The moment I took my first bite of pho in Vietnam, I knew I made the right decision in coming here. Even though my original plan was to go explore Thailand for a whole month, 2.5 weeks later I felt I needed a change of scenery. I had tremendous fun in Thailand and loved my time there, but in the end Thailand was a little too tourist dominated for me. I wanted an escape from all the planned excursions and bars geared towards younger audiences, and many travelers I met shared the same sentiments.
So when I felt ready I set off to Hanoi in northern Vietnam, the second largest city in Vietnam, and discovered a whole new culture. In general I noticed the locals here are not as smiley as the Thais, but they are just as friendly in a more bashful way. English is not as widely spoken here but hand gestures and smiles have gotten me far. Aside from the crazy taxi drivers at the airport, no one here has tried to scam me or pressure me to buy anything. The other travelers I’ve met here also seem to have a different mindset as the ones I met in Thailand, we’re all here in search of a more unique experience.
I didn’t know what to expect at all in Vietnam, but so far it had exceeded all expectations. The scenery here, the traffic, the streets are amazingly compact. Picture twenty mopeds all going in different directions with cars and people trying to squeeze by. It’s all chaotic but in a fascinating kind of way. And the food here is ugh- AMAZING! Noodles, pho, broth, spring rolls, coffee, seafood, fresh juices, I can go on forever.
The Old Quarter, which is the main part of town in Hanoi is delightfully intricate. I got lost quickly on my first day here because the streets are were so maze like. It’s a labyrinth of coffee shops, juice bars, hostels, shops with dried goods, clothes, restaurants filled with little plastic chairs and more. All the streets started to look the same after awhile. My eyes and ears literally could not take everything in all at once, and I’m from New York City.
On my second and third day I decided to take a trip to Halong Bay, which is one of the world’s (seventh? eighth?) wonders. I was a little hesitant at first because I was afraid it would be another tourist trap, but I have no regrets. The boat, the mountains, the stars, the water, and the people that I met there were all so wonderful. I met people from Georgia, Seattle, different parts of U.K, Poland, Denmark and Australia.
After my trip to Halong Bay, I enjoyed another full day in the Old Quarter. I discovered a cafe with umbrellas as roofs, I discovered .25 cent beer, I discovered the best pho in the world and a new type of noodle called soya, which I’ve never seen in the Vietnamese restaurants back home.
At my new hostel, I also met lots of other solo travelers, which was nice because we all understand what it’s like to travel alone and keep each other company. We also swapped a lot of good tips and advice with each other. Before coming into the hostel I had fears of insanely obnoxious or dirty roommates, but all I’ve met were polite, clean and reasonable roommates and friendly hostel staff members. I don’t know if this is all luck of the draw or what but I hope it continues.
Well I can probably go on but the sweltering heat is sucking up all my energy. Time to pack and head to my next destination!
Enjoy the pics!