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Tuesday, October 15: Day 176 – Pandemonium

We left Amman, Jordan, yesterday and flew all night. Three flights with stops in Abu Dhabi (in the Middle East) and Bangkok. In the afternoon we arrived in Hanoi exhausted from lack of sleep. Our upcoming Vietnam tour arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and deliver us to our hotel. Along the way we saw interesting vehicles.

After a 45-minute drive we arrived at our hotel. The streets are total bedlam – filled with cars but moreso with motorbikes. How do we cross?

See our hotel underneath the greenery.

Now see this traffic in motion.

The traffic flows like streams of water merging. One local woman who sounded like a native French speaker encouraged us just to cross. She said, “If you don’t see them, they will see you.” The lack of sleep makes it seem a little bit like a dream. Some streets are one way, but motorbikes are also coming randomly from the opposite direction. Sometimes they are riding on the sidewalks where a lot of motorbikes are also parked. Many intersections have no stop signs or stop lights. The traffic flows from all four directions. A tour guide told us that stoplights here are just a suggestion.

See this video:

Hanoi has 8 million residents and 5 million motorbikes. In 2017 the city council voted to ban motorbikes by 2030. We’ll see about that.

After check-in Brenda reminded me that she needs to have laundry done. In the hotel it costs about $2 per item. In nearby laundry service shops, they charge less than $1 per pound to wash clothes, dry, and fold them – finished tomorrow. Guess which alternative we chose! The shop weighed our two bags of clothing. We will pay less than $7 total when we pick up the clean clothes tomorrow.

On the way to the laundry service, I stopped at an ATM. Why are four security guards standing there?

The currency translation is confusing. One Vietnamese dong equals .000043 US dollars. Or stated the opposite way, one dollar equals about 23,000 Vietnamese dong. Hopefully, we’ll get the hang of it in a few days.

Next door to the laundry service is a beauty salon. Brenda needs a haircut.


THE HAIRCUT REPORT – by Brenda

I decided that I would cut my hair short since the next few months will likely be very hot.

I walked into the salon and it looked like they were fighting over me, each gesturing for me to sit down. Both agreed that I should sit down in the chair. I said that I wanted a haircut and a shampoo.

I was told to go up the spiral staircase to a mezzanine of sorts. She indicated that I should not bump my head as the ceiling was low.

I had never seen a shampoo station like this. I lay down while she shampooed my hair.

She used her sharp nails in short scratching moves along my scalp, then the temples, and behind my ears by turning my head from side to side and ending with the nape of my neck. She continued for about 10 minutes. She rinsed…and then repeated…for another 10 minutes!!! Lastly, conditioner and massage with thumbs for another 5 minutes!

During this process the shampooer and her associate were whispering to each other. Why were they whispering? I don’t speak Vietnamese!

I descend the staircase and sit in a chair. I was given a Q-tip indicating that I should clean my ears and throw it on the floor! When I wasn’t sure, she took the used Q-tip and threw it on the floor!!

A young man with a stylish haircut shows me pictures of young girl haircuts on his phone. I show him a picture on my phone of a short haircut that I had several years ago and said the word, Short!! I hope he understands what I want.

I have very straight thick hair which has often been described as Asian, so I am excited to see the result.

I could hear young children playing in the back room. They dial the music to popular English tunes. Next, they video the whole haircut. At first, I thought that it was for advertising, then as time went on for training or maybe a keepsake! I wasn’t sure if I should smile and look at the camera!!! He was very good and he cut it perfectly by highlighting my gray temples. It seemed that he thinned my hair by cutting each strand individually.

Here is the result.

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It is 8:00pm and time to eat. We stumble into a nearby restaurant called The Gourmet Corner. It is located on the 12th floor of a hotel. This menu offers Vietnamese dishes with a trendy twist. They also have westernized food for Expats and Vietnamese who are looking for something different.

We order “The Local” fixed menu with appetizer, entree, main dish, and dessert. Each dish was an art project. The food tasted as good as it looked.

Above the restaurant on floors 13 – 15 is a bar. The views of Hanoi are fabulous.

After dinner we go back to the hotel for a long night’s sleep.

With a little bit of practice I’m learning just to step out into traffic and let them swerve around me as I cross. Sometimes I put my hand out to ask them to slow down. It’s dark now and more difficult for us to see each other.

There is always lots of honking. I think that the motorbike riders must have one hand on the throttle and one hand on the horn. Do they have a third hand for the brake?

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