The Deal Mommy

How I Made Hanoi Work for The Deal Kids

How I made

I wanted to give a follow up on my post about the Deal Kids getting Culture Shock in Hanoi and let you know how I handled our time there. I hope it will be helpful if you find your kids overwhelmed in their travels.

Thanks to Trevor who offered some great advice about how he and his wife managed Delhi- an overwhelming city, to be sure. He suggested hiring a private driver instead of visiting sites on our own.

I took a version of his advice by taking walking out of the equation: crossing the crowded, unpaved, at times 12 deep motorbike and taxi filled streets was a major source of stress for the Deal Kids. So I went taxi door to door, even if our site was close enough to walk to in a normal situation. Cabs in Hanoi start at 30 cents, so this was a decision I could make easily.

I also cut my expectations WAY back: I put one cultural activity on the agenda for the morning and one for the evening.  In the morning we visited the Temple of Literature, which at almost 1000 years old and as the first University in Vietnam I thought would have the most impact on the Deal Kids. It did- they especially noticed how different the architecture at the temple was from those in Japan. We also got to talk a bit about Confucius. Progress.

The evening activity was a no-brainer: the Thang Long Puppet Theater. The entire show is performed in waist deep water and is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. Must do, even if you don’t have kids. Tip: Buy tix direct from box office for 75% less than tour companies charge. After the show, we enjoyed homemade gelato in the shop next door. I recommend the Hibiscus.

And the afternoon? Well, we revisited the Hotel Metropole Cafe since it was already a hit (and I’m a fan of colonial architecture), we swam, and we one-upped the Deal Kids’ friends by seeing the Minions movie a day early.

Did I expect to see the Minions in Hanoi? No. But it helped smooth out the edges, gave us all something to laugh at, and the cab ride over, where the driver successfully navigated a (and I’m not joking here) 1 centimeter gap gave us a good story.

I guess my strategy here is: find the source of the most pain and cut it out as much as possible, then fit in what you can while adding in a bit of home.

And I was surprised to hear both Deal Kids disagree with me when I said Hanoi was a bit of a bust: Deal Girl immediately mentioned the Puppets and Deal Kid the Temple. So I guess I’m glad we came-and I am glad they had to stretch themselves a bit.

Deal Kid visibly relaxed as soon as we arrived in much quieter Hoi An-right about the time Deal Girl spiked a fever. The joys of family travel! Hopefully she’ll be ready to get out today- the pool here in Hoi An beckons.

How have your helped your kids over the culture shock hurdle?  Please share in the comments.

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14 thoughts on “How I Made Hanoi Work for The Deal Kids

  1. Jamie

    So glad things got better. Hanoi doesnt sound to me like it was a bust either. Glad the Deal Kids ended up enjoying it!
    We’ve honestly never had a culture shock emergency, not that I can recall at least. We’ve been pretty tame, but fun, places with the kids. Paris, England (visiting family), Japan, Austria, New Orleans.
    Actually, the biggest “culture shock” was when we took my two pony-and-princess-loving girls to stay in England with their two slightly older boy cousins. Dark comedy on TV and lots of teasing and physical playing in real life. It probably would’ve helped if I’d recognized it as culture shock at the time. Ice cream helped then just as it did for you in Japan. We also will spend all of our nights down at the holiday inn next time, rather than just some of the nights. Having a comfortable oasis (whatever your personal definition of that is) to retreat to at the end of the day helps fortify anyone for another day of experiencing a different culture.

  2. Travis

    We also saw the minion movie in HoChi Minh City the day it was released. We were there with our four kids. We live in Asia so not much culture stress. We did a few day trips out of there. Then we took a bus to cambodia and went down to the beach for four days. We were worried to do no pool but they enjoyed the beach and a little creek. They even collected 180 jelly fish (non stingy kind) the 7 year old was the one who loved this, and made stuff with them. We then jumped in with another family in a van we rented and drove 10 hours to Siem Reap. We took the next day slow and did the pool and ate. Went to Angkor wat that evening for an hour that was enough for them the next afternoon we did a few other things there. But we also do a lot of pools and ice cream or gelato. Last summer in Italy we did gelato 3x a day to get them from point A to point B. In Feb in Manila and Guam we used ice cream to keep them moving.

  3. Sfmom

    We’ve been to Paris, Croatia, Italy twice and most recently Korea, Japan and a corner of northwest China. But the worst culture shock we ever experienced was years ago in Manhattan – my daughter found the crowds and sounds overwhelming. I learned from that experience to not overdo the running around and always make our home base a quiet, relatively peaceful place to retreat to. She’s been fine since then, and loved NYC during our most recent visit.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      It’s funny you say that…I think the chaos was certainly a factor. Deal Kid definitely likes things on the orderly side…not that you’d know if you saw his room.

  4. Johnny Deal

    Really? Taxis door to door?? Crossing the streets, stepping into random cafe and pho/bun cha/ice creme shops is the charm of hanoi. Deal kids sound like their setting themselves up for a life of anxiety and Xanax if they were completely overwhelmed enough to be forced in a taxi door to door by a couple of nights in Hanoi.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Johnny,
      Some comments stand best on their own and say more about the commenter than the actual post.

      I’ll just mention that most 8 and 11 year olds haven’t left the USA. Forgive me for cutting my kids a bit of slack.

      1. Jamie

        At the risk of extending the conversation past its ideal stopping point…
        Less relevant than what most other kids do is the fact that your kids are traveling to a very different place. They aren’t sitting in the hotel room all day. The aren’t eating hamburgers served by a pirate. They are dipping their toes into the pool first and slowly making their way in. Some people like to take a cannonball into the deep end. Some people like to explore slowly and carefully. I have to say, you should be very pleased with your trip. It’s quite an adventure by any standard. Yes, your kids are at a very nice age for traveling with Mom, but still… you are touring Asia with your kids on your own. I see no reason to make things unpleasant due to some arbitrary standard of how people are supposed to travel. It’s supposed to be fun, and it sounds like that’s how it’s turning out. You should be proud of yourself and your kids. Sounds to me like you’re making some great memories.

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          Thanks, Jamie. Written as only a Mom can.

          There as post I need to write, but don’t necessarily want to because it will cause backlash, titled “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I can spot a comment by a non-parent a mile away, just as I’ve had my own biases challenged daily by writing this blog.

  5. BBD

    I remember taking my kids on a 7 week backpacking trip through SE Asia with Hanoi being the starting and ending point for the trip. They were 9 and 11 at the time and loved the experience. Definitely helped that we had been to India before so there wasn’t too much culture shock. Just tried to get them adjusted to the local time ASAP by being awake during the daylight hours and wore them out during the day so they would sleep well at night. Stayed in the old town, would go to the lake around dawn and people watch, and then look for some pho for breakfast. Walked the old streets, went to some markets and after dinner I would take them back to the lake for some ice
    cream. Went to Ha Long Bay for an overnight boat trip and then took the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then the mini bus to SaPa.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Yes…Hanoi after India would be a breeze. For my kids this was the first taste of any Developing World travel outside of Antigua, Guatemala (which is pretty sterile).

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