My 1st full day in Asia: Hanoi, Vietnam

betty ming liu Art, Inspiration, Travel 10 Comments

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.

Comments 10

  1. A friend of mine was there last summer and he said the food tour he took on the back of a motorbike was the best thing he did. I might be able to get the name if you need it but I’m sure you can find them….he said you zip in and out of traffic at night and taste things you would never imagine. Sounds like a scary winner…..

    In Bangkok, I was blown away by the floating market….that I’m sure you’ll be able to find…..

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      Paul, we’re already books for the motorbike food tour — thanks for the additional feedback!. A friend of ours also came back and said it was tremendous fun. And thanks for putting Bangkok’s floating market on my radar. I’ll try to get to it.

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  2. Betty, this trip sounds absolutely phenomenal!! Interestingly, Asia is a continent to which I have not ever had any desire to travel. (That is a conversation for another time.) BUT, when I read your piece, I began to think differently about some of the places you are visiting and the tremendous experiences you will likely have. Also, your personal connection surely makes this trip with your daughter even more special!

    I am so glad you able to take this time for this journey, and grateful that you are sharing it with us! Can’t wait to hear more!


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      Lenora, we must have that other convo at some point, lol — I totally appreciate your honesty! I had to feel ready for this trip because Asia is, as you point out, personal. But it’s also different from vacationing in, say, Paris or Hawaii. A trip to Asia requires a willingness to see poverty, global politics, culture issues. But I’m also finding tremendous beauty, great food, and friendly people who offer such a warm welcome. One thing I’m realizing is the importance of traveling in a style that suits my personality and needs. And this trip works for me. More soon. And I hope you visit someday!

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    Yeah, Sandy, my dad was Chinese Vietnamese in the way that I’m Chinese American. I know so little about my Viet family roots; this trip is already an eye opener. And that’s interesting about your friend. The ability to reinvent ourselves is fantastic. Thanks for the support and I look forward to sharing more in the posts to come!

  4. Pingback: Finding my cultural roots in Taipei, Taiwan - betty ming liu

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