Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Broke, Fabulous, & Traveling: Hanoi, Vietnam

In case you're not following me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, let me catch you up: I just got back from a week-long trip to Vietnam. My parents have been traveling around south-east Asia for five months and they flew all three of us out to see them at different points during their trip. My brother and his girlfriend met them in Thailand, while my sister and I went to Vietnam with them. Over the course of eight days, we went from Hanoi in the north down to Hue and Hoi An, then back up to Hanoi.

After 22 hours of travel, I arrived in Hanoi at 11 am on a Sunday. I hadn't seen my parents in five months (the second longest amount of time we've ever gone without seeing each other), but I'd hosted my sister the week before when she was in New York before catching her flight to Vietnam. We got right to exploring the part of the city we were staying in.

We were a couple blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake, so we spent a couple hours during our time in the city hanging out in the park and admiring the water. All the uninterrupted green was a stark contrast to the rest of the city. 

Hanoi as I saw it was composed of buildings that seemed to be built without regard for the rest of the street. There was little consistency in shape, size, and even color of these buildings. Some fit together like old jigsaw pieces: with awkward gaps in unexpected areas. Other buildings seemed to not even make an effort to fit with their neighbors. All of them, though, had plants dripping down their exteriors and laundry hanging out of windows.

My family takes pride in our travel style. We don't usually plan ahead too much (an approach that is different to how I take on every other aspect of my life), and instead spend our time learning the streets of our destination and trying to get a taste of daily life in this new environment. Sometimes that means going to museums or other travel destinations. Sometimes, like during our time in Hanoi, that means a lot of fairly aimless walking and stopping in at random coffee shops. I made sure to pack my most comfortable pair of shoes (surprisingly, a pair of sandals from H&M), and I wore them every day for 7 days.

When you spend a couple days (3, to be exact) walking around a part of a city, you get to truly experience everything that area has to offer. The sights (pictured in this post), smells (a lot of garbage, but I get that in New York, too), sounds (primarily honking from motorbikes and cars), tastes (Vietnamese coffee changed my life), and feel (humidity) of Hanoi are what define my time there.

One of the most interesting parts of the city that we ended up walking by was this giant, ornate church next to the lake. The French colonized Vietnam as part of a religious quest to "save" the world outside of Europe. This church stands as a reminder of that part of Vietnam's history and, I believe, still holds services for travelers and locals alike.

I grew up traveling with my family, but haven't had the chance to travel since going to college. A confession: for years, I've enviously watched as the people on my Facebook feed have taken amazing trips to really cool places across the world. I try to turn that energy into being proud of myself for focusing on a different goal– being financially independent while coping with a disability– but it's hard, and I often find myself jealous and disappointed in myself for not making my dreams of travel come true. It's hard to admit that I feel this way about not traveling at my age, but I'm working on being honest with myself and others, so I feel I have to say it.

I'm so incredibly grateful to my parents for flying me out and putting me up in Vietnam. My love of travel comes from my parents, who took my on my first flight when I was 13 days old, and it was beautiful to have them continue to fuel this love now that I'm an adult. I'm really lucky to have grown up with parents who value exploring the world. I wouldn't be who I am today without them.

Next week, I'll be sharing pictures and stories from the second part of my trip: Hue and Hoi An. Stay tuned!

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