Happy 2018 everyone and all the best to those making their dreams come true! It has been a while since I’ve last written a post and so much has changed, for instance I am no longer in Canada as the title would suggest. Currently I’m traveling throughout South East Asia for reasons I will be withholding until I deem ready to share - for those who know keep it a secret please! As of now I have been in Hanoi, Vietnam for the past week exploring this beautiful city and oh boy do I gotta an experience I wanna share!
Today’s post is about a journey to Hai Phong with my new friend Hoang, who grew up in the town and moved to Hanoi to study hospitality to gain experience within the hotel industry. Right off the get-go we share a similarity in our field of studies with a focus on the lodging industry, the main difference however is his deep passion as mine is non-existent. We met on the streets of Hanoi where he was selling candy to fund his schooling and we crossed paths while exploring with my friend Maggie. Long story short Hoang and I exchanged information, leading to an arrangement where he would take me to his hometown as a guide to show me a true local Vietnamese experience! I got the opportunity to meet his family, explore his beautiful town and hike up the phenomenal Elephant Mountain!
Hai Phong is in the North East of Vietnam and took about an hour and a half bus ride from Hanoi. Comparing it to Hanoi it is nowhere near to being known as a tourist destination as I was the only visible foreigner in what seem to be the entire town. I have never been gazed at so much in my life by locals, but I just laughed it off cause looks don’t kill and it is pointless getting worked up over people just looking at you. If you travel and people look at you just mind your own business because you are in their territory.
The town itself was different from most that I have been to. I do not believe I did the best job in documenting the town, but reflecting on this now I can see where to improve! These photos provide a rough visual for what the streets of Hai Phong are like.
As you can see it is rural, however I’d like to point out there were a lot students with various schools throughout the town. I’d say the youth outnumber the elderly based on what I saw. Not something I commonly see when I travel so it was refreshing because when students starred they would laugh and smile, but the adults had a deep gaze into my soul.
Our main method of transportation was Hoang’s motorbike as he drove me around town and took me to his family for lunch. I have never had an experience where I sat down with a family and ate in accordance to their cultural traditions - we all sat around the food and ate together. In the center of us were large plates of food and we each took what we wanted to eat, the tradition here is sharing the food among everyone. Photographing while eating is rude, but after I could not miss the opportunity to photograph his family because these are the memories I want to remember until I drop!
Luckily, Hoang is practicing English because there is an obvious language barrier between myself and his family. He was my translator to communicate with people and he also tried to teach me a bit of Vietnamese! I gotta say I failed for the day, but I have not given up just yet! English is scarce within Hai Phong, but Hoang has a dream to change that by eventually teaching young students English as a measure to improve their lives. Throughout the day I tried to help Hoang improve his skills in the language by practicing pronunciation, structure and confidence - he is persistent in mastering English to enhance his experiences. He also helped my confidence by creating opportunities for myself to engage with local Vietnamese people by asking to take their photos and then saying something in his language.
The final part of our day was going to Elephant Mountain for a hike to the top for a spectacular 360 degree view of the region. The name of this mountain originates from the shape of the stone formation as it creates the head of an elephant. Words do not do justice and honestly speaking this is a destination that needs to be seen by your own eyes to fully understand its beauty. Hoang told me that his hometown is not known to tourists and it baffles me as this is what I believe tourists are looking for! The climb to the top is not difficult, but could be a bit scary for the faint heart. However, one thing that complimented the experience was the lack of tourists and adults because it allowed me to be to explore on my own accord and pace. I was the only tourist on the mountain while teens were hanging out after school.
All in all this has been one of the best travel
days I have experienced, and I do plan on coming back, but with more people.
The goal is to help improve Hai Phong’s name as a tourist destination by the
classic word of mouth because it has a lot to offer for tourists. If you are
going to Vietnam please go visit Hai Phong and embrace the culture from a perspective
that has had very little tourist influence before it is too late.
I hope my photos do some justice! If you are interested in
purchasing a print please contact me as all the proceeds will be donated to Hoang to help him fund
his schooling and live out his dreams. This concludes today’s blog post and I
really hope you enjoyed it! Do not forget to comment, like and share this post!
Until next time!
- Dominik Magdziak (: