I love everything about Hanoi. Having lived like a local while volunteering in Hanoi, I fell in love with the culture, the food, the people, and the way of life. Mobile street vendors are a charming part of Vietnamese culture, and are abundant in Hanoi – you can get any anything, anytime, and anywhere. Vendors on foot and bicycles frequent the streets of Hanoi to sell flowers, sugar cane juice, and fresh produce, to name a few. I’ve even seen balloon vendors – that is, a person walking down the street with dozens of inflatable balloons strung from their limbs…truly a sight to see amongst all of the city chaos.
As I’ve said many times before, Ho Chi Minh City just didn’t do it for me. It was too Westernized and tourist-centric, leaving me totally disconnected, which was a vast difference from my time spent in Northern Vietnam. I will however, credit Saigon for gifting me with one powerful and touching memory. Read more
Forget about airplanes! Flying is often more expensive, time consuming and essentially the dull alternative to getting around Southeast Asia. Stick to land transport – it’s a money and time saver, as well as an adventure at the very least!
Here are the Best Ways to get Around Southeast Asia without Flying:
It irks me when people let one bad experience form their opinion about a country. I find it rather puzzling when I hear people say things like, “I hate Vietnam because I had my wallet stolen there.” Although I’m sure having your wallet stolen would put a damper on your travels, I don’t think it should have any reflection on the beauty of a country and its people. Let’s face it: There are few places in the world where there isn’t someone looking to make a quick buck off a tourist.
Bona fide travellers long to experience a destination like the locals. Taking a few tours and visiting main attractions just isn’t enough, and often leaves a huge void due to the absence of a true cultural experience. So how can one attain this “true cultural experience”? By volunteering! Working together with the locals grants a volunteer with the unique understanding of a culture – something that is very difficult to gain as a visitor looking in. Read more
I was so looking forward to taking a pleasant scenic train ride along the Vietnam countryside heading for Hoi An. I certainly didn’t expect a bullet train, but neither did I expect snail rail. When I purchased my train ticket from the agent, she provided detailed instructions on how to locate the correct platform and train. Now, there’s something about Hanoi, that even knowing what to expect sends me into panic mode when I see crowds of people rushing around. It was about 6pm when I checked my watch and looked down at my sheet of instructions, according to which I was not permitted to enter the platform until 6:45pm. But suddenly, the big platform doors were flung open and it was as if the entire station jumped up from their seats and made a mad rush for the doors. Read more
I was expecting subtle differences going from Hanoi to Saigon, but instead I felt like I had entered a different country.
I was already anticipating a different experience than my time in Hanoi simply because I would no longer be a volunteer living with the locals, but rather a backpacker staying in the tourist district. Upon my arrival in Saigon, I had such an odd feeling because I was accustomed to living in Cau Giay (Hanoi), where everyone always stared at me thinking I was a lost tourist in their neighbourhood. I recall getting looks of shock and awe as I jumped off the moving bus with the other locals, weaved my way through traffic, and headed into the residential neighbourhood everyday after work. When I got out of my taxi in Saigon, I was expecting the usual stares from the locals, but no one even looked at me!