Made it to Vietnam, 2nd attempt

Well I had written a nice long blog post about getting to Vietnam last night but then blogger had problems and I lost it so this is my 2nd try.

I arrived in Hanoi Sunday night. I was a little worried about being able to get out of Laos. During Lao New Year Mai and I went to Vang Vieng for a couple of nights. We went tubing down the river and my passport and wallet got totally soaked. I had them in a ziploc bag but it opened. Most of the stuff was rescued no problem. Some nice lao people helped me dry everything out on a charcoal grill (including all the money I had on me). The big problem was that the date stamps for my lao visa and extension had washed away. I was worried I'd have problems when I left the country. To make matters worse, being Lao New Year the immigration office was closed so I couldn't fix it before my departure.

In the end it worked out alright. I picked the friendliest looking immigration officer at the airport and he just asked me a few questions about the dates but then let me through no problem.

Hanoi is a bit different. It's a lot more traffic than Laos and people are more aggressive about trying to sell you things but most aren't too bad. I know the traffic is worse in Saigon and I think the sellers might be worse as well so I'm glad I'm starting here and working my way south, might help ease my way into it.

It's a lot cooler here (mid-20's vs. high 30's) but it's rainy so the humidity is pretty high. In the morning it's really nice for walking around though and it's nice to be able to stay out all day and not get exhausted from the heat.

Some people have asked if I notice much of a difference between Vietnam and Laos. Yes I do. Laos is much more Thai/Indian influenced. Vietnam is more Chinese influenced. I'm really like the change of influence because I've always been more interested in Chinese architecture and design. There are also lots of uniquely vietnamese things as well so it's a nice change. Probably the easiest way to explain the difference is that in Laos (and Thailand and others) you get the tall skinny Budha statues with the pointy hats. In Vietnam (and China and others) you see more of the fat Budha statues. I know there's a joke about young Elvis and old Elvis in here somewhere.

In terms of Budhism, Laos and Thailand follow Therevada Budhism which follows only the original Budhist writings. Vietnam received it's current form of Budhism via China and is the Mahayana tradition which uses later writings as well. There's your trivia for the day.

Plan to stay in the general Hanoi area for a few more days but this will probably be my last full day in Hanoi. I'm going to take a 2 day trip to Halong Bay and also probably 2 day trips. 1 will be to the Perfume Pagoda and the other to the Tam Coc/Hoa Lu area. I've heard that the Perfume Pagoda is busy this time of year because it's a pilgrimage time so I may have to pass on that. After that I will head to Hue. Might fly, might take the train. From there I plan to head south towards Saigon. There's a lot of things I want to see along the way so I'm pretty excited.