After boarding a plan in Osaka my friend Yuko and I were on our way to Vietnam. I was too tiered and cold to have any emotions about moving away from a place that was my home for almost 2 years. We landed in the hot and sticking Hanoi Airport, 7 hours later than anticipated due to flight delays. Luckily we had booked a hotel and arranged an airport pickup so we could go right to the hotel and sleep. Hanoi is a crazy city to say the least. We stayed in the old quarter where the streets were narrow and filled with motor bikes. Most of daily life in Vietnam seems to take place on the sidewalks, so there’s little room for actually walking around. I loved the energy of the city and the way that things still functioned in the seemingly chaotic environment. After coming from the hyper-organization of Japan this was incredibly refreshing.
Yuko and I took an overnight cruise through Halong Bay. In case you aren’t familiar its a bay in the northern part of the country with over a thousand islands and dramatic sheer cliff faces. While we were there, we only had about 15 minutes of clear sunny skies but the fog added to the mysterious atmosphere.
While in the lovely city of Hoi An, we participated in another typical Vietnam tourist activity, ordering tailored clothes. There’s places all over SE Asia, but Hoi An is one of the most famous, there’s over 300 different tailor shops. I got boots and a couple sun dresses custom made. That’s the kind of thing that really classy people do, not dirty backpackers. I enjoyed the couple hours of feeling classy. We actually extended the classy day and went to a spa later on. (The boots, dresses, pedicure, and massage combined were all less than what I spent on my last pair of boots.)
We finished our Vietnamese trip in Ho Chi Minh city, my favorite city in the country. It was more modern than Hanoi but that also meant it was more open. There was just as much happening on the sidewalks but with the extra sidewalk space that meant more room for walking. There were several museums, exhibits, tours, and memorials for the Vietnamese war. After going to Hiroshima it was American guilt part 2. We went to the Cu Chi tunnels, a preserved area of the tunnel system used by the Vietcong. Although there were many instances with anti-American propaganda, it was also interesting to hear about the war through the other side’s perspective.
There were also moments when the communist side of the country became apparent. There seemed to be military or government buildings everywhere surrounded by security, loads of propaganda art along the road, and Ho Chi Minh’s burial site was interesting. It would have been interesting to speak to more vietnamese people to get a better idea of what life is like in the country.
After I said a tearful goodbye to the amazing Yuko I began my solo travel for the last few days of Vietnam. I met rad people right from the beginning in my hostel and we set off exploring the city.
My favorite part about Vietnam was the street life. Everything seemed to be happening on the streets/sidewalks. The best places to eat always had plastic stools on the sidewalk for seating. One night while looking for a place to eat dinner we had trouble figuring out what places were families just eating dinner outside their home or a restaurant. People and motor bike watching kept me entertained for hours. It was a delight to just sit back with an iced coffee or beer and watch the rest of the world go by.
10 days was not enough time in Vietnam. I could have easily spent a month there. I only spent 1 day at the beach and would have loved to stay more. I felt like I only got a taste of each of the cities I went to and there were many many more places/ treks and trips that I would have loved to go on. I would recommend Vietnam to any and everyone, its lively, fascinating, beautiful, and really really cheap.