Hanoi, Vietnam: My Last Days in Asia

Since I’ve spent so many nights longing to go back to the USA, it feels surreal to finally say that today is my last day here in Vietnam.  I’m so happy and relieved to finally be going back home!  I am looking forward to tackling my law school applications with full force, and I am excited to find a new job and place to live!  I am also anxious to see the people who are very important to me, and of course, to feast on fresh bagels and cream cheese. FEAST MODE! Ah, and to go to the nice quiet libraries. And to go running in nice, open sidewalks.  And to be reunited with my car.   And to have craft beer!!!!!

My last week in Asia has been spent in Hanoi with my mother.  After our action-packed trip to Sapa, we decided to stay in one place and explore it thoroughly rather than to spend long hours traveling from city to city by bus.

The Sapaning

Now that I’ve finished the LSAT and my job teaching English in Quinhon, I’m doing some touring around North Vietnam….with my mom!  It’s a welcome change to be experiencing different parts of this country as a tourist, and with an excellent traveling companion, no less!

Since both my mom and I have been really busy/distracted in the weeks preceding this trip, we made barely any plans. One place we did want to visit was Sapa, a small and beautiful mountain town near the border of China.

We booked the bus tickets for our trip from our hotel receptionist, a cheerful guy who referred to himself as La La.  The bus to Sapa was pretty nice. It had seats that you could lie flat, big windows, and a little bathroom in the back.  It was nonstop and quiet.

Vlog Entry #22: Get Wet, Go Wild

Drift with me through the streets, hillsides and waters of northern Vietnam on the “Get Wet, Go Wild” tour, offered by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels! Catch a glimpse of Hanoi’s top attractions: Quan Thanh Temple, St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the West Lake. Then hop on board a junk boat to cruise past the cliffs of Ha Long Bay. Throw in a bit of swimming, kayaking, rock climbing and beach volleyball for good measure. Lastly, journey inland to the rural Mai Chau Valley, home to breath-taking, emerald rice paddies and towering, dramatic peaks.

The Rest is Rust

The other day, I was out for a jog. Three men spotted me, and I made the mistake of making eye contact.  So they started chasing me. I glanced at their flip-flops and in that moment chose flight over fight, and sprinted as fast I could away from them. I ended up out of breath behind a hotel. There, a young white man spotted me and waved me over.  He was a bright eyed and bushy-tailed American, fresh off the plane, ready and eager to start a life in Quinhon.  He asked me how I liked the city, and I said, well it’s okay. He looked taken aback.  Just okay? Everyone he’d talked to loved it and never wanted to leave. I told him the reason I’m so out of breath is because I had just run away from a few men chasing me.  He shrugged and said, “Well, you’re a cute girl.”

What’s Worked for Me in the Classroom

I teach for three more days and then have three days off before leaving Quinhon forever.  The three months I’ve spent here have been surreal, sort of like a learn-about-yourself-bootcamp. I have to say, I’m pretty goddamn proud of myself for making it through, since it hasn’t been easy.  The hardest part about the expat life here is the communication and culture barrier. However, the time I’ve spent trying to understand these barriers, while difficult, has also been the best part about living here, hands down.  Should be interesting to integrate these new perspectives into life back in the USA in only 22 days!

Another bright part of my time here in Quinhon has been teaching. My happiest moments here have been in front of the classroom. I’m no expert teacher, but I figured I’d write a post about some teaching tips and tricks that have helped me, because more often than not you won’t get any training in Vietnam before your first class, haha.

10 Reasons I’m Over Vietnam

  1. Noise
    1. Like clockwork at 7AM the city wakes up with a roar. This past week, some people have been drilling loudly in the room above me for some reason. Also a neighbor got a new puppy and it shrieks non-stop from dawn till dusk.
  2. Vicious Traffic
    1. I suppose part of the growing pains for being a developing country is an increased amount of motorbikes and trucks on the road. But Vietnam really needs to make some traffic laws to keep up with this growth. Drivers feel entitled to pass too close to you at breakneck speed, and every truck or car is equipped with a horn so loud it will make your ears bleed.
  3. Bugs
    1. Ants will appear moments after a single crumb drops to the floor.

Learning Korean in Vietnam

So it turns out Hanoi has a reasonably-sized Korean community. This was great news as I was keen to keep up my Korean, so I went trawling for lessons. Given that most Koreans are here with corporate jobs however, rather than the English-speaking community who almost all do some kind of teaching, the only place offering such a thing was the Han-Viet Family Centre. This is an institution set up and funded by the Korean government in response to rising numbers of Korean-Vietnamese marriages. We went along to see if they wouldn’t mind me signing up, despite being distinctly non-Viet, but after seeing that I fulfilled the ‘married-to-a-Korean side of the bargain they said it would be fine.

Fast-forward to a week later, and it seemed like it might not be quite so fine after all. Given that I’d turned up for a pre-intermediate class, which I’d asked the way for in Korean, one would have thought I might be able to understand an exchange along the lines of:

Sexual Harassment is Sexual Harassment.

Last night my Macbook’s charger broke. It was old; it’s time was done. So, this morning I had to get a new one. Seems like a simple enough task, right?


I left my hotel room wearing a long sun dress (one hundred degrees, 80% humidity).  And, as I walked the streets in search of an electronics store, the invasive shouts and stares of men left me with not a moment’s peace.

Cat Tien, Vietnam and Misadventures on the Motorbike

Yesterday was Independence Day for Vietnam! I thought things would be a little crazier, given the Vietnameses’ penchant for techno and flashy lights, but all in all the scene was pretty chill. The only thing that made it different from any other day was the fact that the school wasn’t open. Woot woot!

After spending the morning working on my law apps, I decided to take my motorbike on an adventure. I ended up in a little town 25km outside Quinhon, called Cat Tien (not to be confused with Cat Tien National Park).  The drive there was beautiful and flat. Full of sand dunes and breezes.

Bai Xep

Yesterday I rented a motorbike again. Driving here is scary. But outside the city it’s soooo fun because there aren’t many people on the road. I drove around aimlessly away from town and saw so many breathtaking things. I stumbled upon a beautiful fishing village with an island.  The water was so clear blue it hurt. I walked around on the beach for a while, to many HELLOs from the local children. It looked like the locals were thoroughly engaged in snorkeling and sea urchin hunting. Everyone was friendly, except the young boy who angrily threw sand in my face. Haha.

Then, I went to this place called Haven.  The road there was kind of horrifying because it wound up and down steep hills and trucks and huge buses passed me a bit too close for comfort.

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