Before dawn, we caught a bright pink taxi that took as to the MDK, a small busy airport for domestic flights only.
We stood in a long and curved line together with people from countries I’ve never heard of before. I was worried we’ll be short in the time since the place was packed, but everything was quick and efficient and we had about an hour left until the boarding so we had breakfast meanwhile. I had rice with fried eggs and shrimp, and lots of tiny chili peppers, which appeared to be much spicier than they seemed.
The sun rose outside, and it was time to board the plane.

After less than two hours we landed in Vietnam, which was covered with a grey cloud of humidity.
Hanoi’s airport was squeaky clean, with huge marbles halls, completely silent.
We gave a few files and waited for about 20 minutes to get the visa, and after some quick interviews about the purpose of the visit we got the permission.
A white-clothes man offered us a taxi for 400,000 Dong, which we agreed to since we had no idea how much it supposed to cost. 
As he tried to have an awkward small talk with us he led us to a beige taxi, with a driver who couldn’t speak English.
He took us through big fields, breweries, factories, a huge decorated bridge into the big city that seemed to me like science fiction – tall and narrow concrete houses with colorful ornate fronts, porches that are built on each other and each one look different, walls stuffed with murals and graffiti.
Through the ride the driver tried to speak with us, or bargain, said something about 20,000 Dong for a mysterious bus ticket, and eventually shouted solemnly “2 kilometers!” and stopped in the middle of the road. He helped us with our bags and didn’t return the change from the 500,000 Dong we gave him, played dumb and said “Thank you thank you” as he drove off with Roni’s shoulder-bag still inside the taxi that disappeared into the sea of heavy traffic.

Welcome to fuckin’ Vietnam.

While in Thailand everything seemed to be friendly, even soapy, Vietnam is the other way around.
It has all the elements of a bad boy, a heart breaker. The feeling I got there was that they can do with me, and they can do without me. There is zero flattery or tact.
At the beginning of the trip we were still a bit confused and found ourselves in tourist attractions from time to time, but as we got deeper, the more we loved this country.
We’ve met many people who were very generous and open with us, and kindly showed us places that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
We’ve also met people who just pointed at us and laughed since they find western people funny.
Vietnam is a country with a strong character, and some of my heart is still left there.

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We walked for a few minutes on foot until we reached the hotel we booked.
We were greeted by a beautiful woman, with tip-top hair and make-up, who said her name was Belle. We were offered fresh juice and wet towels ad Belle upgraded our room and showed us the city map.
When we finished with the booking she led us upstairs to the room while she let the doorman carry my bag (but not Roni’s, since she said men should work).
The room was huge and luxurious, with an extra bed we didn’t use and our own living room.
Since we traveled off-season the lodging was very cheap, and many places upgraded us to a bigger room when they could. Here and there during the trip, we found ourselves in fancy hotels, even though my favorite places where the cozier ones.
There were cities where we stayed longer than we initially intended, only thanks to the hotel’s staff.

Hanoi reminded me of a quilt blanket.
We stayed at Hoàn Kiếm, the old district, which is lined with small streets, each of them dedicated for one thing only – a street for spices, a street for sunglasses, a street for tea, a street for houseware. Our hotel was on Hàng Chiếu street, which means “Silk Shop”.
The junctions are busy and filled with motorcycles, bicycles, wagons.
People are cooking in the streets while crouched upon big pots or barbecuing meat on an open fire, and their costumers are sitting on low plastic or wooden chairs.
As the night comes there are colorful lights and music everywhere, and lots of people.
Once in awhile, it’s raining heavily and everybody’s wearing raincoats – there are even shared raincoats for families riding motorcycles together, some sort of a big blanket with holes for the heads.
It is so hot and humid that you need to eat a boiling and spicy soup to sweat it out – it’s the only way to cool down.

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From the hotel’s porch we could view the tops of the houses, together with messy electric wires and the hustle and bustle from the street.
Hanoi is a city to drown into; into the humidity and the rains, into the food and the people.
You can never get enough of it, and always want to go back. And every time I think of it, I remember why I love traveling.

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