My fishy issues in Hanoi

28 Jul

MY FISHY ISSUES IN HANOI  “What the f*#$ am I doing here?” That’s what I thought during my first hours in Hanoi. It’s noisy, chaotic, old, dirty and like nowhere I have ever been before. There are people eating all over the footpaths, motorbikes running riot on the roads and the pavement, hardly anyone speaks English, there are no shopping centres or familiar outlets and all prices on goods and materials are negotiable. But that’s exactly what I imagined – it’s a real old traditional Asian city. Once jet lag passed and I acclimatised to the humid weather, I began to see past the madness and realised I will enjoy living in Vietnam. But all prior rules are out the window.

My first breakfast in Hanoi: Tofu and noodles from the street corner.

The most daunting issue in Hanoi is food. I have a seafood allergy and was afraid it would be difficult to find suitable meals (as fish sauce is a key ingredient in most dishes). But I was wrong. It’s not difficult. It’s a bloody nightmare! I’m playing it safe with only rice and vegetables until I can master the language to make special requests. Even basic meals are difficult to find when travelling in a group, though. I’m looking forward to setting up house in Saigon so I can grow to learn appropriate places and people that will become familiar with me and my fishy issue.

The traffic is just as crazy as I imagined. My program coordinator held my hand as we crossed the road the first five or so times as I just didn’t get it. I think I’ve learnt the rules now, though: never walk infront of a bus and, if motorbikes are coming your way, look straight ahead and just walk a steady pace. The bikes go around you. Apparently the buses don’t even slow down.

Learning the language is the most exciting part of the experience so far. For example, dinner at a restaurant tonight turned into an impromptu language exchange session with almost all of the restaurant staff. It was a much more memorable way to learn Vietnamese than the formal lesson I received this afternoon.

Hanoi is challenging and exciting. But I hear Saigon is very different. I’m anxious to learn just how different it is.

By Marissa Toohey


2 Responses to “My fishy issues in Hanoi”

  1. Enrico July 29, 2010 at 6:25 PM #

    Ha! I have have visions of you quivering on the sidewalk Marissa. Living in Kuala Lumpur and visiting Vietnam was still an wye opening experience for me… You’ll figure it out and have wonderful stories to tell.

    Good luck

    • theBubbleBuster August 1, 2010 at 9:44 PM #

      hahaha thanks Enrico! I’m in HCMC now and I like it better than Hanoi. I think I will have fun living here 🙂

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