Wednesday, March 21, 2007

no end in sight.

the days drag on and on. this is my 13th day. hanoi was dull, polluted, cheap, and the food was pretty good. my new favorite is bun cha, which you can get at pho pasteur, but it isn't nearly as good as the street vendors' home brew of fish sauce. the pho in hanoi is different, not so heavily spiced as in the south. i swear by street food, it's so much cheaper than the tourist restaurants, and i'm convinced it isn't much more unsanitary than the more expensive stuff.

hue was boring boring boring. my room was only $7, so i guess i can't complain. although, i find the vietnamese tourists to be the worst. there was a large group of 15 in my hall. they would leave their doors open so they could yak at each other while watching tv at midnight or 6 in the morning. whatever.

hoi an, which is 4 hours south of hue, is much nicer because the preservationists have managed to clean it up for the tourists. lots of lovely 'authentic' 17th to e. 20th c. courtyard houses that are a hybrid of japanese, chinese and vietnamese building traditions. the more evolved state of tourism here shows in the prices. dinner is $3 rather than $1.50. but who cares, it's all so damn cheap. although, i admit i get indignant when i have to pay 5000 Dong rather than the 3000 in Hanoi. we're talking about 35 cents rather than 20. oh, and the reason the bus trip took 4 hours was because it travels about 40 miles an hour. why? god, i keep asking myself this, but there's no good reason for it. the roads are fine, although only 1 or 2 lanes in each direction. there's hardly any traffic. this country makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

so i ended up buying a painting in hoi an. i really didn't mean to, but i have a hard time saying no once i'm dragged in. the artist is about 60 yrs old and an ardent anti-communist who, sadly, never made it to the states. it's a pretty tame painting, but at least it's by someone who actually could be called an artist.

the problem with vietnam and its fledgling tourist industry is that everything is the same, everyone sells the same shit. the so called art, be it lacquer paintings or oil, really is more of a craft. people churn out the same thing, so if you want a sentimental painting of a vietnamese woman in an ao dai, you could buy some variation of it in any city. this is a nation of copycats. hoi an is known for custom tailored clothing. the problem is, of all the shops i've seen, none exhibit anything that is different from the others. and the street vendors sell the same terracotta whistles and tiger balm and god knows what else. i am sick and tired of the women calling out to me: madam, you buy something? and the men: madam, moto bai? madam, cyclo? madam, taxi?

and what the hell are all these tourists expecting from their trip? so many self-satisfied french who can't seem to stay away from their beloved indochine now that they're feeling so beautifully nostalgic. so they sit in the chic restaurant in town and order huge amounts of wine when the average monthly income in vietnam is $150-200. they're seeking something that i don't care for, adventure, atmosphere, stories, whatever. if i didn't have to be here for research, i would never never travel to vietnam. i am so sick of tourism in developing countries. ecuador was more pleasant, probably because i wasn't traveling alone. there has to be a better way to raise the standard of living in places like here. something more dignified than prostrating yourself in front of the fat, contented, jolly tourists.

maybe i'm just bitter because none of the vietnamese can believe that i'm american. it's always been tough in the states, but it's the same everywhere. i'm so sick of people telling me that my english is perfect. well, i would hope so. but here, when i say i'm american but my parents are korean, vietnamese ask me if i'll return to korea to work after i've finished school. why would i move to korea? i hardly speak the language, and even if i did, i really really would rather live the rest of my days in the states, in spite of everything.

so, i'm probably not going to post much more for this trip. just thinking about what i should write makes me so angry. i'd post photos, but the computers here are too damn slow. i'm really not suited for places like this. i've always hated visiting. especially places as poor as vietnam. i hope saigon is better. or at least i hope i accomplish something that'll make this trip worthwhile. i only should have stayed for 2 weeks because right now i'm just killing time and being a tourist until i leave for saigon on friday. oh, and i can't wait to take the plane rather than the bus. there's no way i'm going to get on one of those open tour buses again. horrible, smelly, slow things. the $60 is worth it. unless the plane is crap and it crashes.

i hope i never lapse into nostalgia about this trip. it has been awful most of the time, tolerable at best.

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