Why I loved visiting Hanoi with local kids

08AM. My Attilas are in school; Hubby at work.

For a split second, I am experiencing that awkward moment when I am not sure if I actually have free time or if I am just forgetting everything.

Just in case, I am running out of the house. With a local kid this time …

The specificity of Hanoi Kids

Hanoikids is a volunteer organization. You only have pay for the expenses during the tour such as admission fees, meals and drinks and transportation fees both for you and Hanoikids’ member(s). Your travel mate will even pick you up at your place.

My tour for the half day included a visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and the Temple of Litterature. And a memorable coffee experience !

A chance to meet with specimen of the Viet Gen Z

I spent the morning with the lovely and very knowledgeable Hang (so much easier to write than to pronounce!). The Economics student is in her early 20s and already very professional.

21151293_10155439147631138_1838008627730210590_nShe volunteers with Hanoi Kids to practice her English, and I can hardly believe she never left her country, as she is so fluent!

She knows everything about the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum but she is far from being boring. Hang has so many anecdotes to share and her pride for her country was contagious. She made me want to learn more, read more about this place that will be our home for the next 4 years. For us French so enclined to criticize our heritage, it was refreshing to listen to someone genuinely so respectful and proud of her roots.

 More than a historical tour

We exchanged a lot about our cultures. She helped me understand some differences between the conservative Hanoi and the liberal South.  “In our families in the North, we don’t spend money on leisure. We save. Our parents save for us, all their life. And we’ll save for our families. Studying is never an option, we believe in the value of merit and work. You know, there is a saying that life starts at 10PM in the South. At this time here, we are already fast asleep !”

What is Hanoian teenager interested in? “We do have our beliefs and worship our ancestors, but there is no such thing as a main religion in Vietnam. I believe we are more into tradition. My generation is thriving to run a business, so we are learning English and a third language – usually Japanese, Mandarin or Korean. I would love to work in Korea for a few years. But not to settle down. Vietnam is my home”. 

As a mother, it reassures me to hear teenagers think like that. Of course our occidental kids are probably more independant and adaptable to other cultures. Still, this attachment to the roots is very meaningful to me.

HCM mausoleum
View of the House 54, the humble house where the President Ho Chi Minh chose to live (instead of the luxury Presidential palace)
dsc09141.jpg
The stilt-house that Ho Chi Minh moved into in 1958, had two rooms of just 10sq.m each. The ground floor is where he held meetings with the Politburo. The second floor has two small rooms where he worked ..
..and the bedroom with simple home appliances.

Did you know about the feng shui elements of the altar? 

Wood is the altar itself; Fire is the smoke from the burnt incense; Water is inside the vase; Metal is the candle holder and Earth is the ash inside the vasDSC09148e that holds the incense sticks.

Lesson of the day: Trust the locals but no need to behave like one

After 5 hours of walking under the dusty humidity and heat, all I was craving for was a coffee. I guess Hang read my mind as she offered to take me to Cong Caphe , a famous vintage like local café with memoralia of the war ( Totally instagrammable as my sister would say!)

Vietnamese coffee is very strong you know21151199_10155439147681138_2806424372000337696_n

I had been warned.

Yet I naively went for a black coffee with a little bit of milk, expecting my usual cappuccino. BIG mistake!

The coffee was delicious, probably the tastier I ve had for years. But so terribly strong that it didn’t take me long before I could feel my heart beat in my head and become dizzy and nauseous. For hours! Thanks god I had it in the morning, yet I still couldn’t sleep before 3 am!

Cong coffee should be renamed (Ding) Dong coffee .. Next time I want to play it like an Asian, I’ll go for the matcha muffin!

 

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “Why I loved visiting Hanoi with local kids

    1. Coucou!!! Long time .. le mariage etait sublime, super simple mais que d’emotion! je vais poster quelques photos la semaine prochaine ..
      Et l’adaptation se fait tranquillou. Venant de Cebu, quel upgrade! on est plutot blindes niveau circulation dans tous les sens et pollution, et en plus tout marche ici: la communaute expat est enorme, il y a des cours de tout et des taxis a un prix qui me fait vraiment reflechir a l’utilite de me degoter un scooter …
      Et toi, tout va bien? je dois une grande visite a ton blog. Maintenant que les Attilas ont repris l’ecole, j ai du temps ! X

    1. She is indeed ! kinda like you, very down to earth for her age, compassionate and kind 🙂
      But I bet you can make lighter coffees ! X

      1. rooo so wish you were living nearby, I would take this offer so seriously ! I bought the machine, I need the teacher now!

      2. Never say never! Maybe we will meet someday in the future (hopefully my espresso bar skills won’t be too rusty!). I’ll be sure to let you know if an out of the blue trip to Vietnam comes up in the future. 🙂

    1. Oh yes, we are totally on the same page. I met a few students over the last days whose family is from Northern provinces, and it seems to quiet, green, totally different from the hustles and bustles of Hanoi!
      DId you have a chance to travel around which place would you recommend? X

      1. Unfortunately no, we were stuck in Hanoi only. We went out to silk village but that’s just on the city outskirts. It seems like an amazing place. My friend and I are thinking of doing Vietnam and Cambodia one day.

  1. What a great organization! By sheer luck (friend of a friend), I spent time in Seoul last summer with a 20-something young woman, and I learned more from her over dinner and a quick walk around than I did the rest of my time there. Glad you are so psyched about your new locale!

    1. There is nothing like mingling with local people to understand where we have landed. And when they are so eager to share their culture, it’s such a pleasure !
      It makes me feel so grateful to be able to encounter such different cultures, and I never got this feeling when I was with expats who tend to complain too fast and too easily 😉 although they are the ones who know where to get the Baguettes and drinkable coffee, and we need them too!
      When you ll come I ll be the newly appointed Minister of Culture, at this pace .. There are some places when it’s not too hard not to work (yet) X

  2. Ohh, that’s wonderful! Bookmarking Hanoi Kids right now, just in case I get a chance to go there. It would be great to start something like that here in Cebu (though I’m not sure how to set it up in such a way as to avoid child predators…)

    1. Oh I hope you can make it ! You’d love it (and I ve been here only 2 weeks), as traffic can not scare you anyways 😉
      The kids are all students, and they are the ones calling the taxis. I guess they have a proper briefing when it comes to moving around with strangers. Very good point though, it didn’t even cross my mind …

  3. I am getting more and more interested to visit Vietnam and you are being my inspiration. I found the Hanoikids’ idea fantastic as there is nothing like learning from locals.
    It just occurred to me that perhaps it is not always safe for them to make private tours with strangers. Hope they are all around 20 y/o and older.
    That coffee would have kept me a whole year awake! Poor you being awake till so late.
    Looking forward to hearing more!!

    1. Gaya had exactly the same concern and i must admit I did not even think about it. I noticed that Hang was the one calling the taxis (on her phone, not in the street) and totally running the show.
      But that’s indeed a point. She mentioned that when there are more tourists, she’d come with more volunteers too. And eventually the organisation asked for a copy of my passport. You made me understand why now ..

      Will keep on looking for interesting stories to make sure you’re showing up at some stage 😉 And we’ll have tea, no worries XXX

      1. In fact it was the Philippines infamous stories about abuse that made me think that the same could happen in Vietnam.
        I see that they take measures to protect the kids, so it’s a good sign.

        Please keep sharing your stories. The tea is booked! 😘

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