this is, i think, my second day in hanoi. i can't seem to get my days straight. i'm staying at the pacific prince hotel, on the western side of the old quarter. not sure if all of vietnam is like this, but hanoi is crazy! the sound of honking is non-stop (it's more like courtesy honking, nobody gets mad), you get used to it after a while, and crossing the street is like an adventure all into itself! even at places where there are crosswalks, they're not going to protect you. you basically SLOWLY walk across the street, and have faith that oncoming traffic will swerve around you, as long as you move SLOW. it's very weird, but somehow it works. it's like indiana jone's walk of faith. fortunately, that's pretty much how i cross the street in the US anyway, so nothing new to me! but tonight i saw a scooter plow over an old man, i didn't stick around to see what happened.

i got here yesterday, arrived at the airport, and waited an hour on a minibus before it filled up with enough people to take us into hanoi city. i met this middle aged german house builder who every winter goes traveling. and i'm talking about TRAVELING. he's been to hawaii 10 times, and he's been to virtually everywhere (he says palau has the best beaches, apparently he's a bit of a beach nut, no good beaches in germany). it was already raining by then, and the ride was another hour. the woman at the info desk recommended this hotel (US$10), but i was suspicious because i had the feeling it was comission disguised as kindness, so i only took the pamphlet. the minibus driver must've seen the hotel name because that's where he dropped me off. i was tired, so i figured, what the heck, i'll check out the room and see if i like it, or even if i don't, i'll stay just one night and find another place. well, they took me to the 4th floor and this room was like a suite! queen size bed, tv, air conditioning, my own bathroom with hot water and towels and soap and several sliding windows that overlook the street! and free internet access on the 2nd floor! and laundry service! and did i mention the well-stocked fridge? so i was sold. and turns out it's only US$10 because the woman at the airport is sister who a girl who works here, so i got some kind of discount (at least that's the story).

okay, so yesterday it was rainy, and i was wandering the old quarter a little bit, and i went to some fancy restaurant, and everything on the menu was either US$1 or less, so i ordered a bunch of stuff, but the portions were so small! still, my meal must've cost US$4 which back home would've been like US$15, so no complaints. i came back to the hotel room and i noticed my khaki pants were completely soaked in mud! like i was playing in the sewers or something! so contrary to what they tell you in the guide books, always wear dark pants when traveling!

today, i went to the dong xuan market (couldn't really find the vegetable market section, saw some shady animals being sold [kittens in cages, puppies chained up, they wouldn't let me take photos, natch], bought some longans, and a nice pair of black pants for 50000 dong [around US$4], polyester, they really emphasize my ass), temple of literature (confucian temple built in 1024 i think) and ho chi minh's museum and former residence (i wanted to see the mausoleum where ho chi minh's body is kept in state but nobody told me they're closed at 11am onwards). they don't tell you this in the guide books, but when it rains in hanoi, this city is FILTHY. thank god by then i was already wearing my ass-hugging black pants. for lunch, i ate some really shady street food, some kind of fried tofu with cold vermicelli (i thought it was smelly tofu, it wasn't) dipped in fish sauce, and i guess in my mind i figured i was definitely going to get sick, so i went ahead and ate more street food (there were flies buzzing on the exposed meat), as long as i was still okay. so i had some pho bo, which was really delicious, and never thought i'd actually be eating pho in vietnam! but i was. i then came back and rested (and miraculously, i didn't get sick! although i definitely wasn't feel 100%), and just went out and got some food. nothing special, some cafe in some dark alley (lighting here is not so good), chicken (i keep on ordering chicken, when in the back of my mind i'm thinking bird flu and i tell myself not to do it!), then came back home.

tomorrow, it's a 2 day jaunt to halong bay (via a hotel organized tour, the weather is drizzly/foggy all the time, but i think it adds some ambience to everything, but it'll suck for photos), then i come back to one last day in hanoi before taking a bus to ninh binh, to visit the cuc phuong national park, and onwards to hue, danang, hoi an, and saigon.

anyway, that's my vietnam experience thus far! and i just realized these computers have USB 2.0, so theoretically i should be able to connect my portable photo storage device to this PC, so we'll see what happens. i know everyone's dying to see photos, and i'm dying to show them.

going upstairs to take a hot bath! and watch TV with the A/C on! they got HBO! with thai subtitles! i may never need to go out! oh, did i also mention free breakfast is included in the US$10? cheap!

temple of literature

vietnamese water puppets

street tofu

street pho bo