Saturday, September 03, 2005

The 4th of July on Sept 2nd

Golden Bull Hotel - Hanoi, Vietnam

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh's declaration of Vietnamese independence - a speech that quoted directly from a similar American declaration. There was a big parade near Ho's masoleum at a surprisingly early hour. It seems that civic events kick off at the crack of dawn here. Needless to say, we were not out of bed in time for the official ceremony.

Jarah and I spent the better part of the morning getting together our costumes. In the spirit of Vietnamese patriotism, we went for a flag-heavy theme. With a little elbow grease and a judicious application of tape, we each attached 4 Vietnamese flags in a roughly symmetric formation atop some oh-so-local pointy straw hats. Matching yellow star t-shirts completed the outfit. I will link to one of the numerous pictures as soon as they are uploaded. Suffice to say, we looked like unusually dorky (but enthusiastic) Western tourists.

We spent most of the afternoon walking around looking for some sort of Independence Day celebration, eating, and drinking beer. It was not until the evening that things started to get going around Hoan Kiem Lake - the heart of Hanoi. There were several stages set up for musical acts, but it seems that the rapidly increasing number of people were largely drawn by the promise of a fireworks display later that night.

Our costuming efforts proved to be an even bigger hit than expected. Just about everyone that saw us gave some combination of a smile, a laugh, a hello, or a pat on the back. Lots of locals wanted to wear the hats, have their picture taken with us, or strike up a conversation. If we stopped walking for even a minute, we were quickly surrounded by people. I reckon they expected some sort of clown show and I did my best to oblige. It was easy to get a laugh, especially out of kids. They think everything that foreigners do is funny. Add a silly hat and you have a recipe for hilarity.

After awhile, all the attention went from fun to akward, to annoying. More and more people were piling into the streets around the lake and it was becoming increasingly difficult to move. Packs of young men were shoving their way through the crowd. The occasional brave soul would knock over my hat from behind. People were even grabbing my ass. I was sweating heavily, hot, and getting hotter. I found myself not returning smiles, shoving back, and threatening people out loud (in English). It was time to get some space. Much to my relief, we quickly got a bit away from the mob to where we could have a bottle of water and some personal space.

Jason and Jarah headed back into the fray to see the fireworks. I opted to go around the long way back to the hotel to avoid the crowds. I did not feel normal again until I ditched my sweat-drenched clothes and took a cold shower. It was a lot of fun clowning around in the steets, but I did not account for the effects of high heat and persistent and unescapable attention. The locals liked our attempt to bring a bit of July 4th to September 2nd, so I reckon it was a worthwhile outing. And best of all, we got our picture on page 4 of the "Quan doi nhan dan" newspaper - the mouthpiece of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Hau said...

Jason,
A quick translation for you white boyz...
The caption states
"Foreign guests celebrate Vietnam's independence day with great enthusiasm. News & picture by Quang Phuong."

9/07/2005 3:17 AM gmt

 
Blogger jason said...

Thanks for the translation, Hau. We got our hotel guy to do it for us, but I was a little worried that he was purposely mis-translating it. It's nice to have some independent verification.

9/09/2005 6:49 AM gmt

 

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