Just a quick one.

So, after almost two weeks in Hanoi, the time has come to leave. To be honest, we would never have stayed here for so long had we not been waiting for a letter from home. Hanoi is a charming, but expensive, city that seems hell bent on parting me from my cash. You can find the usual cheap food and beer but, compaired to China, Vietnam is a fully M.O.Ted, well oiled and finely tuned tourism machine with prices that reflect this.  A few pence here, a dollar there, 50p for a beer that cost 15p in China. It all adds up.

The people of Vietnam have impressed me greatly, but they will insist on trying to sell me things. Motorbike rides, carrier bags full of pineapple, whores, pretty much anything you can think of. Women pound the streets carrying baskets full of anything that there might be a market for, and if you spurn their advances they simply throw one of those conical hats on your head and scream ‘Photophoto!!!’. Of course, they then expect a bit of loose change for the privilege of being photographed while dressed like a complete tit. But, ultimately, tourism is a massive industry in Vietnam and everyone wants a piece of the pie, be they hawkers, pickpockets, or taxi drivers and quite frankly i don’t blame them. It gets tiresome when all you want to do is sit in the park and simply take in the city, but to many people here you are simply a walking ATM and everybody needs to eat.

Despite the almost perpetual sales pitches, I have a great deal of respect for the Vietnamese. In the bloody, and often tragic, history of the country they have fought constantly to retain their identity and dignity and are fiercely patriotic, proud of their independence and only too happy to welcome you to their nation. I can’t help but respect a nation that survived a millennium of domination by the Chinese, years of French colonial occupation, war with the Japanese, and in it’s more recent history, along with it’s neighbours Lao and Cambodia, more bombs than were dropped by allsides during WWII. On top of that, they didn’t just survive. They fought to the last man to create what they have today, for better or worse. I don’t claim to understand all the ins and outs of Vietnam’s history, and will not attempt to delve much deeper into it here. I certainly don’t believe for a second that they are simply the unfortunate victims of a plethora of mighty tyrants like the plaques in the museums tell me. I will simply state that you can really sense the pride here. As a friend of mine discovered, you certainly wouldn’t like to fight them. After an altercation with a gang of taxi drivers he ended up in the hospital with a baseball bat induced bleeding brain and had to remain there for a week while the french doctors conducted their scans. A valuable, if brutal, lesson learned.

Pictures are on their way. Not of my mates head, obviously.

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