I’m starting to write this 20 hours shy of my flight. In my high-rise hotel room sitting in the heart of Hanoi, I see beautiful, stylised, expensive shopping malls sitting directly next to broken flats, discarded rubbish heaps and slums. This land is undergoing a change faster than what my mind can boggle, and the disparity between the rich and poor is akin to the distance between here and Mars, growing larger by the day. This has been one of the first holidays I have ever had outside of the first world. And I cannot understate its memorability.
Bangkok – A Canon of blitz
Not even a day into Bangkok we were treated to a signature act most tourists would have encountered – we were hoodwinked. It wasn’t by much, a meal of seafood similar to Sydney prices but exorbitant to most Thai incomes, that gave us food poisoning and paralysed us for the following morning. It was regardless an experience worth having (at least once). In the later days on our way to shipping malls, and other sites there were always a mix of wealthy and poor outlets, citizens standing barefoot selling yams and fruit, contrasted with young chaps selling consumer electronics.
You come to the realisation that for many of the citizens here and certainly abroad; the mere existence of these people’s lives are essentially to wake up, set up a roadside store, wait for tourists for a quarter day to purchase stock, close up, spend time with their children and sleep. Rinse and repeat. Looking at this, the amount of luck that has been bestowed on me in these past 19 years is mind blowing, bone crushing and an injustice that I have been such a prick. I have been taking my freedoms for granted, the food my parents give me, shelter, education and even enough money for extra curricular FUN. This has to change.
Pattaya – Animal Cruelty 101
The next leg of our journey travelled north of the country into the resort bay of Pattaya. A beautiful landscape filled with beach, surf, friendly people and an unique mix of laid back atmosphere and white knuckle taxi rides; you can only find in this part of the world.
However what was most memorable was one of the “zoos” we visited. This place felt like it was filled with misery. We saw crocodile plantations, great reptiles stripped of their rugged tails and teeth heaped 30 in a tiny cubicle for the purposes of breeding. Bears and tigers stripped of their prized fangs and claws so that tourists can take photos wrapped around their arms in a perverse who of degredation and spite. What makes a business compelled to treat animals in this way? I’m hoping I can find out in my further studies.
Hanoi – Coming out of the Cold
The Northern capital feels like it has been ripped out of the 1980’s reform of the People’s Republic. Communist soldiers ever-present wearing Russian like hats, with pockets of capitalism and industry peeping through the citizens of this hugely significant city. We visited the tomb of the great comrade and leader Ho Chi Minh himself as insightful propaganda blared. Cruising along Ha Long bay in a serene moment of tranquillity and awe. I came out feeling that it was a cold, cold place with a lot of warm people to welcome our stay.
Saigon – Good Night Irene
To date one of my all time favourite cities. Disregarded traffic rules, incredible food, scam artists and friendly folk alike populate this mixing pot of Western (French) and Eastern (Vietnamese) influences. I was lucky enough to have friends I met at Macquarie University return to Vietnam and show me around all the nice places to see, visit and eat. (kudos WT and her charming friends). As the last leg I was still burning with passion and will to explore, and Saigon delivered. I made dealings with friends to kick start our own business explored the city into the darkest hours of the night and into the morning. As a final note of goodwill I recently found out that in my 4 days present in Saigon I was unintentionally photographed into an online Vietnamese newspaper.