Friday, July 23, 2010

Hanoi July 22-23

We left Seoul in the morning and flew four hours to Hanoi, where Clinton was attending an ASEAN meeting.

I haven't been here for at least 10 years, and am glad to see that it hasn't been totally changed the way, say, Beijing has. It looks bigger, and more prosperous, but they still have the lovely French Colonial buildings. And it seems like a city with a healthy street life -- people hanging out at makeshift curbside cafes, riding on motorbikes with their babies on their backs, etc.

The meeting itself has been pretty dull. We went to see Clinton sign a new agreement with Vietnam on PEPFAR AIDS funding, at a temple that takes care of HIV-positive children. And since then we've been pretty much locked up in the main convention center (a pretty impressive building with a great, wave-patterned roof) while all the meetings take place behind closed doors.

We went out as a group last night for dinner -- fantastic food. Delicious grapefruit salad (hard to describe), good fish, pork ribs. The picture is of the appetizer plate, fashioned into a kind of bird. It was all about presentation with everything coming in gourds and melon rinds that were elaborately carved.

It's a little frustrating to be stuck here and unable to go out and really look around Hanoi again. But it makes me want to come back (maybe go to a cooking school for a while!), so that is something for the future.

Tonight we head back -- 22 hours -- via military bases in Japan and Alaska, until get back to DC at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday. I'm ready.