Couchsurfing in Hanoi (18.-26.09.2018)

We spent our week in Hanoi staying at a family’s home my sister and I had found on Couchsurfing.com.

For me it was the first couchsurfing experience. My sister had some experience before when traveling to Greece and Turkey.

Our arrival day in Hanoi started out as a little adventure. We landed at Hanoi International Airport around noon. The first ATM did not like our credit cards, on the second we were lucky and were instant millionaires… 1€ is about 27.000 Vietnamese Dong. Got our Vietnamese SIM Cards for 250.000 Dong including 18GB of data and some minutes to call within Vietnam. An off we were on our way to find the local bus…well 20 minutes later, completely drenched in sweat we arrived at something that looked like a bus station. Which was confirmed by the locals standing there. We asked them if the bus the map had shown us would be stopping here. With gestures and sounds we figured out that we were at the right spot and should just wait.

Some other buses later our number arrived. Just to make sure we asked the ticket seller, who in Vietnam assists the bus driver in selling the tickets, whether we are on the correct bus. We were, so we sat down backpacks still on our backs. He then asked us to pay for our tickets, which was 9000 Dong each (ca. 30Cent). After about 50 minutes we had to change buses. Luckily the ticket seller also let us know when to get off. We changed into the next bus for another ten minute drive. At the stop we arrived at a big construction site. But we were looking for an office complex since our host had told us to meet her at the office. After some texting via WhatsApp we figured out, that she really worked at an office within the building that still looked like being under construction. There we waited for her to finish her staff meeting. I was already wondering how we would get to her place. A few minutes later we found out… she and one of her employees took us on the back of their scooters. So we went our handbag in front of us or between the feet of our driver and our big backpacks on the back. There we were in the middle of Hanoi with our luggage on two scooters in the middle of rush our. Lots and lots of scooters driving around us and some cars in between. I was with the host and she took me on the way through a market, which she entered by scooter. There she got pork and not only some nice looking meat pieces, but also the intestines. Right next to the pork stand they sold dog meat. I was happy she did not pick anyone it. I told her that my sister eats no meat and fish so she also got some tofu. Off we went to her house.

At home her husband had already prepared dinner for his family and us. Shortly I told my sister about our trip to the market and then we were offered lots of meaty dishes. What I like about eating at home with the family is that they prepare all dishes, put them in the middle of the table and everyone picks what they like into their small bowls. After a few minutes some vegetarian dishes in addition to the tofu appeared.

Later that evening we retired to our own room and bathroom.

It’s been nice to get to know the family like this every evening. We felt like being part of the family. After our first night she offered us to extend our stay until the 22nd of September 2018. Since our next host had to cancel and the family had been really nice we happily agreed to stay.

So during the day we discovered Hanoi and in the evenings we returned home for dinner. We also tried to cook one night so that we could give something back for their great generosity. Wasn’t easy to help them, when we offered to wash the dishes and she was home we had no chance. But then one night she wasn’t home and we grabbed the opportunity to do it. Our idea of cooking noodle soup and preparing a salad weren’t entirely successful. Though their daughter happily helped us prepare the salad and soup. We managed to put in the noodles to early so they cooked up into some kind of mesh. Salad also did not seem to be a concept they liked, except in a spring or summer roll. Though we also found out that we put some vegetable in that looked to us like cucumber but was a little different. To us it tasted equally good, but our hosts insisted that this vegetable can only be eaten cooked. Well, we tried and in the end she offered us to show us some Vietnamese dishes. So later on we learned how to make noodle soup and summer rolls Vietnamese style.

During the weekend another guest arrived, a young women from Brazil, who plans to stay in Hanoi for a month to teach English for kids. On the day of her arrival our couchsurfing host’s daughter took part in a dance competition. Since we were all interested in dancing we happily went along. It’s been great to see so many young girls and boys (aged between 4 and 14) dance disco fox, Rumba and more. Finally after two hours the daughter had her part. She looked like she enjoyed every bit of the about 30second performance and won second place. She could have taken part in another two rounds which might have taken place within another hour or two. Since it was already getting late and the mum had worked until the afternoon she decided for her daughter that we would leave to get dinner on the way home. The daughter seemed to be happy about the one round, but I wasn’t sure she really liked the abrupt end.

On Sunday we also celebrated Mid Autumn with the family and some of their friends.

We had a great time with the family and also their cute little dog. Couchsurfing a great way to get to know locals and their culture.

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