I arrived at the Hanoi airport sometime around midnight. By the time I paid my $45 for a Visa, cleared customs, and made it to my hostel in a taxi, it was about 1 am. Looking out the window I lamented the location. I was depressed because the empty roads and deserted streets seemed to indicate that I was in an unpopular part of town. So naive, so young. That was a week ago and it’s the last time I’ve known tranquility in Vietnam.
Hanoi makes New York City look like a Buddhist retreat town during the off season.
What’s been most shocking to me are the scooters. They’re everywhere. The road, the sidewalk, inside restaurants, outside of restaurants, outside of my hostel, inside of my hostel. If it’s physically possible, a scooter can and will occupy a space at some point. They’re the universal powerhouse of the city. I’ve seen people carrying hundreds of beer bottles, trees, dozens of gallons of water, and entire families on a single scooter. It’s humbling really.
The Attitude Towards Tourists
Unlike Ukraine, I can’t blend in here by just keeping my mouth shut. Anywhere I go it’s obvious I don’t belong. As far as I can tell though, most people don’t seem to care. I don’t catch people staring at me or even treating me any different. I’m as likely to die in a scooter related accident as anyone else. That attitude goes further too. I took a taxi ride on the back of a scooter and the driver ripped me off for 50,000 Dong! Of course, losing $2.50 is no biggie and I’m coping with it fairly well.
I definitely feel like I could stay in Vietnam a while. Despite the taxi guy, and some lady selling bread who I’m pretty sure charged me triple the non-tourist rate, I feel very welcome. Everyone seems nice and very friendly. The other day I was sitting in a park and staring at a church. A 16 year old kid named Sunh approached me and we talked for 15 minutes. That may be the first time something like that’s ever happened to me in my life, and I thought it was awfully neat.
I eat out every single night, and never in the same place. Hanoi is a city of restaurants and the food is awesome. However, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what the hell to order. For instance, I tried to order eel today. The waiter looked confused, and then he went to get the English speaking manager. She explained that they only sold whole eels. Fresh, whole eels, and that surely it would be too much for me. I agreed, and ended up ordering two fish that stacked together would the size of a smartphone.
One of my favorite dishes here isn’t a dish at all. It’s a treat called brown coffee. It’s basically fresh brewed coffee sweetened with condensed milk and other mystery spices. Freaking delicious. I have trouble only ordering one when I go to the cafe. The fresh smoothies are mind blowing too. I ordered two of them the other day. I felt like a pig but it was worth it. In the coming weeks I look forward to eating at more restaurants, and hopefully figuring out a few dishes that I really like.
Plans for the Future
I’m staying in Hanoi till next Thursday. I paid for a private room in a hostel which has been nice. However, it’s proven difficult to meet people to hang out with. Unlike other countries, I found very few Couchsurfing events, and my hostel doesn’t have a common area where people hang out. So at my next hostel I made sure to book accommodations in the dorm. That means it will be harder to sleep but easier to meet people. I’m really looking forward to it though because my hostel is 2 minutes from the beach. I love to swim and I plan to take advantage of it.
When I touched down in Hanoi I had no plan. Now, after a week I’ve begun to formulate some ideas. Next week is the beach town of Da Nang. Then after, the beach town of Nha Trang. Then I’ll hit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). However, what I’m really aiming for is Phu Quoc Island. This remote piece of real estate is mostly a national park, which means I’m expecting to find some awesome, untamed beaches there. There’s also rumors of motorbiking up through the park. If I have the chance to rent a dirt bike and ride it through a national park, I don’t care how much it costs I’ll pay it.
While that’s the skeleton of the plan, the plan lacks timing. If I like a place, I’ll stay. If I’ve seen enough, I’ll move on. Working online provides me with this lifestyle. Even though I’ve been out enjoying the city, I’ve also been working my ass off. In the last week I’ve written 10 articles and I’ve gotten about $250 for my efforts. I’ve also found myself getting a bunch of repeat customers. The more I write, the better I get, the more people want to hire me. It’s a high coffee lifestyle, but it allows me the freedom to more or less do whatever I want.
If you want to find out how you can work online and travel the world, check out my introductory post: how to make money online.