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We unfortunately had to cut our trip to Vietnam short when we juggled plane tickets to add a stop in India (there was only one open flight into India in the course of a month), so we were only able to visit Hanoi during our five-day stay. After Cambodia, Hanoi felt like paradise! It's actually referred to as the "Paris of the East," due to its charming winding streets, peaceful green park along the lake, and outdoor cafés and restaurants. We got a beautiful Parisian-style hotel room for all of $15 U.S. Best of all, the comfort of Hanoi comes with an equal amount of exoticism: Hanoi's streets are lined with women wearing umbrella-shaped hats carrying baskets full of fish and vegetables balanced on wooden poles over their shoulders; women crouching in alleyways smoking fish on spits; men working at make-shift barber shops on the sidewalks or selling everything from bootleg books to birth control. They would approach Will on the street and say things like:
"You big strong man... you want condoms?" Or, "You want moped?"
"No, thanks," we'd respond.
"Oh... OK," they'd reply... "You want opium?"

We whiled away our five days relaxing in cafés, eating great Vietnamese food mixed with the occasional tuna croquet or croissant, dodging thousands of motorbikes as we toured the streets, and getting some Vietnamese culture at the water puppet theater, which was an elegant display of Vietnamese music, traditional costumes, artistry, and folklore.

Our trip to Vietnam was far too short, and we're sad to have missed wonders like Halong Bay and the Vietnamese countryside. But, on the bright side, we serendipitously left Hanoi early, two weeks before the SARS outbreak hit the city.

We're already planning our next trip back to this stunning country.

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