Hanoi, Vietnam

On the first day of the new year, I arrived in Hanoi, wide-eyed and afraid. I was afraid my visa would somehow fail me, afraid the driver I had arranged through the hotel would miss me, afraid I would be left in the middle of nowhere…

It’s my first solo international trip and I didn’t know what to expect.

It turned out I was afraid of all the wrong things. I should have been intimidated by the motorbikes swarming the city streets, making every street crossing a suicide mission, but months of crossing the streets of Shanghai had prepared me. I should have been overwhelmed by the impossible maze of Old Quarter and frustrated by how often I got lost, but instead I relished in my ability to decipher a map missing half the street names. Someone should have warned me about the local boys, the ones too brazen with their stares and too eager to please, yet without them, Hanoi’s charm wouldn’t have been complete.

If every city had its own word, “chaos” would be the one for Hanoi. With more character than the pristine of Singapore, the bustle of Hong Kong, and the paradox that is Macau, Hanoi claimed my heart with ease. How readily I fell for this city surprised even me. More than anything, I fell for the people of Hanoi, with their easy smiles and beckoning hospitality.

Too soon, I had to say goodbye — my trip has just begun and I have at least half a dozen more cities to explore. As the taxi drove me out of city center to the airport, a tinge of nostalgia hit me. Until next time, dear Hanoi.

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