Hanoi Noa

Adventures of an expat in Hanoi

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My easy rider tour

After coming back from Sapa.. I decided that I must see more of Vietnam.
I took 10 days off of work end of May and headed down to
South-Central Vietnam.I started off at a city called Dalat, which had the
most amazing fruits and vegetables,a vegetarian's dream. It's known for
it's dried fruit products, strawberry jam and motor bike trips.I of course
tried all three. At the suggestion of many friends, I hired a motorbike
guide who belongs to a group named "Easy Riders" that specialize in taking
tourists around the highlands on road trips. They are usually quite fluent in
English, rather old/experienced and are quite the characters.
My guides name was Mr. Young.. he wouldn't tell me how old he was..
"I'm young. I'm young" But he is old enough to remember Moshe Dayan's visit
to Dalat which was around '66 (he was a pupil and they had to greet him at the
airport). He told me some stories about the American soldiers and how he used
to hang out with them, he mentioned having to hide his uniform after the war
because he was in the south Vietnamese army.. so I am guessing he did participate
in the war. I hired Mr. Young for 5 days. Our route was Dalat-Lac Lake-Plieku-
Quy Nhun -Jungle Beach.
The first couple of days I spent learning about the agriculture of the area,
I've seen how most things are grown, especially coffee which seems to be the
main source of income in the Highlands. The coolest thing was seeing how
Cashew nuts are grown.. Did you know that the cashew is grown outisde of a fruit?
it's the wieirst looking thing ever.. and such a waste of fruit.. and.. just seems like a
long process to go through to get a single nut. I was taken to a silk factory to see
how silk was made.. which was horrific because there were so many worm corpses everywhere..
One keeps forgetting that in the process of making silk, an animal's life is taken.
People were drying rice on the road everywhere.. (which is also an amazing process..
rice is not easy to grow! and yet we eat so much of it here). I saw how rice noodles
are made, rice wine etc...There was also an indigenous tribe that lives in that area..
totally forgot the name.. but in any case they were so cool looking.. they were really
dark and had big eyes.. almost like Indians. I'll have some photos posted soon

I also went to a few waterfalls that werent impressing enough for me to write about,
but I did like going through the jungle to see them, even though I was walking on
a path made for tourists.
On the third day I stayed in this bungalo near a river which was really beautiful but
I couldnt sleep at night because I kept staring (through a mosquito net) at a Praying
mantis that was hanging out on my ceiling.
On the fourth day we headed to the coast which was the hardest part of the trip,
this day was travel only.. I kept nodding off on the back of the bike and Mr. Young
kept making me walk around to wake up. The best part was stopping on the road to
drink Sugar Cane juice while laying on hammocks. By this day I was so irritated, just
had enough of being on the bike, I wasn't very friendly to people that kept saying h
i to me or stared at me (I was the only foreigner around for days which frustrated me)
The last day, we drove down the coast to this place 50 miles north of Nha Trang called
Jungle Beach Resort. It was a beautiful ride (as rides on coasts are).

Mr. Young, the bike and our luggage

I was left off at a remote backpacker's style beach resort, which was a bit shocking at
first because I wasn't prepared to stay in a small bamboo hut with no doors and
completely open. I can only describe this place as being pretty close to what the Sinai
used to be. You deposit all your valuables in a locker, then get a hut that only has a
little light, a mosquito net and a fan (yeah there was electricity) a few meters from
the beach. The beach was completely empty aside from those who were staying at
the resort (about 7 people at the time). this was my itinerary for the three days I was there:
wake up-> eat breakfast (this was the only meal you ate alone but usually there were others)
->go for a swim->sit on the beach and read a book- >go to lunch at 12 (a feast!!) ->
walk around a bit then head back to my beach blanket -> go to the hammock outside my
room and read/nap-> 6pm dinner (another feast) and a beer-> bonfire and stare at the
stars-> around 8:30pm.. read in bed/sleep....
I never thought some one as restless as me could enjoy such a place.. but I did..
luckily there were some cool people staying there as well.. and quite a few adventures..
like mistaking a live frog for a lightswitch in the bathroom!- someone discovering
a snake in their room and then watching a vietnamese staff grab the snake with a
stick, kill it then throw it in the fire. (it seemed really harmless!).
My last day was spent in Nha Trang which reminded me a lot of EILAT, but about
4-5 times bigger and just as beautiful but in a different way. It was nice, I was expecting
a real tourist trap but had a good time, I found clothes my size and ate a fantastic Italian
dinner and even found a book in Hebrew ! (which I read within two hours).

