My first morning in Vietnam I awoke to a room with no electricity. When I went downstairs to ask the receptionist what was going on, he told me “The government cut off the power.” It was all very matter-of-fact.
The area of town I’m staying in, the old quarter, is clearly one of those districts that subsists more or less solely on tourism. Although my previous description of Hanoi holds true – about how it’s remarkably un-Westernized, with no convenience stores, fast food, or easily recognizable chain businesses – at least in this little area I do get the support of a zillion tightly packed guesthouses and restaurants with English picture-menus.
In truth, I’m not here for tourism anyway – at least not yet. All I need for now is a comfortable room and some convenient places to eat.
Because my dad isn’t scheduled to arrive until May 2nd, I’ve set aside the next week and a half for catching up on work and preparing for his visit. This means days spent buried in code, reading Lonely Planet, or walking across town and talking to tourist companies.
(Although I rarely sign up for tours, we have two events planned that rely heavily on – or even require – a guide. The first will be a four day cross-country motorbike trip through the Northern mountains, right up to the Chinese border. The second will be two nights on a junk in Halong Bay.)
And although not as fast-paced as my usual method of travel, the numerous cross-town walks in search of tour operators provided a nice little peek at what life in Northern Vietnam might be like – similar to the “pseudo-tourism” I experienced while apartment hunting in Bangkok.
During my preparations I made my way through parks and by lakes, along what was clearly the commercial center, and through numerous little neighborhoods. I got to taste a wide variety of food – from French-influenced baguettes to the iconic Vietnamese Pho. I shopped in supermarkets, bought bananas from little old ladies in conical straw hats, and scouted out as much of Hanoi as time (and weather) would allow.
But most importantly, I booked everything necessary for an action-packed trip with my dad, the guy most responsible for my (seemingly incurable) travel bug. For the first time since 2007 the Klein duo is about unite overseas – and embark on yet another international adventure 🙂
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Thursday, April 21st.