Ha Noi, Vietnam

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Hanoi by day, during the walk to the hotel where the conference was held. Believe it or not there are stoplights, although sometimes it didn’t seem so…

Well now that I’ve been back for almost 2 weeks, I figure it’s about time to actually post about Vietnam (sorry). For those of you who haven’t been following, I was there for about a week earlier this month for the International Primatological Society Congress 2014- in other words, 7 days of scientists and conservationists talking about monkeys and apes. Official stats say there were about 900 people there, and it was the biggest conference ever held in Hanoi, which is pretty cool! I won’t talk too much about the conference itself other to say that it was great to see old friends, meet other people in the field and learn about the research and conservation efforts happening around the world.

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One of the good Vietnamese meals I had- noodles (“pho”) with beef, peanuts and mint leaves, all topped off with some really strong coffee!

Let’s talk Vietnam, shall we? Hanoi, the country’s capital, is in north Vietnam, about a 5 hour flight from Jakarta. It’s an interesting mix of Asian and European. Some parts of the city (especially around the hotel/conference area) seemed like any other America city, but other parts, especially the Old Quarter, were more traditional. Lots of small shops, food stalls and even a huge night market! Unfortunately it was also pretty touristy and there were lots of backpackers, so sometimes it was difficult to find authentic food and Vietnamese crafts that weren’t astronomically priced. Although it was nice to be able to walk down the street without being stared at or getting “Hello Mister!” shouted at you (something that definitely does not happen in most parts of Indonesia), it was also unfortunate to see the obvious effects of Westernization. Interestingly enough, though, many people did not speak much English. It was a little bit disconcerting for me to be in this part of the world and NOT be able to communicate, but that’s what I get for going outside of Indonesia and Malaysia!  Aside from the Old Quarter, some of the other cultural sites in Hanoi are Hoan Kiem Lake and the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Legend has it that there is a 6-foot long giant soft shell turtle living in the lake, a member of a critically endangered species with only four animals left in the world. Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to travel outside of Hanoi, but if I ever go back, seeing the Cat Ba langurs and Ha Long Bay will definitely be on my to-do list. Word on the street is that those are must-do experiences- next time!

Old Quarter of Hanoi at night

Old Quarter of Hanoi at night

Since I got back, it’s been go-go-go, with several grant applications to do, events to plan and help with, and a surprise (but very welcome!) visit from Richard and Robin of Orangutan Outreach. This weekend is really the first opportunity I’ve had to catch a breath and catch up! And as America wakes up, I’m off to find some dinner. Hmm, I think I’ll have rice tonight…

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