I recently made a scientific trip to Vietnam, a country in central Asia, I knew it as a place of war and every person who knew of my intended trip asked jokingly if I had enrolled in the military. A country with a population of 95 million and a capital city’s seat in Hanoi, which is also the second most populous city in Vietnam. Upon landing in Noi Bai airport and collecting my visa my privilege and monotony of the English dialect got extinguished. I initially thought that the Vietnamese speak Chinese only to realize they have their own language and several dialect which were far from the Chinese symbols. I knew myself as not among the tallest persons but at Noi Bai airport I was towering high above everyone else only slightly falling below some few Europeans octogenarians arriving for holiday in the east. I forgot to mention that while on the emirates air I met with a crew lady supervisor who by my skin colour guessed my origin and with her broad smile we ticked and exchanged smiles for a millisecond before she showed me the aisle leading to my seat. After claiming for my bag at the carousel I headed to the Forex bureau to exchange my US dollars to Viet Dong. I have never been a millionaire but that day I became one after changing each dollar for 22, 500 Vietnam Dong. For once i held in my tiny hand several half million notes in VND currency. Am told that the people from the most populous tribe in my country the “kikuyus” are everywhere in the globe but this time I found a lady from Vihiga with her European boyfriend on their way to the beaches of the near-pristine coastal environment in the south of Vietnam and hiking in the Vietnams’ mountains. It is unique experience when people of same nationality meet ten thousand miles away from home. So we hugged and bid each other a nice stay in Vietnam as her husband finished changing his dollars to Vietnamese Dong.
The drive from Noi Bai to Hanoi took 45 minutes of dead silence as we could not communicate with my chauffer. Blame our ignorance.
|Fortuna hotel in the heart of Hanoi city|
Fortuna Hotel is a five star hotel in the heart of Hanoi with excellent service and respectful men who will greet you with supported hand and call you sir seven times in a ten word statement. I am not sure where Karaoke started but you would be forgiven to think it was born in Vietnam. There are Karaoke nights every day in every big building in the city.
I always hear about people from Cambodia eating reptiles like snakes but I did not know that there are people of Vietnam whose amphibian meat is the frog delicacy. Fortunately during their buffet treats they will always label the food but if you are the kind that’s scoops into food following its aesthetic appearance then you will eat things you have never imagined on the dining tables of Vietnam, the frog is marinated to the appearance of a small chicken drumstick. That’s how at the sight of frog meat and sushi made with raw seafood and rice my appetite for meat and seafood vanished never to come back till when I landed back at JKIA.
If you are a student of anthropology and ethnography you will like studying the people of Vietnam. They are organised and in the city of 10 million inhabitants and over 7 million motorbikes I did not observe a single motor accident.
The unity and the love the people of Vietnam have for their country is unparalleled. During my stay the U23 national football team defeated Qatar at the semi-final match. The fact that the Viet boys were booked for the finals for the first time in history, the inhabitants of Hanoi coloured the city with red flags with a yellow star. Men, women and children flocked the city celebrating the great show of might by the Viet boys. Girls jumped behind motorbikes as boys drove round the town swinging flags high above heavens and patched their cheeks with small flags.
The excitement was palpable and the police could not for once control the locked city of Hanoi. Coming from a conference dinner I was gifted with a Vietnam flag by one of the celebrants – I still have it in my house – at that time I thanked the almighty for allowing my country recognize dual citizenship since I had a choice of where I would love to call my second home….dreams are valid…
The Viet boys were to be defeated by Uzbekistan during extra time, in a game that was played in a snowy afternoon in China, so they took second place in the Asia football cup finals. However, the Viet boys had inscribed their names in the annals of Asian football history as inspiration for years to come. The visit to north of Vietnam at Serena Kim Boi was an experience to live for. A magnificent place with manicured lawns spacious hotel rooms with clear balconies facing the Hoa Binh Mountains.
|Serena Kim Boi resort, North Hanoi|
It’s my norm while in a foreign country to look for my countrymen and I managed to virtually locate a lady working deep in the streets near long Bein Bridge in Vietnam. It’s true everybody is everywhere in this wold and anyplace can be home. I finished my week long stay in the country which has seen more enemies than friends. Fought by the French for independence and the by the Americans during the Vietnam War pitting the northerners and southerners. A country disliked by China as they want the oil reserves in the east Sea region held by Vietnam and claimed by China. A country surrounded by Laos and Cambodia am still not certain who between the two is a friend and who is a foe. A country not far away from Myanmar the seat of hard times, but a country full of gusto and hope ruled under a single party and one can forgive them for they know what division portends in the disguise of democracy. A country where the president is elected by the national parliament and not the common citizen. A country which is a great exporter of shoes and electrical products with an extremely long coast line with myriad of food, vegetables and seafood. If you are looking for a country to visit in Central Asia look no further. I came to you in the name of dog poop but I now hope to see you again as a tourist. Goodbye Vietnam!
|leafy hat worn by Vietnamese while at work|