I did not want to spend any time in Hanoi. I planned our entire trip with the objective of avoiding time there. The thought of leading the three of us across a street was enough to keep me out of the city for the vast majority of our trip. Ultimately, though, we couldn’t avoid the city, which ended up working to our advantage, since it was a highlight of Oscar’s trip.
We arrived in Hanoi in the evening, so just ended up spending the night in our hotel. When we got up the next morning, we went upstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast on the rooftop terrace.
Etta’s not a fan of heights.
Oscar was not a fan of the hotel’s omelette (a first for our trip).
After breakfast, I shored up my confidence and led us out to the mean streets of Hanoi. Etta was more than a little reticent, but Oscar was in his element. He either stopped to say hello or waved as we walked by hundreds of people. Definitely shocking behavior for him.
More shocking? He wanted to pose for photographs everywhere.
He was even sweet to his sister.
We walked around for a while and did some window shopping. And, since they were being so incredibly sweet, we bought the one thing they had been asking for the entire trip.
Things have changed in Vietnam since I adopted Oscar. They now have traffic safety laws that are being enforced. One is a law that limits the number of people who can ride on a scooter at the same time. I’m not going to lie. This one had me a teensy bit sad. Gone are the opportunities to snap shots of a family of six all on one scooter.
The other requires all adults (not children) to wear safety helmets while on scooters. Amazingly, people comply with this law. More remarkable? The helmets that they’re wearing are so flimsy that I won’t even allow Oscar and Etta to wear theirs on their bikes at home. Baby steps, though, I guess. The helmets are vastly more stylish than anything we have here, though. AND they have cutouts for ponytails. I love Vietnam.
One of the things we never did while in Vietnam five years ago was walk across the red bridge . . . so we did it this time and visited the temple there.
Oscar loved it there, too. He was fascinated with all of the people making offerings.
This smiling with teeth thing was kind of overwhelming.
It even continued when we went across the street to one of our favorite places from our earlier days in the city.
Since we were on such a good roll, I figured I’d see how far I could push it. We went shopping for real, and Oscar’s good mood held. He seemed to love everything about the streets of Hanoi, especially when women would stop and hand him food.
Etta liked the fact that shopping happened right on the street. It’s far more difficult for mom to block a transaction in a street than in a store. Her favorite buy of the day? This hat, which I had to drag all the way home.
She could never quite figure out how to see from under the rim of the hat.
I did manage to make it into one silk shop to buy a scarf for me (and more things for Etta). While we were wrapping things up, though, Oscar left his perch on the stoop and I ran outside to see this.
They told everyone that “this city is filthy” and proceeded to clean it up. I’m pretty sure everyone thought we were insane. People even stopped in the street to take photos of them. Crazy Americans.
Oscar, smiling, headed over to pet a dog. Oscar doesn’t like dogs, at least not American dogs. He does, however, appear to like dogs in Hanoi. He even told me that the dog was “so cute.”
By this point, I didn’t know what was going on. I suspected someone laced Oscar’s omelette with some sort of Hanoi-loving drug. I started us on our way back to the hotel, and even though (1) it was a million degrees out and (2) I got us very lost, Oscar just kept smiling at people and saying hi.
When we got back to the room, our fruit platter had been replenished, which only made Oscar love Hanoi more.
He dove into the tray, devouring all of the fruit and when he hit the mango, he started yelling at me to “peel it – peel this thing faster. I need to eat this right now.” Insane.
I threw him back in the shower and finished packing just before our driver arrived to take us to the airport. Even in the car, though, Oscar told me he wanted to get out and walk around the city some more, saying “I love my Vietnam.”
I was really dreading the check-in process, but had forgotten one important thing. The Vietnamese love babies, and apparently Etta is still a “baby”! We were swept to the front of the massive line for check-in and then walked through to have our passports stamped.
The preferential treatment ended, though, when the immigration official was checking Oscar’s passport. He reviewed the passport for at least five minutes, then called someone else over. He read everything, they talked, brought someone else over and then asked me for Oscar’s adoption records. I had brought them, of course, so I turned them over and they reviewed everything and sent us on our way.
Since we had made it through the check-in and security process so quickly, we ended up having a lot of time to spend in the Hanoi airport. It’s been nicely updated in the past few years, although there still are extremely limited dining options (basically just two, I think). It also seemed like there were a lot more tourists there, since we could not find a single seat during our 2+ hours there.
We didn’t let that dampen our spirits, though, we just got up and did some more shopping. Our final purchases? A cyclo and a really cool wooden airplane (that broke apart before we even made it to Tokyo).
Oscar and Etta were fantastic travel companions on the way home to the U.S. They were so great that I even would consider another trip with them in the future, although maybe our next trip will be a little closer to home.