1. Hoan Kiehm Lake – a beautiful lake in the middle of Hanoi. Exercise central.
2. Conical hats – I was so tempted to bring one home but was unsure how to transport…Next time…
3. Aggressive sellers of everything on the street. Fruit. Shoes. Shoe polishers. Knick-knacks (I actually bought a handmade citrus zester for 1USD – 20000 Vietnamese Dong – on the street).
4. Cyclos. These rickshaws-with-wheels may not look like much, but riding in one is akin to taking one’s life in one’s own hands. Exciting! Do it!
5. Tea – green, jasmine, ubiquitous
6. Beer – so very good! Rivals Ireland and Germany. Belgian is better, though.
7. Street food!!!!! (Don’t be afraid. Just try it!)
8. Little tiny stools for, well, not Americans!
9. Silk. Lacquer. Bamboo. Easy gifts to transport home.
10. Pollution. Rivals LA. Maybe – no, probably – worse.
11. Fresh, fresh vegetables and fruits. The pineapple with lime and chili powder bought from a lady with baskets hanging from a rod lain across her shoulders – the best street snack ever! (Even though she tried to get me to pay 5USD for it. I talked her down to $2.50 – 50,000 dong or VND. When haggling with street vendors, one must know when to walk away. Just walk away.)
12. Motorbikes that transport EVERYTHING (and EVERYONE)! (If you look closely, you may even see a pig atop one. He’s in a blanket. Get it? Pig in a blanket??? Sorry.)
13. Lots and lots of pre-wedding bride-and-groom photo sessions on the streets. The brides wore all their regalia and were so beautiful. The grooms looked like they considered themselves the luckiest guys in the world (except for one who looked extremely bored – I’m not very hopeful for that marriage)!
14. Crowds but no malice or evil intent. One should watch his or her belongings but doesn’t have to be super-paranoid about it. Women are safe walking alone in the city.
15. Brave little older ladies swatting at cars that get in their way as they cross the street. Really! (Reminds me of an email I received once of a car honking and honking at a little older lady as she slowly crossed the street in front of the car. She smacked that car with her purse with enough force that the airbags deployed! Loved that email…)
16. Women riding side-saddle. How the heck do they stay on those scooters???
17. Texting and talking on cell phones while operating a motorbike.
18. Jammed into busses like sardines. Yet, no anger. No impatience. No stress-related illnesses. (They do have high rates of strokes and hypertension, however. Maybe that’s because of all the salty goodness in their food. MMMmmm!)
19. Levels upon levels of apartments with laundry hanging on balconies and plants in pots.
20. Great posture. (I guess I notice this because mine’s not so great.)
21. Traffic (I know. I’ve mentioned it in every post.) The thing about it, though, is that nobody’s mean or angry. In the US, if cars and motorbikes were this thick, the honking would be rife with fury; there would be cursing and gnashing of teeth. In Hanoi, faces remain placid as motorbikes zoom around just an inch or two (literally) from your toes. People are friendly and seem quite patient amidst the chaos. Wow.
22. A photographic Nirvana.