The Second International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability was held in Hanoi and HaLong Bay, Vietnam, from 9th to 12th December. So. Hmmm. Good.
I arrived in Hanoi a few days early and spent some time staggering about the streets of the old quarter trying not to get run over by the insane traffic. I am sure that every first time visitor to a large Asian city does this but it was a memorable experience. I took about twenty videos of it, all of which fail to capture the true madness, but this photograph comes close. I was on the back of a motorbike at the time.
The safer option was to retreat to one of the roadside bars near Dinh Liet (where my hotel was) and sit about drinking Bia Hoi (Daily Beer) which was about 7 cents a glass and basically indistinguishable from Heineken after about the third.
The tourist chat was ruthlessly competitive. You know those vapid conversations you get in Asian places where everyone asserts how streetwise / non-suckerish they are, and how they can really mix it with the locals, which basically involves refusing them their only real access to the global economy?
“How much did you pay for that? Score! I haggled him down from four dollars to two fifty. I would have paid eighty dollars in Sydney! I’m an exploitative a-hole! Hooray!”
Of course if you are really concerned about losing face, sometimes it is better to pay more to a westerner so you know you are getting a fair deal. As one girl put it: “sometimes you have to pay a bit more to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off.”
Ah, yeah. Let’s not think about that one too hard.
After a few days I stopped doing this, and started hanging out at Minh’s Jazz Bar on Hang Bac, where the real Heineken beer was pricey, the music good, and there were no people asking each other how much they had paid for everything. All round, a better option.
Anyway, I also went to the Temple of Literature, and took a couple of day trips out of the city, including one to Ha Long Bay. Here I am out on the misty bay, modeling one of the Italian silk scarves I had purchased a few days earlier.
So, that’s what 2006 me will be doing for the next week. As for me, I’ll be working, and staring out the window at the artificial waterfront at Mawson Lakes. Not quite the same, but there’s a good dollar in it.