Saturday, October 22, 2005

We're here!

Long trip, strange trip. Twilight zone, since they asked us to keep the window shades pulled the entire 18 hours. We thought they would try to manipulate us with short day/night cycles or something, but instead it was all night all the time. Marc is a rebel, so he snuck open the window in time for this great sunrise shot.

I actually took these shots all along the way, tracking our journey. Some pics show our altitude and estimated time of arrival, but these are the ones I like. Marc thinks they could be any picture off the Internet, which of course they could. A little before I took this picture, Marc snuck another peak out the window and we saw this incredibly long sinuous stream of lights, orange lights, like a road but it couldn't be a road. We wondered if it was the great wall of china (we didn't know where we were at that point), but we turned on the "where are we" map and saw that we were facing the border between India and Nepal or Tibet, not sure. Do they illuminate that border? It was really amazing to see.

When we stopped in Singapore, it was 5am and we had a 5-hour layover. We had heard about the pool and thought we'd take a swim, if we felt up to it. It was the greatest idea -- the pool opened at 7, and we were there waiting. We swam for about an hour, very refreshing (even though the landing strip and airplanes were just on the other side of this wall, and easily visible). Then we had hot showers and felt nearly new. I had snoozed in and out, off and on, but Marc hadn't slept more than 15 minutes, and not all at one time. Then it was time to board the flight to Hanoi.....

My first impression of Hanoi, once we left the airport: HORNS. Our cab driver honked almost nonstop the entire 20 minute (or so) drive to our hotel. Beep beep beep beep beep. Beeeeeeeep. Beep beep. And so on. There were cars and trucks and people everywhere on mopeds and motorcycles. Women in the conical straw hats carrying two baskets on a pole over their shoulders. Some kind of oxen in the fields. Young girls laughing on the back of mopeds holding onto young men who were talking on cell phones. Horns honking everywhere. Billboards EVERYwhere. We passed this structure, never quite sure what it was. I wish we hadn't been moving so the picture wasn't so blurred -- the horse sculptures were really quite amazing.

We're staying in the Hanoi Melia, a really nice hotel. After getting settled, we hit the streets. We had been wondering why most people had scarves tied around their faces when they were driving around: bird flu? Something else? It finally hit us -- exhaust. No emissions controls worries here. The air reeks of exhaust and gas, plus lots of other indefinable smells. I tried to get a picture of a busy intersection (this is not one), so Marc wasn't expecting his picture to be taken.

Right next to our hotel is a market, two narrow parallel aisles crowded with stands and motorcycles zipping through. The stands are generally very small and crammed with odds and ends. We passed a meat stall, with raw meat lying about, covered with flies, and loads of stink. Chickens running around. Chicken claws on skewers. Then we turned the corner and there was the fried dog stand. There were probably 30 fried dogs, some whole and others in quarters and other cuts. Tails all crispy and curved. I wanted to take a picture but didn't want to gawk and be offensive. This morning on our way out to breakfast we'll swing by, and if possible we'll take a picture.

We had a great dinner last night at Indochine, sitting on the inner courtyard. Our waiter was a charming young guy who seemed to enjoy practicing his English. We had several appetizers and weren't quite sure what we were to do with the small bowl and smaller plate in front of us. Maybe we goofed up, but who cares. The food was great, and I can't believe I'm on the other side of the world with Marc.

So many more impressions to write; I've been keeping a journal and will post some of my impressions later. For now, off to breakfast for our first FULL day in Hanoi.

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