An Interesting Trip To Vietnam

This was my first ever visit to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Before leaving for Hanoi, my daughter was joking that I should get used to eating sea food if I wanted to survive in Hanoi. Yes, indeed my short stay of 3 days turned out to be a battle for survival!
We(myself and my Marketing colleague) reached Hanoi airport by lunch hour on a Thursday and drove straight to Sheraton Hotel. My lunch consisted of ‘paruppu podi’ and pickles that I carried with me which went reasonably well with rice and yoghurt served by the Hotel.
Evening dinner hosted by our customer in a posh Sea food Restaurant in Hanoi turned out to be my biggest challenge. In fact it was equally challenging for my host and the hotel waitress who were informed in advance about my vegetarian ways! I must, however, thank the waitress immensely as she came up with interesting suggestions on what to eat. The starter was a creamy Mushroom soup which turned out to be delicious. This was followed by cooked vegetables and fried noodles enclosed and packed exquisitely in a thin and tight film made out of rice. The waitress took pains to explain the contents of each packet to set at rest my suspicions.The third dish was an insipid mixture of boiled vegetables without any trace of spices. A couple of glasses of delicious fresh mango juice was my substitute for the wines which flowed freely during the dinner. And finally a great mix of seasonal fruits was served for dessert to complete my meal. At the end of the meal,I didn’t have much to complain, although I did miss my traditional Curd rice.
My Marketing colleague,on other hand, had to play ball with the hosts as he was forced to down several glasses of wine during the dinner. The most obnoxious scene during the dinner was the manner in which the sea food was served. The lobster , for instance, was shown alive to the guests before cooking. I believe it is their tradition to show a live lobster and cook it in the presence of the guests in a stove conveniently placed close by! Mercifully, I was saved from such a sight on that day. It was hard to imagine that the lobster which was alive and kicking only a few moments before would end up on the dinner plates of the greedy guests.

Vietnam, today, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with an industrial growth of 15-19% for several years in the past decade. Vietnamese are not fluent in English and therefore our customers were always accompanied by an interpreter. In fact my entire technical presentation was quite skilfully translated by a freelance translator, who claimed that he had to do a lot of hard work for several days in order to do a decent job of translating.

Hanoi is a city of lakes – all natural. There are as many as 10 lakes within the city. Our hotel itself was located adjacent to a beautiful lake and it was such a pleasure to take long walks around the lovely lakes.The lakes are reasonably well maintained too.

On the day we left Hanoi, I decided to take a long walk early in the morning. Even as I was admiring the city administration for the manner in which they maintained the lakes, something bizarre happened. I noticed a couple riding on a bike stop by. They were carrying a bagful of some black muck which looked like some sort of a toxic pollutant. To my horror, they quietly walked towards the lake and dumped the whole thing into the lovely lake. I shouted in vain to stop the atrocity. They gesticulated back at me and disappeared from the scene as quickly as they appeared.

We had very little time for sight seeing. In the limited time available, we visited a place known as the ‘Temple of Literature’ or Van Mieu (in the local vietnamese language). The place displays ancient Vietnamese architecture and patronage of the scholarly. It’s an ancient university with a significant influence of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius. It has five courtyards to denote five essential elements of Nature. It is said that the central path which divides the premises into two parts is symbolic of the Middle path preached by Confucius.
The place has stone turtles(I guess that is their National Animal)in a yard. These turtles carry the names of students who graduated or completed their studies with Honors or distinction. They also carry important teachings of Confucius.

The following morning we took our flight back to Mumbai.

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Published in: on December 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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