Hue is definitely a bit more relaxed than Hanoi, especially the traffic. Hanoi traffic seems to have a special place in every traveler’s heart, based on the posts on various web sites talking about it. For me, it was like many other countries where while most folks think it is crazy, I just think everyone drives like me. Now, to totally understand this situation, you have to know that 90% of the traffic in Hanoi are motos – scooters to you and me. So toss in a few bicycles, cars and pedestrians, you can get a good picture in your mind what is going on. There are no stop signs, what few traffic lights exist are strong suggestions, and the picking order is: buses, cars, motos, bicycles, pedestrians. Now the interesting part is crossing the street on foot. There never is a clean break in traffic, so you just choose a spot and start walking. If you stay a constant speed and direction, the motos will generally weave to stay out of your way. Not for the indecisive in life, and you do have to trust your fellow road users for survival. Sometimes people will have to come to a complete stop to sort things out, but I never saw anyone hit. The key is that everyone goes behind the nearest obstacle, ensuring that most of the time traffic continues on unimpeded. I only saw this system break down once, and it took about 30 minutes for them to get the gridlock flowing again.
Now you’re probably wondering where the better-than-sex part comes in. The last night in Hanoi I ended up at a Bia Hoi place (see my previous post) where the quite insistent locals continued toasting whatever came into their minds to the point I ended up with quite a good buzz before I convinced them that I wasn’t going to drink anymore. The xe om ride (passenger on a moto) to the next stop that night was quite interesting, with the driver in quite a hurry (due to my insistence, not his desire), and the combination of driving at night, not being in control, and the darn nice buzz turned it into a video game like display of lights and sounds. Now, the better-than-sex part may or may not be true, depending on your experiences, but I will say that my friends had a good laugh over my embellishment of the sensation and my refusal to stop talking about it.
So that leaves us with the other comparison between Hanoi and Hue. Hanoi was hot the last two days I was there. Hue is hotter. I now worship at the feet of my air conditioner in my hotel room, and every day is a three shower day. Once in the morning, once before my afternoon nap, and once before going to bed. I sit here sweating as I’m writing this in an internet cafe, and it is about 80 degrees at 8:30 at night. My saddle sores from motorcycling did not take kindly to this change (or the 14 hours in a bus), and I have found the only relief is to go commando. For those that need an explanation of this, please see http://www.slate.com/id/2112100. Somehow I find it ironic that this country seems to be the birthplace of the term.
My Aunt Cindy and Uncle Doug are showing me wonderful hospitality in their new home, and I’m particularly happy to hit here on a long weekend where they can take a break from teaching and enjoy the place they live for the first time. I realized today during a long boat ride that my Mom needs to look at her brothers in terms on influences on my life. I’ve often said that my Grandma Young gave all her offspring an independence that, for better or worse, has been passed on across the generations. When I think of what my Uncle Russell did when he was younger (including traveling across the US with no destination in mind) and how Doug and Cindy have just changed almost everything in their life at a time when most folks are packing it up and moving to a golf course in Arizona or Florida, I realize that I’m not just a fluke of genetics. The other major influence is my Dad, who traveled extensively when I was growing up, and that expanded my world as I looked up on atlases and globes where he had been whenever he got back from a trip. Living in Korea while growing up probably set the hook for me. After that experience, I realized that I loved the thrill of new places and new people, and that has led me on an incredible journey of faces and places that I know will not end with Vietnam.