Back in Hanoi Vietnam
Despite popping some Ambien mid-flight, I had barely slept during the 32 hours of traveling it took for my to get from New York City to Hanoi. My hotel got me into my room when I had arrived at noon, but too tired to even nap, I decided to just wander the streets after an hour of staring at the ceiling. I headed West, towards Hoan Kiem Lake and the center of the tourist district. I had no destination in mind and nothing I needed to do until hopping an overnight train to Sapa the next evening.
Even in such a semi-enamored and oblivious state, it felt good to be back in Hanoi and engrossed in the Southeast Asian chaos again. To me, Asian cities just feel more free and uninhibited than other places. Shops and restaurants spill into the tree-lined streets along their entire lengths forcing pedestrians into the road. It’s a never ending sea of people while relentless car horns enamor or disenchant one’s eardrums. Women with woven baskets across their shoulders and men with old wooden pushcarts weave in and out of the swarms of motorized traffic. Gleaming modern buildings sit next to ancient stone ones. And the air is filled with scents, for better or worse, that change with every step. I had been walking through midtown Manhattan just thirty-odd hours before, but Asian cities just have a different and enjoyable energy to them.
Hanoi is a chaotic circus and I couldn’t help but to think back to my first impressions less than a year ago. Honestly, it had been really intimidating. Now, it felt more liberating. Stepping into a street with a sea of motorbikes bearing down on me wasn’t startling. Three street vendors converging on me at once to hawk their shitty trinkets wasn’t as much of an annoyance as it was sheer entertainment. And sitting down on a tiny blue plastic stool on the sidewalk to have a beer served out of what was possibly someone’s home, just seemed normal. I guess I knew what to expect this time around and I had been there. And I don’t mean physically been there, but I had culturally been there and it made endless wandering easier.
By using Hanoi as my hub for overnight trains, I ended up spending three days just wondering the city, purposefully getting lost. Again.