I made my first to visit Hanoi Vietnam in 1997 to visit some of our customers. I was working for Paramount Export Company and we had started to ship California table grapes and Washington apples from the United States to Vietnam. When I arrived in Vietnam, I learned that my luggage was left behind in Bangkok where my flight originated from. One of our customers picked me up from the airport and took me to the hotel to check in. As soon as I opened the door to my room, I could hardly see inside because there were so many mosquitos. This coupled with my lost luggage almost brought me to tears. The hotel staff told me they would take care of this while I went out to dinner. When I returned later that evening, the mosquitoes were all gone but there were 2 large geckos on the wall. I became panicked and asked the hotel staff to kill them. They refused explaining the geckos were harmless and would eat the mosquitos and insects. That night I slept very little as I left the light on in my room so I could keep my eyes on those geckos.
The next morning, our customer took me to the wholesale produce market to see where our fruit was being sold. As we walked through the entire market, I was met with stares as it wasn’t often a Westerner had visited them. As we made our way through the different stalls, a large crowd of people accumulated and began to follow us. I started to get anxious as I didn’t understand their curiosity. I was tired from the lack of sleep the night before. In addition, my luggage still had not arrived, so I was feeling irritable. Out of nowhere, this female policeman appeared and gave me a Non-La (the traditional Vietnamese cone hat I am wearing in the photo). She was smiling and began to speak to me in Vietnamese with such animation on her face. I had no idea what she was saying except she was so amusing that I began to laugh. I asked her if she would take a picture with me and she made an exception Later, I was told they are not allowed to have their photographs taken with civilians while they are wearing their uniform.