Hanoi is hectic. It is loud and congested. Through out the day traffic is crazy, everyone is out on the streets selling, buying or hustling and you can here the buzz from the phone wires about your head all day long. Why is this a reason to love Hanoi? The city just seems so alive. It seems so intense.
South East Asia is just intense. Their seems to be, on the surface, no order. No rhyme or reason. I would assume to function it must have something controlling it. But walking around, absorbing it, you wouldn’t know.
So aside from the utter chaos that can be SEA here are a few more reasons why I am in love with Vietnam.
1) THE HISTORY
Generally my main reason for visiting a place always centers around the history. Our past with this country makes it interesting enough alone. Whether it is how America perceives Vietnam or its own long journey to freedom it is an incredible country to learn about. Head there with no preconceived notions or read up on how the country became what it is today. Learn as much as you can about Ho Chi Minh, the still beloved deceased leader.
2) STREET FOOD.
I mean this really should be number one. Food is always my number one. I wrote here about all the yummy things I ate while in Hanoi. Food is a big part of all cultures but the vibrant flavors and interesting street food scene make Hanoi what it is. You could spend hours eating on the street for so cheap. It is easy to sample things from various stalls. Which leads me to number 3.
3) ITS SO CHEAP.
This is not specific to Vietnam. Most of SEA is incredibly cheap and that is a great reason to visit. You can stay in a hostel for about 5-7$ a night, street food is incredibly cheap. You could get a bowl of Pho Bo and a beer for about 3$. This makes spending a large chunk of time here easy because it won’t break the bank.
4) CAFE CULTURE.
Thanks to the heavy French influence Vietnam is the only country in SEA with a love for coffee and cafes. You can’t throw a rock without hitting somewhere that sells Vietnamese coffee and offers a place to sit. I love coffee, it comes second to food and maybe sometimes trumps it. Vietnamese coffee is delicious. Hanoi has a coffee that is specific to its city. Egg Coffee. It is coffee, egg and condensed milk. Although I prefer my coffee to not be sweet this is a treat. Definitely try it when in Hanoi.
Hanoi is perfectly located to explore the north in a timely manner. Experience the city for a few days and when it becomes too hectic head into the mountains. It is just a few hours by bus or train to spend time in Sapa. A not to miss region. Rollings rice fields, nature and sweeping vistas every corner you turn. Then take a 3 hour bus trip east and wind up in Halong Bay. Explore caves, go kayaking and swim in the water. All very different experiences and all easily accessible.
6) THE TRAFFIC
Maybe this is a weird one but it is something to be seen. Walking across the street is an experience you need to have. It will make any traffic jam at home seem inconsequential. Hanoi traffic puts New York traffic to shame. Walking out into a sea of motorbikes and watching them part so fluidly is quite exhilarating.
I love haggling. It can be exhausting but it is so much fun. You can get great deals and it feels a bit like a game. Things are already so cheap that it often does not need to go on for long. I also got the cutest dress in a shop there for less then 5 US dollars! Major score.
There are so many things to love about Hanoi but these are the ones that stand out most for me. Have you been to Hanoi? What are some of your favorite things?