Off to Vietnam

vtn hanNext destination:
(The Socialist Republic of) Vietnam
Hanoi, population: ± 6.5 million
visa requirements: a passport with at least one month validity, a letter of approval for visa on arrival, arranged through at $15, $25 stamping fee, 1 photo
population: ± 91.5 million
capital: Ho Chi Mihn City / Saigon
language: Vietnamese, tiếng Việt
slogan: Timeless charm, also named The slumbering dragon
currency: dong, €1 = 20.000d

Day XXV – April 12

I’m on a plane. And it’s so cold I find use again for that sweater I’ve put away as soon as I arrived to Asia about a month ago.
It almost feels like a commercial break, an intermezzo; and when I land it’s Part II: Free Falling Vietnam.

When I exit this tiny plane, there’s nothing of the heat and rubber I crashed into when I first entered Bangkok Airport. It’s calm and quiet.
I hand over a photo, $25 stamping fee and the letter of approval that I received over mail. I get another pretty set of new stamps and am pointed to the exit. A sweet smell and a pleasant temperaturer welcome me into Vietnam.

Travelling alone may be tiresome at times, but it also gives me a sense of pride; I did it again, all on my own, I got this far without major damage. My life and the road I walk is all mine. Nobody is telling me what to do. And sure I get some occasional help, but I am doing this, just me.

It’s a little wait for the airport-minivan-service to fill up before we leave to go into Hanoi. The sky is an angry shade of grey and there is a threat in the wind, but the trees reveal a very sparky green.
Once fully packed we drive out of the dull airport-area and the colour of the sky stays the same, but the brightness of the fields is almost too much to look at. The houses are so colourful, and many neon lights brighten the highway.
The whole hour it takes us to pass the 35 km into the city, little stalls are lined up alongside it everywhere, selling baguettes, pineapples, lottery tickets and I don’t know what not. People are walking or on bicycles, but mostly on moto’s, zigzagging up and down between the cars. For the amount of vehicles taking part in this traffic jam, it moves extremely fast.

crowded hanoi
It’s around 6 pm when we stop at the old quarter. I join the Swedish brother and sister that were cramped in next to me on the minivan, on hostelhunt, so I won’t have to enter this craze all on my own. It seems like every inch of this town is moving and buzzing.
The moment we’ve checked in with Hanoi Backpacker, they say goodbye – there weren’t enough beds to put us in the same room. They probably have a lot of catching up to do anyway, only just being reunited.
I try some of the crowd sitting in the front, in that cozy looking alley. But I guess I was just very lucky at Spice Laos; no one really responds here…
So I set out alone, looking for some dinner. I’m so hungry I go into Joma’s for a bagel egger – boring! (but tasty!) Tomorrow I’m sitting down with a streetvendor, promise!

As crowded as it was on the highway, it is in the city. It’s true what they say about Vietnamese traffic; it’s absolute madness! The moto’s are everywhere, honking continuously, like a sort of orchestra. The buzz of this town is so loud!
But just relax and move at your own tempo; I’ve already learned it actually is the only way to move at all through this constant coming and going.
4mil dong And they’re just as fanatical in their sales-techniques; everywhere there’s people pressing you to buy one thing or another.
Don’t feel upset if ‘no’ doesn’t work right away, just keep walking.

Vietnam seems to be much more in a rush than the Asia I saw before. It is excitement all over.

I see a few travelagencies still open just now, at 8.30pm, but I decide I’ll start booking tomorrow and take the night off.

“I have to say the Vietnamese dong is the most beautiful dong I have ever seen.”
“I have to go pull out some dong.”
“Do you need me to hold your dong for you?”
“Wow, you’ve got a whole lot of dong in your pants!”
And you can just keep whipping out those dong-jokes; great stuff!

I’ve been strolling the streets and just got up to this little rooftop bar in a creaking old house, so very charming! Down in the narrow street there’s the immutable busslte. But up here I sit safely tugged out of sight behind a tree of electric wire connecting to the whole rest of this huge city, that could almost feel like a small old town. Have you seen the movie Tekkoninkreet? I feel like I’m in it.

rooftop bar hanoi
The image of home is slowly fading. I still can picture it, it’s just – the more this place has become real to me, the more I went head under in Southeast Asia; the more my connection to home is lost.
I still feel like talking to them, but somehow the time difference and bad internet connections keep messing that up.
And then they ask “How is everything, is it amazing?!” And I’m like “Yeah…” But I can’t explain it, the way I’m feeling it right now.
And thus the gap between home and me grows, and the dissociation sets in.
I don’t even know how I feel about that boy any more. I hope to catch him when I go online. But when I do, I don’t know what there is to talk about. And I’m sure it will be great to see him again, but right now I can’t imagine that moment – like I could so clearly before.

The evening ends early and uneventful.
So many people roam the streets, but I don’t find a connection tonight. It’s been a lonely day, emphasised by the many crowds and long distance I’ve exceeded.
But it’s ok to be lonely at times. Besides, I’m too tired to bother.
So I retreat to my bunkbed, crawl onto my luxuriously thick mattress and under my nice fresh white linen.

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