Old Friends, New Friends, and Hanoi

Hanoi Travel Blog

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In my last entry I talked about how much I loved Hanoi but for all its character and charm, what I truly love about Hanoi and Vietnam in particular are its people.  Hanoians (I doubt this is the correct term but I will use it anyways for lack of a better word.) get a lot of flack particularly in the south of Vietnam.   I've heard too many times that they are uptight or rough around the edges and I came to Hanoi expecting this the first time. In fact, after visiting China I was almost certain that this would be the case. But what I came expecting and what I walked away with were two entirely different things as I think is often times the case with traveling.  Expectations, both good and bad, are almost never right; What you think you know or what somebody tells you that you should know inevitably become the basis of many surprises.  Throwing out those expectations has been the highlight of my time traveling over the last several months.

Due to the circumstances of my last trip through Vietnam, I know people in Hanoi. Some of whom I will feel indebted to for the rest of my life and who I consider to be close friends. A large part of why I chose to fly back into Hanoi where I have already been rather than start in Saigon was that I wanted to see these people. They are the reason I came back to Hanoi and the reason I will continue to come back to Hanoi in the future. What makes traveling special is not the sights you see or the places you go but the people you meet along the way. In  the future, I may very well barely remember some of the locales I visited in these countries but the places I will always remember are tied to people and faces.

 In Hanoi and the surrounding northern part of the country, we saw The Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ha Long Bay, Sapa, West Lake, Bat Trang, Le Mat, Huong Pagoda, Mai Chau and others. They were great but I remember all of them dearly for different reasons. I remember the Temple of Literature because of it's the first place Nhat took us upon my return to Hanoi. I remember her frustrated attempts at trying to explain concepts to us about the location and the laughter we shared in trying to figure out what we meant when we talked to each other. I remember Le Mat not because of the snake dinner (which in of itself was quite memorable) but because it is the place we got to know Nhat and her friend Huyen better and the disgusted looks Huyen and I shared as Nhat and Trevor finished off the snake in delight. And I remember Bat Trang because of the smile on Huyen's face as we acted like little kids and attempted to create our own cups on the pottery wheel only to end up with more clay on our clothes than in the cup. (Side note: We ultimately did succeed but are waiting to see if they actually stay together after coming out of the oven.) All of these people and many others are what made Hanoi and Vietnam great. They are what made parts of China great. And it is what will make any country great.

This entry is dedicated to Nhat who held my hand as I cried and got a cast put on my leg and who's knowledge of the culture and locations of Hanoi is surpassed only by her willingness to share it with me; To Michael and his family at the Hello Vietnam Hotel for treating me like I was just another part of the family; To Hub who's name I am sure I spelled wrong for the beer we shared this time, for helping to get me back to Hanoi after I wrecked my motorcycle in the mountains the last time and for trusting me enough to rent a motorcycle to me again; To the family in the alley near Thanh Ha who invited me in to have dinner with them because the place I was trying to eat at was closed already; And lastly to Huyen for her infectious smile, the time spent together, and for being the person that has made the entire trip worth the cost of coming back to Vietnam.

I've been in Hanoi for a week this time and so many people have told me that I am staying too long already but still, I am sad to go. Don't make the mistake so many travelers do and rush from one location to the next trying to see every tourist site you can before heading off on your open ticket bus to the next city.

Remember, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses.

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1,790 km (1,112 miles) traveled
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photo by: mario26