December 18, 2016

Greetings from Hanoi and the continent of my immigrant parents! I am deep in the land of selfie sticks and fantastic food. After only one whole day in Asia, it’s already obvious. This trip takes me far beyond my comfort zone. And I will be better for it.

Already, I feel so, so blessed to be on this journey. It’s a dream vacation with Gabi, my 20-something daughter. In the days ahead, we’ll travel together through Vietnam and Cambodia. Then, I adventure alone through Bangkok and Taipei. Homebody me will be abroad for a month. Wow, wow, wow.

Betty Ming Liu in Hanoi

Our first stop is Hanoi, Vietnam’s gritty capitol city. Getting here took nearly 18 hours of flying across 8,900 miles. Yeah, we’re brutally jet-lagged.

But wandering around today definitely energized us. We found ourselves overwhelmed by insane traffic, rich history and endless street food options. Definitely lots of fun.

Hanoi street scenes

My Hanoi itinerary

The overstimulation is already transforming me. When I arrived on this side of the world, I had very little first-hand knowledge of Asia. Today’s experiences already make me feel more grounded and whole.

Here’s where we went today:

  • Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the final resting place for the Communist leader who liberated his country from French colonial rule and became its first president.
  • The Presidential Palace, formerly an elegant French compound.
  • Temple of Literature, a stunning example of 600-year-old architecture.
  • Jade Temple, located on charming Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the city.
  • Thuhuong Hanoi Lacquerware, a studio making East Asian lacquer art.
  • The Coffee Shop, a cute café specializing in organic coffee and teas.
  • Vietnam Museum of Ethnography featuring the country’s 54 ethnic groups.
  • Koto, a delicious restaurant that trains disadvantaged youth.

At the ethnography museum, we enjoyed two special moments on the topic of girl power in Vietnam. This was unexpected because I think of most Asian culture as male-dominant and sexist.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnography, Hanoi

But a glorious first aha! moment came at spying three golden female statues. Until now, we had never before heard of Vietnam’s Mother Worship, a tradition in one of the world’s top rice-growing countries.

The Mother Goddesses of Three Realms oversee the heavens, water and mountains/forests. Mother worship was just officially recognized as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Corporation (UNESCO).

Then, aha! moment #2 waited for us as we climbed up the ladder of an Ede house. The Ede are an ethnic group literally built on the superior authority of women. Traditional homes in this matriarchal society feature wooden outdoor columns with carved, proud, round breasts.

Imagine, all this, from just a first day of exploring Hanoi. I can’t wait to see what’s up next.

So here I am, once again getting beyond my comfort zone. How about you, any thoughts on comfort zones in my life and/or yours? And P.S. — I’ll be posting more pix during the week on my Facebook. To have a look, just follow me at BettyMLiu.