Hello Hanoi!

1 02 2011

Though the weather is just as mizzy and the roads just as muddy, Viet Nam surely does have the personality factor so glaringly lacking in China. Back are the gaudy Greco-Asian buildings that teeter like emaciated drag queens along the edge of the road, and the choruses of hellos are back too, wafting over the vast stretches of cloggy paddy fields to cheer us on our way.  Though meteorologically miserable, Viet Nam has categorically snuggled up to us with exceptional warmth of character and welcome.  This snugglyness is not just metaphorical; we are both literally snuggled up to on a regular basis; men and women alike pull in exceptionally close to examine the map or paw over our magic letter, which inevitably means that we spend much of our rest time on a physical slant.

After four days of harder and hillier than expected roads we finally landed in Hanoi. The 64km run into the city centre was an exhilarating foray into insanity. The key rule to navigating the Hanoi melee is bravery. Keep on target and keep going! It is a heaving throng of small vehicles where the moped rules, closely followed by bicycle; cars are kept penned in and penned slow by the constant buzzing swarm of peds whizzing all about.  The pace of business was no less hectic as Hanoi proved our most welcoming city to date; not only did we received £170 of donations for the charities, we also spoke to over 150 young people about HIV/AIDS, were taken to lunch by a delightful group of British ex-pats, AND we were invited to tea at the British ambassadors house! It is this type of engagement with issues around HIV/AIDS that (fingers crossed) will stand Viet Nam in good stead to confront many of the highly challenging issues that surround this disease. If there is one thing that we have tentatively surmised from our travels is that if you are talking about it then you are fighting it.

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