It has been a while since the travelling actually occurred and finally I managed to juggle (and actually finish) university and work as well as finding some time to write this Travel Journal.
After years of my friend Silvia pressuring me- or should I say patiently waiting for me to find the money and the means- to go travelling together, we did it: August 2015, we had booked flights to Hanoi and returns from Ho Chi Minh City, no real plan except for that of buying some motorbikes to travel across the country and -as we found out later- a naive combination of too much ambition and very little time.
The adventure- or maybe just the hassle- started in Rome: before we could even leave Europe we had already missed a flight and by the time we landed in Hanoi we had lost our luggage. At least we arrived to our first destination, I guess.
After taking a taxi to the centre of Hanoi and finding a small hotel for the night, we shot off in our quest to find two motorbikes for our ambitious plan and a change of underwear- which turned out to be a much harder challenge than the former given the size of the average local butt.
After bouncing around in between 5 or 6 different bike shops we settled for two Honda win 110-style motorbikes that seemed slightly less rusty than the majority. We paid part of our total bill of 500$ (or a few million Vietnamese Dongs) and were given the precious “blue cards” proving the ownership of the vehicles.
And that’s how I ended up technically owning my first ever motorbike in Vietnam.
The vibrant city of Hanoi immediately gave us good vibes, with its fascinating contrast between the chaotic traffic made of all sorts of motorised (and non-) vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, the hanging bundles of electric wires and the authenticity and beauty of places like Hồ Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
After some rest, a long walk around the market area, a visit to Đền Ngọc Sơn (Temple of The Jade Mountain) on the little island in Hồ Hoàn Kiếm Lake and dinner on a small balcony where a light wind gave us relief from the humid Monsoon weather we walked around the centre again. The traffic and the rush never seemed to stop but we found that in the evening the squares of the city would fill up with people. Young couples sitting on benches, families having ice cream, groups of teenagers hanging out, elderly people dancing salsa, kids skating, all the laughs and the good vibes made me feel light and happy and added even more charm and life to this city.
During our first day in Vietnam we noticed there were no beggars on the streets of Hanoi, we later found out it was something widespread over the country. Of course there were richer and poorer people, but everyone, whether modest or not, did something: from selling little objects, fruit, fresh juices on the street to things we don’t often see in Europe such as gluing people’s shoe soles. I am not sure of what could explain this but it was nice to notice it, it gave us the feeling that people there generally do alright.
We ended our evening on a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake drinking some Bia Hà Nôi (Hanoi beer, one of the mainstream lagers in the country) and realising that we were being unrealistically ambitious with our initial idea of riding across the whole country: thanks to a local map we were faced with a very disappointing truth: as stupid as this may now sound, the map on the book Silvia had bought and had based our rough plan had a wrong scale.. Vietnam was indeed 10 times bigger than what we were initially thinking.
More entries to come soon to tell you about the following days so check this space.
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