Flashback: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, January 2006

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.

traffic

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.

bar

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.

ha-long

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.

Steve.

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2 thoughts on “Flashback: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, January 2006

  1. Tom says:

    The motorbike pic reminds me of the immediate aftermath of a late 4-3 victory by Vietnam over Thailand in the ASEAN Games football comp when we were in Ho Chi Minh in 2003. Saw lots of surfing on motorbikes and so on, and four people died in the ensuing traffic madness according to the next morning’s newspaper.

    “The tourist chat was ruthlessly competitive.”

    I recognise this only too well after the last year. Unfortunately the incredible difference in the price of commodities in some places really cuts both ways — on the one hand you get these tools insisting on paying 5 Nepalese rupees (~$0.10) for a whole bunch of bananas, and on the other sometimes you catch vendors looking all smug because they’ve just duped you.

    By the time we were due back from our trip, we’d put ourselves in the unenviable position of actually needing to pay low for all of our goods and services owing to having run out of money. I don’t think I’ll be heading down that road again.

  2. Hi Tom!

    I guess you are back as your blog ends in Dec.

    Yeah, actually living in a place or travelling long-term is different. Kirsty said when she was staying in Nepal she used to end up getting stuff cheaper than the locals snd then feeling guilty. Also when we were staying in Solomon, the expats all stopped having those conversations after the first few months. You’re not just there top get bargains, you actually have to live.

    Anyway nice to hear from you. Hope Perth is treating you well after your adventure.

    S.

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