FLIP-FLOP NATION

Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
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Trip End Mar 31, 2009


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, April 6, 2008

Vietnam is a nation of flip-flops, split-toed or not, flip-flops rule, in every town and burgh of Vietnam, whether it's Hanoi, Saigon, Muine, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Buon Ma Thuot, Quy Nhon, or Danang. Very few people wear sandles with heal straps, whereas almost half the Westerners do. You can pretty much tell who's who just by looking at their feet.

The soft sleeper overnight narrow guage train from Lao Cai to Hanoi was air conditioned, comfortable, and quiet. The hard sleeper (China does not know what "hard sleeper" really means--they sleep on pads!) overnight narrow guage train from Quy Nhon to Danang was hot, uncomfortable, and 105 decibles. With windows wide open and noise reflected from embankments or bridges or buildings or walls into our compartment, it sounded like a superkinetic surf with the volume turned all the way up, the noise not just seeping into your dreams, but smothering them in an ocean of sound, so that when you woke up stiff with a crink in your neck, you thought, has that noise been going on all night?

The cities I'll be visiting over the next six weeks can be succinctly summed up as follows:

Hanoi
is shoe boxes on end and lots of old trees and lakes. 
Saigon is street food every fifty feet and motor scooters every fifty millimeters.
Muine is fifty beach resorts one after another on a thin white sand beach with a one-horse fishing village at the end of it.
Phan Thiet, just up the road from Muine, is a two-horse fishing town with a couple of Cham Towers.
Nha Trang is a growing tourist beach town.
Buon Me Thuot in the Central Highlands has streets laid out on a grid, unlike the mazes of other cities.
Quy Nhon as a beach town, or just a town, is Nha Trang's poorer cousin, but it's time will come.
Da Nang is a city with most of the services of Saigon, but not nearly the splash.
Hoi An is a small town in a cultural time warp of past dreams still present.   
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