I thought I would do a first impression of Hanoi since I recently came back from Hanoi and I would like to share some of my thoughts regarding this interesting city before 2014 ends.
1. Which currency to use – VND or USD? That was the question that constantly puzzled me as I scoured the internet to determine which currency to change. Once I was in Hanoi, I realised VND dominates. Unless you’re paying for hotel bookings/tours, everything uses VND. I’ve read in an article that shopping in shopping centres (I suppose it’s those major ones) charges in USD but I’ve never been to a proper shopping centre (nor did I see many of them) so don’t take my word for it. You can request to pay for meals at some proper restaurants/shops along the streets in USD unlike the smaller roadside stalls. However, paying for meals in USD was not a really good idea because at the point when I went to Hanoi, the exchange rate shops were using was 1 USD = 20,000 VND. You’re actually paying more than if you pay directly in VND. I think it would be good to bring sufficient/slightly more USD to pay for your hotel/tour bookings and then VND to pay for your meals, shopping, tips etc. Of course if you’re able to change USD to VND at the black market in Vietnam, why not do so? If I’m not wrong, changing your currency there would be a lot more worthwhile than changing it in your home country. Of course, you’ve to note that you’re most likely unable to exchange VND to whatever currency in future. So it is best to use up all your VND when in the country.
2. Vietnamese loves to honk. A lot. Got vehicles/pedestrians, no vehicles/pedestrians also have drivers honking. There’s two different types of honking drivers there prefer. One, short & repetitive honking, which most drivers prefer. The second one, that a minority but still significant number of people prefer, is the long & continuos honk. The second one was very annoying, especially when the car drove passed me. It’s such a sharp noise in your ear. Even if I can sort of block out the first honking style and place it into the background, the second one just gave me a big ass headache after a while.
3. I love Vietnamese food. At least from what I’ve eaten (wraps, spring rolls, pho, fish etc.), most of them feels pretty healthy as I eat them. There’s lot of vegetables and mint leaves going on in them. Besides the fried spring rolls, the rest of the food are not oily at all. Vietnamese food was good on my digestive system. Enough said.
4. Vietnamese are friendly people. We were trying to find out the name of a fruit from our tour guide even when we could only describe the fruit to her without any pictures. So after a few rounds of guessing, she whipped out her phone to help us check for it online. Considering that the tour had essentially ended and we were on our way back to Hanoi, she could have just conveniently ignored us.
5. I love crossing roads in Vietnam. Besides the initial nerve-wrecking moment when I first attempted to cross the messy road, I’ve come to realise that crossing roads in Vietnam is not all that bad. There’s logic in the messiness. You just need to look out for vehicles coming from the left and when you’re halfway across the road, look out for vehicles coming from the right. In any case, the motorists will usually slow down or avoid you as you cross in front of them. There’s also the honking that emits from vehicles as a warning sign to either cross faster, they’re behind you or watch out! It’s a pretty fun experience.
6. Air in Hanoi is pretty polluted. When you’re at my height (1.47m, yes, I’m pretty short), being short is not a good thing in Hanoi. People there tend to be closer to my height and a large number of them are smokers. I’ve nothing in particular against smokers. It’s just that I dislike the smell of cigarette smoke. So when they’re around my height and blow the smoke right in my face, I believe I’m allowed to be annoyed by it. Moreover, when my cousin who is currently living in Shanghai said that the air in Hanoi is worst then Shanghai, then they must be some truth to my words.
That’s all for my first impressions to Hanoi! To all of you out there, happy new year! Bye.