Why I couldn't wait to leave Hanoi

Saturday, 19 August 2017



It’s true what they say…

Travelling changes you... each place that you visit, in a different way to the one before it.

I have lusted over the beautiful island of Koh Tao in Thailand and crushed on the rural areas of Ubud in Bali but one thing is for certain; I did NOT fall in love with the capital of Vietnam. I have never felt so uncomfortable and out of place as I did in Hanoi.

I kind of had an inclination that our experience in Vietnam was going to be different to that of our time in Thailand, when we were checking in the airport from Bangkok-Hanoi a few days previously. I understand that different cultures have different systems and values but I just have no time at all for rudeness and lack of manners. So before we even arrived in Hanoi, I was already over being constantly being barged into, stood on and pushed in front of in the non-existent queues. Not wanting to tar a whole nation with the same brush I still had high hopes for Hanoi, it’s the capital right?! 

The commercial buzz of a city bustling with so many new things to explore… I couldn’t wait.

We had our entire South East Asia trip booked before we left the UK so we already pre-paid the flights, accommodation and had a tight itinerary. We booked to stay in Hanoi for 4 nights, that’s 4 nights too many! 

Maybe a slight exaggeration as 1 night is essential for your transfer to Ha Long Bay.

After spending the most amazing 2 days on board the Paradise Luxury cruise sailing around Ha Long Bay, of which I cannot recommend enough, it felt like we had been dropped into a different dimension when we arrived in Hanoi.

I get it. We look different. A tall blonde girl and a pale ginger guy. Not your typical Asian look. 

The stares begun, but not like any other country where they stare in awe then move on. Staring, pointing, laughing and shouting what could only sound like obscenities in their native tongue. I hated it. I felt uncomfortable and it quickly became exhausting to glare back as I pretended it wasn’t getting under my skin.

As I am writing this I have been Vegetarian for 2 weeks now. If you know me you’ll know I love nothing more than a big juicy *double* burger or a steak and chips but after what I saw/smelt/experienced on the market in Hanoi something changed for me. Without going into too much detail, our hotel walked right out onto a very popular local street market, which stall after stall sold the capital’s delicacy… dog. Most of their other meat, duck, chicken, pork and beef is sat on display next to each other (sometimes even touching the veg) festering in the 36-degree heat all day. I’m not saying I won’t ever eat meat again, that wouldn’t be true and I’m sure as soon as I get to Melbourne all will be well, but in Vietnam… nope!

If you need to cross the road in Hanoi, just do it. This is similar for Bangkok but 1000x busier. The traffic has adapted to go around pedestrians when they are crossing. Once you start to walk, continue at the same pace the whole way across, don’t stop because if you do that’s when they will crash into you. This alone was exhausting enough every time we wanted to get anywhere. 

The noise of the horns, the heat, the smell and the complete filth of the streets just wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere, especially when it rained and dirty, slimy muck would splash up your legs.

I also appreciate that locals have to make a living and they do that from tourists, but being hassled 24/7 to the point where you’re made to feel like an intruder in their country for not investing in their wares is an awful experience.  Trying to get served anywhere is an effort in itself. I found that locals are served first regardless of if they walked in after you or not. I felt unwelcome through the whole trip and couldn’t wait to leave.

I suppose it wasn’t all doom and gloom as we did find some great places to eat during our stay. Shout out to Pizza 4ps and Chops for providing some much needed Western treats during our stressful trip. Pizza 4ps imports cured meats from Italy and Chops imports their beef from Aussie if you’re looking for some ‘safe’ meat options. And to Hanoi Social club and Lifted Coffee and Brunch for some great breakfasts!

Although I’ll never return, Hanoi changed my perspective on a lot of things and opened my eyes to the way different cultures live, so in a way I suppose I am glad I went.  Definitely don’t avoid the whole north of Vietnam as Ha Long Bay is certainly worth the trip, and I’ve heard Cat Ba is also very beautiful.

See, it’s not all sand between my toes, coconuts and tan lines on this trip. It’s a valuable life lesson from the Far East and one I will never forget.

If you’ve ever been to Hanoi I’d love to know how your experience was.

Love Luce x


2 comments:

  1. Wow so sorry you had such a terrible time. I'm Vietnamese/Chinese living in the US and I've been wanting to go to Hanoi forever. You're right, one thing I do not like about the Asian is that they never stand in line. Everybody always try to get in front of you and get serve first. And yes people always rudely stared at you. You must have felt so out of place. Now I'm not sure I want to visit anymore 😬😬😬

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    1. It will be a different experience for everyone and depends where you come from/what you're used to as well I suppose. I just know I won't be back, but don't let that put you off Vietnam it is a truly beautiful country just maybe skip/spend a day in Hanoi :)

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