Sitting in Hoi An, having flown from Hanoi to Danang earlier to today, I’m feeling reflective on my first week in Vietnam.
At this point in the trip, I have nothing but superlatives for this country. Hanoi is a seething cauldron in the best possible sense – barely contained chaos. A city like that can easily feel overwhelming, but Hanoi does not. It sucks you in, tells you that it’s ok to be anonymous. It encourages you to step back and observe, absorb the rumble. It steps right up to the line that would overwhelm you, but does not cross it.
Essentially every person I’ve interacted with thus far has been friendly, interested, and eager to be helpful. The motorbike taxi drivers asking if you want a ride generally respond with a grin if you make eye contact and politely shake your head. You don’t feel pestered as you walk the city. There’s no sense of poverty – just lots of people working hard.
It is, for reasons that should be relatively obvious, a very young place – most people are more or less my age or younger. The constitution enshrines gender equality as a basic principle, and the UN scores the country at parity with the US on the gender inequality index. I didn’t know this prior to a few moments ago, but guessed it, watching the gender roles and interactions taking place.
So, my overall impressions are of a happy, friendly, tasty, place with an amazing landscape and a horrid history. It’s incredibly affordable, very manageable for a solo traveler, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Start planning your trip already!