vietnam, old and newvietnam cannot be described. it is just incredible, so many things are modern, like thegirl listening to her mp3 player while selling beads, yet so old, like the women with cone shaped straw hats selling fruit on the street from baskets that hang over their shoulder with a long flat piece of wood. there is absolutely no sense in how the traffic works other than trucks and cars do not stop for anything, scooters and bikes weave their way around everything and ppl need to cross really really slowly, with no change in direction or speed and then you are safe. so far no accidents. it's amazing that it actually works! and is amazing just to watch.
in the center of the old quarter, since it's the tourist part, ppl tend to speak english but you can just wander a few blocks away and then you pull out your handy lonely planet (if bought in vietnam, it's a decent photocopy) to ask for info about places and things. today i was with someone who wanted to buy snake wine, so we asked at the tourist bureau who sent us to one place who sent us to another then dwon the street to a third place where we sat down and tried to order it. since no one spoke english, i ended up talking to one of the other patrons (who is a local) in french to explain what was wanted. i was impressed that she spoke french and good french at that.
if you want to buy anything, you can get it here. and it's always "many coulours", "very beautiful". so today since i have only another day left in the country, i went shopping and got some nice silk scarves that i bought from a high school chemistry teacher who was helping out at her sister's store. next thing on the list is chopsticks.