First Impressions | Hanoi
“Is it raining outside or are you just really sweaty?”
We made it to ASIA!
Hanoi, Vietnam, to be exact.
I think it took over 24 hours to get us from Bulgaria to Vietnam, but one can’t be sure. The whole timezone change plus continent change thing was way too much math for my brain to handle.
I do know, however, that travel day was long af and it was spent in a seemingly endless foggy haze of semi-consciousness that results when you combine hours of on-again/off-again airplane sleep, an 8 hour layover in Qatar, and both of the John Wick movies (I can’t believe the puppy actually died!!!).
Despite the long travel day, we all made it to Vietnam safe and sound. Lots of people, myself included, had never been to Asia and had no idea what to expect when we left the airport. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was going to be one hell of a month.
Embracing the chaos
The only thing I knew about Hanoi before getting here was that it was going to be chaotic. I had this idea that I wasn’t going to be able to get anywhere because crossing the street would be too hard with all of the insane scooter traffic. I was a little worried of it being too much for me and that I’d shut down and become a bit of a recluse. I can now confirm that my suspicions of chaos were accurate, but my prediction for how I’d react to the chaos was way off.
It’s loud, it’s busy, it’s crowded, it’s got lots of weird smells, the traffic is actually insane, it’s humid af, it’s rainy, and I love it.
Typically I would always listen to music on my phone when walking anywhere in a city, but now I choose not to. I want to be able to take in the chaos with all of my senses. Partly because it’s so different and new and fun, but also because I might get maimed by a scooter if I can’t hear what’s going on around me.
About that scooter traffic…
I now feel genuine excitement and enjoyment about crossing the street. It sounds ridiculous to say, but crossing some of the streets here is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
There are so many scooters on the roads here and, with the exception of a few larger intersections, so few crosswalks with lights, that you have no other choice but to step confidently into the street and just start walking. If you don’t, you literally will never be able to get anywhere because the traffic is constant.
Somehow the drivers seem to find a way to miss you — although I have had a few close calls. It now kind of feels like a game and it’s a lot of fun to play.
Most people were stoked to get to Asia for the food. I was in the minority that was more nervous than excited about the street food scene. So far, the food has been better (and cheaper) than I anticipated.
I think the noodle dishes, like pho, are good, but I really am loving the banh mi situation. I’ve become a regular (and Mayor on Swarm …it’s whatever) of a little cafe around the corner from the workspace that has the best banh mi I’ve had so far. I try to go daily.
Also, I’m pretty sure my veins are pumping more Vietnamese coffee than blood at this point. The coffee here is so cheap, so delicious, and so strong. I never know what people mean when they say that a wine is “full bodied”, but I want to say that Vietnamese coffee is “full bodied” because I can’t think of a better way to describe it. There are so many delicious variations, too: with condensed milk, which is the tasty, classic version; with coconut milk, which is my personal favorite; and egg coffee, which is creamy and frothy and all kinds of delicious.
The night shift
This month we are a full 12 hours ahead of Austin, which means my hours are later than they have been in Europe. I’m still overlapping 8–12pm CST, which means I’m working until midnight most nights of the week.
At first it sounds crazy, but it doesn’t feel so crazy when I’ve got the entire morning and afternoon to explore Hanoi. My thoughts on work hours is one of the biggest mental shifts that I’ve had while on Remote Year. The thought of waking up and going to work first thing in the morning for nine hours straight sounds crazy to me. I love the hours I’m working in Asia because it gives me the freedom to split the workday up so that work and life are now blended together instead of them needing to take place one at a time.
60 Mile Month
I’ve given myself a challenge this month to run 60 miles. This averages out to me running three miles a day, five days a week. I’m a little behind right now, but I just will have to make up for it in the next couple of weeks. I wanted to put this down in writing so that I have some accountability by the time I go to write Hanoi’s Back That Month Up post.
These first couple weeks in Vietnam have not only helped get me excited for the rest of the month, but also for the following three months in Asia. Hanoi, so far, feels like it has given me a culture shock high that I’m going to ride out as long as I can.
It’s safe to say that Hanoi has exceeded all expectations. I find that tends to happen when you’re traveling with none in the first place.