Lessons in Hanoi


Thank you in Vietnamese sounds like Come on. I got this from Ekarat, a fellow participant back in Bogor. And I never forgot that phrase.

Recently, I was able to say that phrase for real. In Vietnam.

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The pagoda in West Lake

My adventure started when I started running for dear life inside the humongous terminal in HKIA because my flight was leaving in less than an hour. I can’t afford to be left behind.  Yeah, I wasn’t. My luggage did.

I waited and waited in one of the luggage claim areas in Noi Bai but my funky colored luggage did not even board the plane from Hongkong. LESSON #1. Make ample time for the plane transfers. Enough to walk leisurely from one terminal to another without the thought that you might be handwashing what you are wearing at the moment.

For some unknown reason, I bought a carryall bag that somehow made me look I’m in a business trip. I wore a good pair of slacks and a blazer. And stuffed my carryall with essentials (toothbrush, comb, panty shields) plus an underwear. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a deodorant which was the first thing I purchased from the allowance the airline provided for the incovenience it caused me.This calls for LESSON #2. Pack the real essentials. Mascara comes in handy but no body odor trumps attractive eyes in my book.

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It didn’t hurt that the hotel got Lanvin for toiletries 😀

It was not the first time that I have attended an event as a lone Filipino participant. Unlike my previous solo business trip, I was surrounded by non Asians. Young non Asians. Okey, Shin is all Japanese with a thick Aussie accent. We had dinner and drinking. A bit of stroll in the night market. Being in Hanoi in less than 2 years, I still remember the  streets in the Old Quarter. I became some sort of a tour guide! And I was seeing that space in Hoam Kiem Lake beyond the fake North Face and Kipling bags. LESSON #3. There is more to scoring a cheap produce from a nite market. Dominique, Ms. OECD and I entered a tiny temple with actual praying going on. No photo ops here. I was with Tanya looking at a local dress shop. Who would have thought I will be combing the racks of cute cotton dresses in a boutique so Vietnamese and so French? Or maybe because it got a good airconditioning.

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The first world colleagues….wait, I am the only one from SEA~ US, Germany, Australia and Japan in the house.

I noticed that when I’ve been to a place more than once, I tend to have my default souvenirs. Don’t expect keychains or ref magnets or shirts with name of the place. Get something else that can remind you of the place or something that would let your friends back home know  what you have experienced. For this trip, it was all coffee and green bean pastry. It is a hit or miss the time I got my officemates some kropek from Indonesia.  LESSON #4 : there is more to dust gatherers. Although I succumbed to one or two like an ashtray for a smoking friend or a doll for my sister.

Over time, I think my social skills improved. I really do not look like the friendliest person in the room and haven’t mastered the art of small talk yet. I try not to be too shy lest I will end up talking to myself for a week in a  foreign country. LESSON #5 says make friends. Too cliche when one is traveling, right? My misadventure in Hanoi got me thinking…I can actually make friends! And I got to see two of them in Manila last week!

To Hanoi, come on ban for the lessons!

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