"09.50 a.m.: Arrive at Noi Bai international Airport in Hanoi. Meet and transfer to hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi."
in medias res: a Latin term most often associated with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, best translated "in the thick of things".
With my limited blogging time, I am going to skip over, for now, the plane flight and cut to the chase...
We are on a bus barrelling its way into the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The outskirts of the city are an emerald checkerboard of rice paddies, interrupted occasionally by the odd patch of corn or garden plot with all sorts of vegetable. There is not a brown spot to be seen, except for the small dirt roads that connect the fields. (Dorothy, we are not in Fresno any more!). This area is still very much rural.
The simile is overworked, but appropriate: Hanoi is very much like a frenetic anthill of activity. Even more appropriate when you see the small motor bikes laden with impossibly large cargo: a huge TV, 50 dozen eggs, stacks of all manner of vegetables, large blocks of ice, and, of course, human cargo: two, sometimes, three to a bike, babies and children two, all waving in and out of the larger vehicles with what appears to be suicidal abandon. Horrendous ccidents seem inevitable, (although in reality they rarely happen) and the air is punctuated with the almost constant beep of truck and motorbike horns: warning, chiding, complaining, retaliating.
This, more than anything else, is one's first impression of Vietnam: a dizzying blur of traffic; a cacophonous symphony of horns.
With so much activity all around, one's eyes fly from one unfamiliar sight tot he next: the architecture (more on this later), the women in traditional conical bamboo hats, the small shops, the massive omnipresent billboards. It is sensory overload.
Welcome to the Nam!