“This is the Asia we dreamed of from afar.”
Or so my Lonely Planet poetically described the city of Hanoi in Vietnam.
In the back of of the taxi, fresh off the plane from clean, orderly, and cosmopolitan Singapore, I watched as the countryside flew by. Green landscapes stretched off into the distance as peasant farmers in their recognizable conical hats tended the fields. Motorbikes whizzed up and down the highway while slower bicycles yielded to the sides.
As we crossed the Red River and approached the center of Hanoi the streets became narrower while the congestion multiplied. The streets became a sea of motorbikes all jostling for their position. Sidewalks converted to an open-air marketplace with everything from fish, to produce, to steamy bowls of pho being served up to locals squatting around tiny plastic tables. Women in conical hats walked up and down the streets with a bamboo pole over their shoulder and baskets balanced on either end filled to the brim with the day’s wares.
My first thoughts on Vietnam?
And I was intrigued.