We Are Hanoi-ed That We Have to Leave

The last two days. How crazy is that? Though the thought of being home tomorrow seems unimaginable, we are forced to use every minute of our remaining time in Vietnam to soak in the beautiful country. The topic I researched prior to taking the trek around the world was the concept of food in Vietnam. Everyday has been an opportunity to explore the edible delights, from street food to beautiful restaurants with set menus featuring upwards of ten courses. Today, however, was a special occasion as we were introduced to a Hanoian only delicacy. This fish-sauce/broth/soup dish called Bun Cha was a delicious warm meal after a cold day of traveling. Adding the fresh basil, lettuce, garlic, and peppers to the already hearty bowl left all the students full and warm. Not to mention that Bun Cha Dan Kim, the restaurant serving the meal, was recommended by the New York Times as the best place for Bun Cha in Hanoi.

In addition, we visited a modern factory that focuses on embroidering clothing and binding paper. This was much different from the candy and pottery factories we visited in the Mekong Delta because instead of making everything by hand, this factory uses computers and large machines. It was very interesting to compare these factories and observe modernization and change taking place in an entrepreneurial setting in Vietnam. It is such a small world because a 2014 Luther alumni's family actually owns this factory! It was a great surprise because I had the opportunity to eat dinner with this family last night. They were very welcoming and excited to share the Luther experience with us. They surprised our whole class with a Luther Norse embroidered patch that we actually got to watch the machines make right in front of us. So awesome!

During the tour of the factory, we learned that they have been in business for 22 years, and most of their products are sold to the United States and Europe. They have around 60 employees aging between 25-40 years, and most of them live in the countryside. The tour guide told us that it is hard to find workers because this factory does not pay as much as a higher risk factory job. Depending on the amount of orders that come in, employees are paid between 3-6 million Vietnamese dong a month. This is appropriately $120-240. I now have a new respect for these workers that make products that I often take for granted. I am happy we got the chance to see all of the hard work that happens behind the scenes.

Tonight is going to be yet another treat. As we begin to say our “farewells” we join with a group of 25 Luther alumni who are touring Vietnam and Cambodia for two weeks. They are lucky enough to be led by our fearless tour guide, Lan Anh. Finding a location to fit 60 people for dinner is going to be hard enough of a task. Going through the city, seeing heads turn by a large group who stick out like a sore thumb has been fun to witness, and I can only imagine what this restaurant is going to do. All of us are very excited to meet the Luther alumni’s, as well as tell them of our adventure thus far.

Norse embroidery at the factory
Lunch with Selena and Brooke eating Bun Cha