laughs, and exclaims “that is MUCH better!”

Only in Vietnam #14 14 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in only in Vietnam, Travelling.
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An toan la tren het (or Safety first) is a slogan you see all over Vietnam. On building sites especially. But it is sometimes a “going through the motions” of occupational health and safety, and I frequently see extremely dangerous practices.

This weekend, though, I was standing with my heart in my throat as I watched the building behind us demolishing the verandas. Two men were using jack hammers to drill the veranda they were standing on…

I am not sure if they will demolish the rest of the building or just the little verandas that have been built onto the house, but I am just waiting for a major accident to happen!

Only in Vietnam #13 16 February 2011

Posted by uggclogs in only in Vietnam, Vietnam.
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As I have mentioned before, this might not be strictly something that could only happen in Vietnam. But since I have not ridden a motorbike elsewhere, it still fits in this category for me.

Late last week, I was riding along behind a Vietnamese man on his motorbike. We were not far apart, my front wheel was about the same height as his back wheel, but I certainly was not in his field of vision. Riding in Vietnam is like skiing: you keep an eye on everything and everyone in front of you, everyone behind you keeps an eye on you. Many bikes don’t even have mirrors, and if they do, they are sometimes adjusted so the rider can see their own face (look ma, I look cool!) rather than anything behind them. No lie!

So, riding along beside/ behind this man, I was of course aware of him, but he was not aware of me.

That’s when it happened.

Out of nowhere, this man sneezes over his left shoulder. And yes, I ride straight through the mist of sneeze.

I think to myself – that’s it. I have managed to avoid the flu (with great stealth and some sneaking around) so far this year. But now I’ve got it.

Sure enough – I was sick on Saturday. And Sunday. And Monday and Tuesday. I am finally back at work now, on Wednesday. But man, was I knocked on my backside with this flu.

Only in Vietnam #12 27 January 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Traffic, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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I try not to go on about the cold weather in Hanoi too much. I mean, yes it is cold. But if you are here, you know that. If you are not, you probably don’t care.

But today, driving through the city centre amongst the Tet traffic and cumquat trees (still bobbing away on the back of motorbikes, but this year all wrapped up to protect the little fruit, luckily in see-through plastic, so still all good) I was overtaken by a young thing on a motorbike who clearly was not dealing well with the cold.

Normally, you see a lot of people with their right hand on the gas and their left hand in their pocket when it is cold.

This guy took it to a whole new level: He was zooming along, to about 50-60 km an hour, then he would let go of his handle bars completely, pocket both hands, and glide along through traffic until he had lost enough speed to do this all over again. Mind you, he kept it pretty straight, but that took traffic safety to a whole new level for me.

Never mind that he wasn’t wearing gloves, surely you would value your life over cold hands?

At least he was wearing a helmet, I suppose.

Only in Vietnam #10 20 September 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life, Vietnam.
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Today in our office, the conversation somehow turned to bras.

A Vietnamese colleague of mine was telling my foreign colleague that her bra strap (just visible from underneath her shirt) was old and faded, and that she needed to get a new one or wash this one.

Jumping to my colleague’s defence, I commented that it is not always easy for us Western gals to find bras in our size in Vietnam (which, by the way, is true, and I know people that have been physically pushed out of shops by the owners because there was nothing there to be found for big girls like us).

My Vietnamese colleague proceeds to inform me that *I* might have trouble, but that she was convinced that my friend would not.

It was the twinkle in her eye while she said this that got me – I was laughing for five minutes straight at this thinly veiled insult – yet I am not sure whether it was aimed at my friend or myself.

Oh, I love this particular colleague, she comes out with some real crackers to make my day. Thank you!

Beautiful evening 26 August 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Travelling, Vietnam.
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Tonight, going home, I was again struck with the beautiful exotic country that I live in. Little children chasing each other down the street, some sort of information crackling out of the loudspeakers on the corner of my street.

Riding onto the high way going north, a small clump of motorbikes were congregating. I needed to slow down to get past them, and realised that they were stopping (on the high way, remember) to watch two fighting cocks on the median strip.

Only in Vietnam. Thank goodness I live here.

Too generous 18 June 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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I was unlucky last night. Not only did I only happen to have large bills on me (which tend to happen with large bills, because I never seem to spend enough in one go to warrant to break them) and I was out to dinner with Australians.

Don’t get me wrong, Australians are great. But I ended up getting paid out tremendously. Why? Because when it came to paying the bill, I firstly had to break my 500,000 dong bill. Then, I tried to pay my share (90,000) with a 100,000 dong bill, and casually added – “oh, don’t worry, it can be the tip”.

“Tip? Don’t be ridiculous! Tip is already included in the 90,000!”

I was then called a big spender, a rich lout who throws my money around and a show off. Not a single ‘generous’ or ‘kind’ or ‘well-meaning’ coming my way.

All for a measly 10,000. Which, if you care to know, is the equivalent of about 60 Australian Cents, or $0.60…