Impressions of Vietnam

Have you ever traveled to another country and left just a little heartbroken? Vietnam struck such a chord for me, in good ways and bad, during the 16 days we spent making our way down the country from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.  I had preconceived notions of what to expect: chaotic motorcycle traffic, amazing street food and crumbly sidewalks.  It was learning about the details of the 10 year Vietnam War (or American War as they call it) including the atrocities of the My Lai massacre & the victims of Agent Orange that treaded on my spirit.  For the first time I could contextualize what my family (who was living in Saigon at the time) along with all others had to endure through a decade long warfare. {Advice to those who plan on visiting the War Remnants Museum in Saigon: carve out time for a few cocktails afterwards.}

Street food Saigon steaming pot VietnamSaigon traffic street vendor

Present day Vietnam is more than the sum of its wars and tragedies. It’s remarkable to me how the people have moved on, focusing on the betterment of their future. Each of the areas we visited in Vietnam – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Saigon – embodied different attitudes and flavors but at its core, the tenacity of the people as a whole is especially incredible.  You only need to spend a morning at the Cu Chi tunnels – a network of tunnels over 200 km in length dug completely by hand using a small hoe and bamboo basket in order to evade GIs – outside of Saigon to see the very definition of determination.  I tried to brave going into the tunnel that’s been made a little wider for tourists and quickly popped back out when claustrophobia took hold of me – how they actually lived inside the tunnel for days at a time completely escapes me.Vietnamese man despairFaces of Vietnam elderly portraitMan with magnifying glass Saigon, VietnamUnsurprisingly, I loved the rhythm of Vietnam. The frenetic pace of the humid mornings contrasted so well with the breezier calm of the evenings when commerce is more or less on hold until the next day. Families gathered around on the floor of their living rooms with fans on and food on the table, doors flung wide open all for the outside world to peek right in. Architecturally I was fascinated to see just how varied it could be.  Hanoi, is home to some of the narrowest buildings I’ve ever seen.  Due to an old code that taxed people based on the width of their property you’ll find tall “tube” buildings that are usually only 2-3 meters wide.  The Old City in Hoi An shows a different trait with colorful rows of wider buildings some still bearing the designs influenced by Japan and China, the city’s trade partners in the 1600s.

Quan Thang, old house in the ancient city of Hoi An

Quan Thang, old house in the ancient city of Hoi An

I equally loved the colours and rough textures that painted the cities, very much like its people: worn and rough but beautiful all the same. People in Hanoi were not quick to smile, with the traces of war still etched on their faces whereas in Saigon the general attitudes are a touch lighter but still wary. What unfortunately is prevalent across the cities are the petty scams aimed at tourists. The Brit was approached by local men three different times where they attempted to “fix” his sandals with super glue without our solicitation. Apparently, with the “sandal scam” they will try to remove the sandals from your feet, quickly touch it up with glue then hold it hostage until you pay an unreasonable sum of money. I found it slightly amusing since we didn’t fall victim to it but apparently many others have!Trishaws Vietnam street scene

Colors of Vietnam street scenes

I’ll be working on a post soon detailing our itinerary with recommendations on hotels, attractions and restaurants.  In the meantime, here are some more captures on the scenes of Vietnam.

Turtle lake Ho Con Rua Saigon Vietnam

Hoi An riverside fishing net

Street food Vietnam marinated meatTree reflections Hoan Kiem lake Hanoi

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