The mist-shrouded border gates of Vietnam provided a fitting welcome to a mysterious and exotically vibrant country. The food, the noise, the curious faces, all serve to add richness to this beautiful landscape hugging the shores of the South China Sea, surrounded by China to the north, land-locked Laos on the west, and Cambodia on its southwestern foot.
It’s hard to describe a country like Vietnam. Anyone who visits it will have their own experience, possibly miles away from what I experienced, but to be open to the experience, in whatever form it takes, lies the importance of travel and self-discovery.
This journey through Vietnam starts in the North.
Wending ones way through the crowded streets and alleyways of Vietnam’s northern capital is an exhilarating feat of survival and sensory gluttony. The millions (literally) of motorbikes weaving their way through traffic, food carts, trash and humanity itself create the backdrop to nearly every experience one has in Hanoi.
Watching pedestrians weave their way through them to cross the street sans traffic lights as we drank a steaming cup of rich, black vietnamese coffee (caphe den) safely tucked away in a cafe stories above the street.
Drooling as motorbikes laden with an impressive array of fresh fruits, boiled peanuts, soups, meats and mysterious culinary delights I may never again encounter drove down alleys that no cars could possibly fit through.
Listening to the erratic pops and whirs as I lay in my ten dollar per night bunk in the Old Quarter.
But, if a Vietnamese happens to be motorbike-less, they’ll hop onto the back of their friends or families. As I write this, a motorbike I once saw laden with a family of six wobbles its way through my memories as I watch in amazement with a sick sense of impending doom.
Hanoi, in spite of it’s gloomy shroud of pollution, is a city with a character all it’s own, and has worked its way into my heart as one of my favorite cities.