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Travel, Vietnam

A visit to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Ha Long Bay is a very popular destination in Northern Vietnam – a must see!

About three hours from Hanoi, it was easy to get there via bus. After paying the “tourist price” for my train ticket, a host family brother accompanied me to the bus station to help me buy a ticket for Ha Long Bay for the price the locals pay. The bus left almost immediately and off we went!

The legend of Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay is famous not only for uber fresh seafood, but for the limestone formations that eject from the water.

Legend has it that when Vietnam first started to become a country, it had to defend itself from many invaders. To assist with the defense, the gods sent a family of dragons down as protectors of the new nation.

To combat invading ships, the dragons would spit out jewels and jade, which would erect themselves from the sea, causing the ships to smash into them and the invaders to drown. These large jewels and jades are the current limestone formations that remain there today. It is said that the dragons have traveled the world and are now retired in Ha Long Bay, inspiring the design of some of the boats.

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Travel, Vietnam, Working Abroad

5 things I learned living with a Vietnamese family – a Workaway Report.

I spent one week living with a local Vietnamese family in the beautiful capitol city of Vietnam, Hanoi.

I was introduced to Trang (pronounced ‘Chang’) via Workaway. Chang had created a profile so that native English speakers could come and help her and her and husband, Long, improve their English speaking skills.

After my last Workaway experience, which was a little rocky, I wasn’t sure what to expect at this one. I was nervous, slightly dreading it, and had actually considered just saying phooey on it and canceling – boy, I’m glad I didn’t.

The set up

In exchange for some meals and a room, I would practice speaking English with the family. This came in the form of English lessons for Long (he’d like to learn new vocabulary and better pronunciation for business), and general conversation with Trang while making dinner, playing cards or just hanging out.

5 things I learned living with a vietnamese family

My room was spartan, but enjoyable. It was so very nice to have my own space – and a space where I could spread my things out to boot! When home, I was invited to share every meal and snack they had, was welcome to food in the fridge, and use of the kitchen. I did use it once to make spaghetti for breakfast! The sauce was entirely improvised and homemade with ingredients from the market.

It was a highly educational experience for me, in many ways! The day to day Vietnamese life is very different from life in America – dare I say: ‘more enjoyable’. When I return to the states, I hope to implement some of these lessons back home.

5 things I learned living with a Vietnamese family

1. Sharing really is caring.

My week with Trang and her family completely redefined “Hospitality” for me. Look out Georgia, Vietnam can give you a run for your money! It wasn’t just in the way that they shared everything they had with me – but with other family members too. The house was consistently abuzz with people coming in and out, eating, visiting, sleeping.

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Travel, Unusual Adventures, Vietnam

Welcome to Hanoi: Listen to your Gut.

Always listen to your gut. Mine saved me from a super sketchy situation in Hanoi, Vietnam - potentially saving my life.
listen listen

Sometimes you hear people talk about “listen to your instincts, all the answers are there – your passion, your purpose bla bla bla”.

My instincts, or ‘my gut’, never tells me these things. It sits there silently, sometimes mumbling about pizza or sushi. Except last night when it screamed it’s pea-pickin’ heart out.

I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam late in the evening. Getting off the plane, I smoothly get my visa, pick up my bag and send a quick email to my host family letting them know I’m headed for a taxi. Stopping at the ATM, a well dressed gentlemen asks me if I need a taxi – and yes, yes I do.

Note: This isn’t uncommon in Asia. Whether you’re getting off a boat, the plane, or a simply walking around, locals come and poach people for their businesses all the time.

“Come stay at my hostel!” “Tuk Tuk! Where you go?” “Taxi!”

I told him yes and we went outside. He started smoking a cigarette and asked me here I was from – all the basic small talk. I showed him the address of where I wanted to go, and we haggled a price. He was holding my phone when he said he had to run to the rest room – this maybe should have been a flag for me, but as a sometimes absent minded person myself I didn’t think about it too much. I asked for it back when he returned and checked to make sure no other apps had been opened – they hadn’t.

We head to his car which is not labeled as a Taxi, but again, not uncommon. I’ve ridden with other drivers in Asia who are just trying to make some money and they’ve all been very nice, albeit awkward with their poor English. It’s like when your dentist asks how you are with all their tools in your mouth.

I decline to put my gear in the trunk and keep it in the seat with me. He asks me how old I am – I lie and tell him 30. Why is he asking? I’ve never been asked that before – not even by other travelers.

Getting in the car, I notice there is a second man in the car – this is where my gut starts grumbling. It’s unusual for there to be two people, but I’ve ridden in an Uber back in Chicago where the guy’s girlfriend was zipping around with him in the mini van for the day. It happens fast – the car starts and we drive off.

The second man starts talking to me – he asks how old I am. Not typical small talk conversation. I roll my window down at that point under the pretense that I need some fresh air because my stomach is sick from the plane. He asks me where I’m from and if I have a boyfriend.

After trying to get me to roll the window up, and my adamant refusal, they chat between themselves for a moment, giving me a chance to pull out my hair pin and hold it in my hand. My mom once mentioned that she would hold her hair pins in her hands when walking home from work at night (see mom, I listened more than I let on).

The passenger guy turns around and starts telling me I’m ‘very beautiful’ and offers me a cigarette. While I could have used one at that moment I decline telling him that my stomach hurts. He then offers me a candy saying it will help my stomach – I decline again. He continues to try to get me to smoke a cigarette a few minutes later.

That’s like anti-kidnapping 101: don’t take candy from strangers.

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