My home for three days at Jungle beach

The interior

April- birthday in Sapa

My birthday (30th of April for those who don't know) is an important holiday in Vietnam.
Victory day.. yes.. the day the Americans left Vietnam and the war ended.
And the day after my birthday is May first, which we all remember is Labor day.
(which we used to celebrate in Israel when I was a child... until we became too capitalist).
I had a total of 4 days off for my birthday and decided to go to this town called Sapa which
is northern Vietnam, close to the border with China. Which also happens to be my mom's
favorite spot in Vietnam. One of her "adopted children" lives there so of course I had to meet her.
Sapa is known for the indigenous tribes that live in the area and it's foggy mountains. I'll be lying
if I said I remembered all the tribes names, but the biggest tribe is called H'moung.
These people make a living growing rice and selling handicraft to tourist. They are well known for their
embroidered work. The most amazing fact about these people is that they speak English quite well compared
to most Asians! The people that can't read or write can speak English like an immigrant in the states.
Ok enough with the boring details, if you want to know more you can google "Sapa".
I spent the first couple of days doing tourist treks which were provided as part of my packaged deal.
Then I hung out with my mom's "adopted" H'moung girl (girl.. with two kids of her own but so tiny she
looks like a 13 year old). I hiked with her for 2-3 hours to get to her house in the mountains..
They live in these huts that are completely black from fires that they built in doors.. animals coming in and
out of the huts, no modern conveniences (aside from a light bulb and a clock). Primitive would be an understatement
however.. I think it's not such a bad way to live... of course if you've got nice chickens, hens, pigs, buffalos and kids.
The last day I loitered around Sapa with So and a bunch of other H'moung girls. It was hilarious because there I was..
surrounding by these people in traditional garb and hanging out like teenagers at the city square.

To sum up my trip.. I really don't know what to write.. or how to write about it.. I can only show it in pictures...
And I happened to have taken some of the best "people" photos I have ever taken while I was there.
So check out my Flickr account if you haven't already.

A picture of So, her husband and baby

Friday, March 14, 2008

Peaches is gone

I found out yesterday that Peaches had died two months ago.
He was a fantastic cat. The most cuddly thing one could imagine.
He was so sweet and never vicious.. and he got along great with Chip
(his polar opposite).I will forever feel guilty for leaving my babies
behind but I had to move on with my life.
I left them with great cat lovers and I know they got the best love
and care a cat could get...
but I still wish I could've spent more time with them.
Photos of peaches:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


So.. apparently I am fat... well actually, according to my students I am "VERY FAT"..
In case you haven't heard.. people in Vietnam are stick figures
The women are GORGEOUS and proud of keeping their bodies nice and slim.
And they actually have a waist! not those Asian boy-body types...

All this doesn't really help my self esteem..
*I get grabbed a lot.. by women.. who have never touched fat before.
*I am insulted by my students when asking them about adjectives,
they use me as an example to describe what fat means.
*I keep getting asked what sports I play (I say Yoga).
*Viets keep staring at me when I eat to see what I am putting in my mouth.
*When I say I am not married they ask me if it's because I am fat.
*little kids like to squeeze mi bum.
*Another thing these kids do is hug me at my waist then place their face right in my belly...

But I am doing it differently this time.. no weight watchers.. just cutting off the sweets
and using a bicycle to get around town.(which means about 12 km a day)
I think I have lost 1 kilo this week alone and I can already feel my belly has gone done.

And of course.. what was my students reaction when I told them I was on a diet:
"ohhh you look for boyfriend"

Why can't fat be beautiful?

