My arrival to Vietnam was anything but graceful. I tripped and fell completely on my face the moment I stepped off the plane; waited in the wrong line for my visa upon arrival; went into the men’s room by mistake only to be screamed at by a very disgruntled gentlemen; couldn’t get money out of the ATM; got scammed by my taxi driver; and arrived at my hostel to find the lobby had been transformed into a spring break-esc club, filled with a bunch of kids on one mission for the night… Overwhelmed to say the least and with my birthday approaching in minutes, I found comfort in a familiar face. I met back up with my friend Eric. We went out and celebrated the big 2-5 in classic form. We were known to cut up the rug a little back in the day, and I think our moves have only gotten better with age. I have a feeling 25 will be a good year.
Hanoi is by far the craziest place I’ve ever experienced. With about 7.5 million people and 5 million motorbikes zipping around, it’s a miracle I made it out alive. Cross walks are a waste of paint – don’t expect anyone to stop for you. Red lights are optional, usually they opt to blow through them. There appears to be no traffic rules and a blatant disregard for human lives. The sidewalks are comprised of 40% parking spaces for the millions of motorbikes, 40% outdoor seating for restaurants, 18% retail space for a multitude of unnecessary junk and 2% walking space (if you’re lucky).
If you don’t get a headache from the air pollution with the amount of exhaust in the air, you will be sure to get one from the excessive honking. Everyone is constantly laying on their horn to the point where they are canceling each other out and no one knows who is honking at who. If that isn’t enough to make you lose your mind, you can’t walk more than a few feet without someone hassling you to buy some random fruit or bracelet or handbag. Personal space is not a thing in Hanoi. I even had a man grab my foot mid-stride and try to superglue a broken strap on my sandal. Trying to navigate through that city was like being trapped in a game of frogger – constantly dodging scooters, cars and the overly aggressive saleswomen. I’ve been told Ho Chi Minh is worse…Lord help me if that’s true.
Due to all the reasons I just named, I didn’t really enjoy walking around Hanoi. It’s a shame because I usually love exploring cities, but this one was too much for me. I did stumbled upon a few balcony cafes that I enjoyed posting up at to journal and read while sipping on egg coffees (look it up) and where I could watch an somewhat enjoy the madness of this city from a safe distance.
Hanoi was filled with a lot of great authentic restaurants with delicious traditional Vietnamese food. We even tried chicken feet, not half bad. We also made our way to the restaurant that Anthony Bourdain took Obama to – got the ‘Obama Special’ – it was pretty damn tasty.
Despite my rants, Hanoi was a cool place to experience but I was ready to bid it farewell.
Spent my birthday posted up at this cafe on the lake, waiting out the rain.
Tiny outdoor seating. The particular one was actually on the more spacious side.
Steamy bowl of chicken feet.
Posted up at this cafe for 6 hours one day.
Active train track that runs through a narrow residential neighborhood.
One Pillar Pagoda – one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. It was built to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity.