Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chao, Hanoi!

I should tell you about my History trip to Hanoi, Vietnam before I forget all about it. KY's History Department organized a History trip to the Communist state somewhere in February for us to have a better understanding of Communism and to find the links between Vietnam and Cold War in the earlier years, if any.

Hanoi is a quaint city, to say the least. It's chaotic and the traffic is horrible. There are seas of mopeds and cars everywhere! Crossing the roads can be quite a nightmare. But Hanoi has more layers to it than just busy roads and chaotic traffic system. The city tells a thousand different stories from its French architecture, red Communist flags waving at every corner of the street and the statues as well as monuments that carry distinctive meanings. Then you see regular Vietnamese going about their daily lives. Women selling vegetables/fruits by the roadside, children playing at the lake or open spaces/parks after school and in the midst of modesty of the people, you would see latest Porsche or Mercedes zooming pass you.

Before we came to Hanoi, we always had the impression from our readings (mostly written from Western perspectives) that a Communist state was repressive, backwards and well, basically seen as evil. But when we arrived in Hanoi and got to know the city better, it was a great contrast to what we have learned before.

While Vietnam still largely practices Communism, they have also opened up to the World especially economically and culturally. For a country that went through a war that ravaged them horribly just 40 years ago, Vietnam is doing impressively well in terms of building the nation again. It is still a one-party state but a lot more freedom has been granted to its people in the past decade. The country holds on to the Communist elements that are still practical in a 21st century while opening up to a more globalized world. Hanoi is a picture of that balance; between Communism and Capitalism.

Though something rather unfortunate happened to me during the trip. I was walking around the Night Market on our second night when my handbag was slit with a knife and my purse was picked. It had everything in it; cash, credit card, ID card, student card etc and I was penniless in Hanoi. Good thing s/he didn't take away my handphone and camera too. And the hotel kept my passport. Pheww.

Thankfully, my mum's good friend, Chan was there to help me go through the whole police report procedure. Which would have been even more complicated without her cos the policemen spoke no English. But I wasn't about to let the incident dampen my spirit for the rest of the trip so, all of us just went ahead with it as planned.

I love Hanoi. I love the weather, the people, the spirit of Ho Chi Minh that is still fresh in their minds. And I found out what it's like to travel abroad with a group of friends. Such fun! Makes me look forward to the possible trips we would go on once we get to UK. Insyaallah, very soon :)

Some photos from the trip. The rest, you know where to find them.

In front of the statue of Lenin

Remnants of US Army B-52 bombers

The whole group in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum 

Me, Yaya, Eijas, Amir and Gamii taking a break after our museum visits

The night of the mugging. They were all being very nice about it. Offered to cheer me up through hot chocolate and French pastries. 

Love this shot! Looks like First Lady and her bodyguard no? Hehe. Fine, that's actually me and Megat.