9 more kilos to go and am doing it for myself and no one else!
(ohh maybe also so I can fit into the clothes and cause I want to start wearing jeans)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Holiday

So.. We got 9 days off from work for "Lunar/Chinese New Year". February 4th till 13th.
I decided to take an extra 10 days off and go on a long trip to Thailand.. I really needed the break..
Thailand wasn't as great as I wanted it to be, so I ended up taking a detour through Cambodia.
Here are things I loved and hated about my trip, photos to come next post.


1. Touching a tiger in Kanchanaburi.
2. Bamboo rafting/Elephant riding in Kanchanaburi.
3. Drinking cheap fruit shakes everywhere I went.
4. Bangkok's street food (pad thai, bbq squid, fruit...)
5. Checking out handsome muscular Thai Rock Climbers in Railay
6. Beautiful tropical limestone mountained peninsula, Railay
7. Beautiful clear watered beaches of Ko Phi Phi
8. Joking around with cute little Cambodian panhandlers/merchants (in perfect English).
9. Feeling like I was in an Indiana Jones movie while climbing temples in Ankor Wat
10.Enjoying a night out on the town in Siem Reap


1. Realizing that the tigers were probably drugged and constantly tied up.
2. Bamboo rafting/Elephants only lasted 10 minutes just to satisfy tourists
3. I really hope there weren't too many calories in those fruit shakes
4. Couldn't afford eating in real restaurants in Bangkok.
5. Finding out I was the only person wearing a full bathing-suit.
6. Railay looked really ugly when tide time came and had a huge disposal area in the middle of it.
7. Ko Phi phi was so EXPENSIVE!!!! and full of drunken Euro-trash kids.
8. I wish I had shoes to give all the little Cambodian kids, most of them were barefoot.. sad :(
9. Wishing Japanese tourist would stop blocking my view every time I want to take a photo.
10. SPENDING WAY too much money on this trip.. my budget ended one week into the trip.. so am broke again !!!

Christmas in Hanoi

Two months late posting this blog, but alas.

Xmas in Hanoi was rather weird, in some ways, for me, it was the most festive Christmas I've ever had.
First, I had to actually celebrate the holiday with my students and talk to them about Christmas customs. Mind
you all that I grew up in a country where Christmas does NOT exist and though my family is strictly atheist, we do consider
ourselves J.E.W's. I kept telling people that I don't celebrate this holiday and they didn't understand.. because for them, I'm white.
Second, I went to more Xmas parties here than I had ever in the States (just Christie's staff parties.. seeing preppie girls get drunk.. definitely do not miss that).
Third, I actually played Secret Santa with my students and taught them Xmas songs.
Here are a few XMAS in Hanoi photos:

Our "Class Christmas tree".. the board + presents
Pre-Intermediate 2 spreading Christmas cheers:

The mall in Hanoi, Christmas eve.. I guess their holiday tradition is to go to the mall and take photos of themselves in front of a tree.. I've got tons of photos of Viets taking photos at the mall.

another mall photo (damn that western influence, I love their communist flag next to the Merry Christmas):

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day Tripper

Last Tuesday, my roommate Sarah and I decided to go on a little "Scooter Road Trip" Hanoi style.
But first, of course, before heading out, just as I turned left from our Alley, we noticed I had a flat tire!! how typical of me.
It's quite common here, because there is a man sitting with a pump, glue and a bucket of water, on every street corner.
So luckily, I only had to drive half a block to get help. (See photo above: How to repair flat tire in Hanoi)
We rode our little Honda waves till the outskirts of Hanoi,
crossed an enormous bridge and found ourselves on a Vietnamese Highway.
We got off and started riding our bikes around some farms and fields
Saw some buffalos and chickens. What an adventure, haha :)
(see photo above of field and farmer,wearing a Viet hat).
On the way back, I saw a man riding a motorbike with a medium sized cage behind him,
stuffed with dogs that seemed dehydrated or dead... I knew exactly where those dogs were going..
I started crying.. I couldn't stop looking into their eyes..
I'm sorry, but eating man's best friend is just too cruel.. especially the way these animals are treated..

Well hopefully next time, I'll drive more than 5 km out of Hanoi.....