Sitting down to look at my pictures of Vietnam I am at a loss of words as of how to describe my feelings about the country. I think the best description is to say that I am in love with Vietnam. Not the cheesy I love this city, but the type of love you reserve for something special in your life. Vietnam changed me as a person. It changed what I value and what I want out of my life. As an America’s I often think life is better with more, that additives are always the solution to a problem. I value people with more things, more money, more power, but often I struggle with deep personal insecurities. Vietnam showed me that sometimes happiness comes from less, and what should be valued is love, family, and small pleasures. I’ll stop as I could talk about this for ages. I both want to show pictures and at the same time do not as I am very protective of my experiences and worry my pictures aren’t doing the beautiful country justice.
Hanoi was the first city we visited and I was swept up in emotions from the moment I walked off the plane. Having never visited a non-developed country I was completely over whelmed, people are walking on the highway and traffic laws are non-existent. However with in minutes the excitement and rush of the city took me in. The Vietnamese are beyond welcoming- their happiness is contagious and it is easy to feel at ease in a sea of smiles, delicious food, and beautiful people. My husband and I towered over the Vietnamese, who are tiny people. Our pale skin should have made us outsiders. However both of us agree that we felt like we belonged. The Vietnamese are practical people with a love of rice, soup, coffee, sweet drinks, the mix of sweet and sour and of sun protection, all of my favorite things in the world.
Hanoi is an incredible city filled with amazing street food, markets, and vibrant people. The city transforms over different hours in the day. At 3am, (yes I was still doing that fun 3am wakeup) the city is silent with workers grabbing Pho for breakfast at the local stands, but by 7am the city is overrun with motorbikes honking, roasters crowing, and markets and shops doing daily business.
Vietnam is a food paradise with street food that can rival three star Michelin restaurants. French café culture takes a plastic stool variation here and it is easy to waste the day moving from coffee to Pho at different cafes.
While it is impossible to describe the city in any real detail- look up and you see a maze of electrical wire, look ahead and a swarm of motorbikes is merging. Watching the motorbikes was one of my favorite activities. As there are very few cars, motorbikes are the primary form of transportation. Unique solutions to safety problems win out; babies are placed in the middle of a couple. Women in skirts ride the bike sidesaddle. Staying pale is valued so despite the heat, the Vietnamese wear sweatshirts, gloves, socks, and facial protection on their bikes.
Happiness is infectious and seeing people dancing at a park at 6am will change your perspective for years to come.
*It is impossible to give restaurant recommendations in Hanoi, my general guideline would be don’t eat anywhere that has seats over 8 inches high.