Hanoi: A Year in Review


The Adventure begins


I arrived in Hanoi a year ago. After dealing with the stress and excitement of deciding to move away, of putting things on hold in Montreal to fulfill my dream of living and traveling in Asia, I was finally here. Twenty-seven hours later, with stopovers in Chicago and Tokyo, I stepped outside the Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and breathed in the humid summer night air. Asia. Haha, well Asia is a big place. I was here. Vietnam.

It’s so funny how you can try to picture a place or an event before it happens, but then when you get there, you realize that you weren’t even close to imagining what things would be like. The reality is so different, so… real. When I arrived in Hanoi, everything at first was a blur. I had that lost feeling, the overwhelming of the senses, motorbikes rushing past, another language being shouted, smells, tastes, sounds all rushing and swirling around me. I couldn’t keep track of anything. Information my roommates would give me, street names, how to say things… Everything I was taking in had newness to it, bringing with it feelings of excitement, amazement and at times, fear of the unknown.

At first it was all about exploring and learning about my new home. One of my favourite things to do was to ride on the back of my roommate’s motorbike, watching life in Vietnam speed past. Every restaurant was a new discovery of different dishes and smells: bún đậu mắm tôm (fried tofu with noodles, fresh herbs and fermented shrimp paste) nem (fried spring rolls, Vietnamese style), chè (coconut milk with various ingredients, like beans, fruit and jellies), chè trôi nước (hot che: a coconut soup with rice balls filled with soy and black sesame seeds) nước mía (sugarcane juice), phở dishes (rice noodles served in various ways), chả cá (fried fish, noodles and herbs), vegetable dishes and tofu. (Hanoi has the best tofu, and everyone eats tons of it, fried and prepared with different vegetables and spiciness). And so it went, everywhere I looked, there was something new to see. Every conversation led to a better understanding of the world I was discovering. Every meal eaten made me feel like I was one step closer to becoming more a part of Vietnam.


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